Berrien County lifeguards spend day training on the beach

NOW: Berrien County lifeguards spend day training on the beach

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project hosted lifeguards from Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Bethany Beach in Sawyer and New Buffalo Beach to brush up on their skills.

They were monitored while practicing in the water, but Tuesday’s conditions only gave them better preparedness for a real-life rescue. 

“Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children one to four and second leading for kids under 14,” said Bob Pratt, Director of Education with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

As the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reaches 10 years of drowning prevention – recording 965 since 2010 – Tuesday marked a proactive step.

Giving Berrien County lifeguards a critical refresher on their skills which will inevitably be used to rescue someone struggling in the water. 

“The first part of a rescue is recognition, then choosing your equipment, third is entering into the water, then your approach – getting the rescue can between you and the victim and saying something like, ‘I’m a lifeguard, I’m here to help,’ and then bring them back to shore,” said Faith Hoekstra, instructor with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

A full day of training both on the beach and in the classroom, because being a lifeguard takes much more than physical fitness. 

“They need to be comfortable in not only regular water, but rough and cold water,” said Pratt. “You need to be responsible, able to work well under pressure and without a lot of supervision because a lot of times you’re the only one on the stand."

What may be the most important part of the job - what beachgoers don’t see. 

“90 percent of what a lifeguard does is preventative,” said Pratt. “Knowing the water conditions, knowing the beach patrons and anticipating problems before they happen.” 

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