Warning beachgoers of potential hazards during Beach Hazard and Water Safety Awareness Week
ST. JOSEPH, Mi. -- During Beach Hazard and Water Safety Awareness Week, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project wants to remind anyone coming out to enjoy the beach this Summer that no matter how experienced a swimmer they are and no matter how long they've lived near the lake-- they need to take the time to recognize potential risks and dangers that come with swimming in Lake Michigan.
“It’s just something that we need to stress every year, because this time of year, people haven’t been to the beach in nine months, so their water safety awareness is going to be down and their swimming endurance is going to be down as well," said Dave Benjamin, Executive Director of the GLSRP.
According to their data, there have been thirty-five drowning incidents in the Great Lakes this year-- eighteen of those right on Lake Michigan.
Last month, two teenaged brothers from South Bend drowned in the frigid water at Warren Dunes State Park.
Benjamin attributed this to a lack of safety education, often made worse by a lack of life guards.
“The ‘swim at your own risk’ sign is somewhat of a failure because it doesn’t really explain what the risks are," he said.
Some beaches do have signs explaining the risk, but he argued they can be ineffective too.
“It’s just a two dimensional image and a person really has to stop and read to understand it," he said.
As part of Beach Hazard and Water Safety Awareness Week, the non-profit organization pointed to a five minute video released last year, that explained some of the common risks involved with entering the lake-- such as hazardous currents-- and the proper method of keeping yourself afloat if you find yourself at risk of drowning: the Flip, Float and Follow method.
Benjamin explained “If a person is struggling in any body of water with water above your head, they should flip, float and follow. Flip over onto your back and float to keep your head above the water and calm yourself from the panic of drowning, and then follow a safe path out of the water. We can share this video to a wider audience than just sharing an individual illustration.”
And beachgoers at Silver Beach agreed more safety education should be made available, especially around the Great Lakes.
“I don’t think it would hurt, especially if you’re close to water," said Jackson Porter, visiting St. Joe from Indianapolis.
Brian Moore, also vacationing in St. Joe, said “I don’t think a lot of people know it, cause I didn’t learn until third grade, like I said, but there’s people swimming out here that are younger than me, when I learned. So I think it’s very important to know and should be taught more often.”
“It’s not common sense to know that water is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury or death in the world, so we need to look at water differently," Benjamin said.
The video made by the GLSRP can be found here: Great Lakes Dangerous Currents & Flip, Float, and Follow Drowning Survival Strategy Explainer Video - YouTube