More than half of adults who responded in a new Red Cross survey say they lack five basic swimming or water safety skills.

swimming pool
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they could swim, but could not complete potentially life-saving tasks such as being able to float without a device, jumping into water over their heads and returning to the surface, or even exiting a pool without using a ladder.

Red Cross spokeswoman Diane Concannon said with Memorial Day fast approaching, it's a good time to be ready for the water.

"We urge adults to also take swim lessons," Concannon said. "It's not just for children. Take a class."

Other skills that are lacking, according to the survey: treading water or floating in a full circle, and swimming 25 yards without stopping. The survey also revealed that a fear of the water was cited most often by non-swimming adults as the barrier keeping them from learning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report approximately 21,000 children and young adults drowned between the years 1999 and 2010. The CDC adds that drowning is the cause of more deaths of children between ages 1 and 4 than any other cause except birth defects.

Concannon said people can go to to learn more about swimming and water precautions, and how to keep their families safe this summer. The organization suggests always making "smart choices" like swimming in designated areas supervised by lifeguards, and taking a buddy along.

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