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As summer nears, experts warn about dangers of Lake Michigan

Life-saving lessons along the lake shore.

Each year, the number of accidental drownings increases for Lake Michigan.

One Michiana rescue group is trying to slow that progression through education.

Bob Pratt is with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“We use a strategy of flip, float and follow,” said Pratt.

Experts say those three simple steps could have helped to prevent previous drownings.  

Amy Hamann is a teacher at Barker Middle School in Michigan City.

"We really think this is important for all of our students and our community in Michigan City to have this education each and every year so that we can prevent any more drownings. Especially because we had two drownings last summer, that were 8th graders last year that would have been freshman in high school this year. One was fatal and one was non-fatal,” said Hamann.

On Monday’s summer-like day, Barker Middle School students are doing anything but beach bummin’.

Dave Benjamin is also with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“The Great Lakes drownings are on the rise again this year. With warm summers, we will have more drownings. People just don’t know that water is one of the leading causes of accidental death,” said Benjamin.

There’s no doubt how beautiful Lake Michigan can be during the summer months, but knowing how to differentiate between the currents and the winds can help save your life.

“The farther you get away from shore, the stronger the wind will be. When the waves are blowing onshore we get waves that get onshore and they can cause rip currents. Rip currents happen when the waves pile up on shore and they have to go out past the sand bar and they dig a little trough in the sand bar. You should never fight against any of these currents directly,” said Pratt.

Since 2010 there have been a reported 552 drownings in the Great Lakes.

In 2017, 9 drownings have already occurred in Lake Michigan alone.

"Flip over your back which allows you to breathe whenever you want to. Float to calm yourself down because it’s the panic that’s the biggest problem. Then follow a safe course back to safety,” said Pratt.

"Hopefully they can spread the word, like you said, to your little brothers and sisters to out of town guests that come that might not be aware of how dangerous Lake Michigan really is,” said Hamann.

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