National Drowning Prevention Alliance
     “Lifesaver of the Year” Award 2012 & 2020
        “Community Lifesaver” Award 2016 & 2018

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73 Great Lakes Drownings; 511 since 2010

Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project
Dave Benjamin, Executive Director, 708-903-0166,
Bob Pratt, Executive Director of Education, 517-643-2553, 

73 Great Lakes drownings to date in 2016; 511 since 2010

35 of the 73 in Lake Michigan plus 4 Critical Condition 

A call for water safety this Labor Day Weekend 

GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces its current drowning statistics. In 2016, the GLSRP is tracking 73 Great Lakes drownings.

Overall since 2010, the GLSRP has tracked 511 Great Lakes drownings.  Full statistics here (74 drownings in 2010; 87 in 2011; 101 in 2012, 67 in 2013, 54 in 2014, 55 in 2015, and 73 to date in 2016). Note: * = (+/-) Awaiting 100% confirmation of drowning.

The GLSRP is urging the public to use caution when spending time on the water this Labor Day weekend.

“Water safety is not common sense,” said Dave Benjamin, GLSRP Executive Director. “Water safety is not something that is taught in schools like fire drills, tornado drills, active shooter drills, and earthquake drills.”

“So the public’s assumption that water safety is commons sense is not accurate.  Knowing how to swim is simply not enough because most people do not know the basics of water safety and drowning survival. And one simply does not know what one does not know.”

“Most people do not know these basics:

  • That drowning is a  neglected public health issue (according to a World Health Organization report)
  • That drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the nation and world (according to the Center for Disease Control Statistics) (Leading cause of accidental death for children 1-4, second leading cause for children 1-14, fifth leading cause nationwide, and third worldwide.)
  • That 80% of drowning victims are male (Males have a tendency to overestimate their abilities, take risks, and more susceptible to peer pressure – deadly in water)
  • That alcohol and water does not mix
  • That 54% of Americans do not have the  basic swimming abilities to save their own lives in a water emergency (according to a Red Cross Report)
  • The Signs of Drowning (the Hollywood version versus the Actual Version)
  • Basic drowning survival strategies like, “Flip, Float, and Follow
  • That they don’t know and understand Dangerous Currents in the Great Lakes and oceans
  • The dangers of Low head Dams
  • That they unknowingly support the Stigma of Drowning (blaming the victim, parents, or Darwinism)
  • That ‘would be’ rescuers often become drowning victims (they usually don’t have the lifeguard training, equipment, or endurance)
  • Lay Water Rescue (1. Call for backup; i.e. Alert a lifeguard and call 911 2. Don’t go in the water. 3. Throw something that floats 4.Stay out of the water, and if you are going to ignore that advice, take something with you that floats. You will likely need it yourself. 5. Keep floatation between you and the drowning victim.)
  • That compression only CPR is ineffective for drowning victims
  • How to deal with the foam that comes from drowning victims lungs (Bag back down versus suction)

“So how do we take on this Great Lakes, this nationwide and worldwide epidemic?”

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project ( is advocating for a Water Safety School Curriculum to launch in the Great Lakes Region and then become a nationwide model.

The GLSRP has taught over 300 Great Lakes Water Safety classes in 7 of the 8 Great Lakes states (WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, MN and PA ).  The GLSRP has a comprehensive curriculum, but lacks funding to convert its curriculum into coloring booklets, training booklets, animation, and videos. 

In schools today there are fire drills, tornado drills, active shooter drills, and even earthquake drills, but very little water safety education.

YET more school aged children will likely die drowning each year than in fires, tornadoes, school shootings, and earthquakes combined. Combined! 

A Water Safety School Curriculum is the fastest approach to reach the largest audience and make a significant impact in the shortest amount of time.  The curriculum target elementary students, Junior High students, High School students, parents of each age group, and trainers of the curriculum.



The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Inc. (GLSRP) is about saving lives.  It is a nonprofit 501c3 corporation that is a Chapter of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA).  


  1. Tracks the Great Lakes drowning statistics (478+ drownings since 2010)
  2. Performs “Great Lakes Water Safety” presentations and trainings (Over 293 in 7 of the 8 Great Lakes states since 2011)
  3. Works with family and friends of Great Lakes drowning victims to advocate water safety.
  4. Hosts Open Water Surf Lifeguard Certification training

Mission: To eradicate drownings by being the leader of Great Lakes water safety by providing training, public preparedness, and public awareness.

Vision: Everyone in the Great Lakes region, nationwide and worldwide, is knowledgeable, engaged and proactive in water safety with an emphasis on the Great Lakes region.


  1. WGN Chicago’s Very Own segment, “Man makes water safety education his life’s passion”
  2. Dave Benjamin’s drowning accident and ‘Because I said I would’ water safety promise video
  3. John & Kathy Kocher’s “Gentle Giant” ‘Because I said I would promise video.

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