Compilation of GLSRP TV Interviews
Good Morning America – Boater helps rescue toddler stranded on inflatable duck
Inside Edition – Toddler Sobs as He Drifts Out on Lake Michigan on Giant Duck Float
NBC 5 Chicago – Close Call Caught on Cam on Lake Michigan After Toddler on Inflatable Duck Carried Away by Wind – What began as a peaceful day at the lake in Michigan City, Indiana, quickly turned to panic Monday afternoon
07/17/2019 – The Weather Channel – Beachgoers Rescue Kid Who Floated Away – winds blew inflatable duck away from shore toward open water.
Updated 07/07/2020, 8:30 p.m.
07/07/2020 – WBBM News Radio 780 – Swimmer In Critical Condition After Being Pulled From Lake Michigan Near Grant Park. So far in 2020, at least 10 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. In 2019, a total of 48 people drowned in Lake Michigan.
07/07/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Sailboat crash sends 4 into water at break wall near filtration plant. The occupants were picked up by the police boat. No one was injured. So far this year, at least 10 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. In 2019, a total of 48 people drowned in Lake Michigan.
07/07/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Chicago man drowns at Evanston beach – Marcos Quito was pulled from the water Monday at Clark Street Beach in the 1800 block of Sheridan Road, authorities said. Monday afternoon, a swimmer was in critical condition after being rescued from Lake Michigan near the Loop. So far this year, at least 10 other people have drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. In 2019, a total of 48 people drowned in Lake Michigan.
07/07/2020 – Cleveland – U.S. Coast Guard saved 45 lives in Great Lakes over July 4 weekend – busiest Independence Day weekend in at least five years, conducting more than 100 search-and-rescue cases and saving or assisting more than 300 people throughout the region.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has reported 21 drownings on the Great Lakes this year.
— Lake Michigan 10
— Lake Superior 1
— Lake Huron 0
— Lake Erie 6
— Lake Ontario 4
07/06/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Swimmer in critical condition after being pulled from Lake Michigan near Grant Park – The police marine unit responded Monday afternoon to the call of a man in the water in the 500 block of South Lake Shore Drive near Buckingham Fountain.
07/06/2020 – The Weather Network – How COVID-19 fatigue can lead to an increase in summer drownings
07/04/2020 – The Detroit News – The nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports there have been 20 Great Lakes drownings so far in 2020, and the numbers could climb in the summer’s warmest months as people fail to prepare for hazards such as rip currents, said executive director Dave Benjamin. Monitoring for other issues also is key, he said. “Even if there’s calm water and a light breeze, inflatable beach toys can go out in the water and kids could chase it into water over their head.”
07/04/2020 – Ionia Sentinel Standard – Family hopes memorial plaque reminds swimmers of Lake Michigan dangers
07/03/2020 – Holland Sentinel – Family hopes memorial plaque reminds swimmers of Lake Michigan dangers
07/02/2020 – Fox 17 – New signs warn swimmers, honor young victim — New signs and safety rings were installed in his memory
07/02/2020 – WZZM 13 – Beach memorial serves as reminder of water safety — Brandon Schmidt drowned in Lake Michigan on August 15, 2018
“The township has made some change for water safety which we’re very appreciative,” says Brandon’s father James Schmidt. “Our son passed away here almost two years ago, and they’re installing a plaque in his memory along with those safety changes.”
“He was out here at the beach with some friends and unfortunately came under the water and he didn’t come up,” said James. “After that his mom went before the township board and talked to them and asked them to make some safety changes which they did. Now there are warning signs so people understand the dangers of rip currents.”
Signs of warning are now posted inside Windsnest Park alerting beach goers that no lifeguard is on duty. There are also signs warning the dangers of rip current. A rescue flotation device also now hangs along the boardwalk to the beach access, just beneath Brandon Schmidt’s memorial plaque.
“It’s really great to see that the Port Sheldon beach came through with their promise to install some of their water safety signage as well as some safety equipment,” says Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project executive director, Dave Benjamin.
To date, the GLSRP is tracking 20 Great Lakes drownings in 2020. According to GLSRP data, overall since 2010 they have tracked 858 Great Lakes drownings.
07/02/2020 – Wood TV – Family hopes memorial plaque reminds swimmers of Lake Michigan dangers. “We noticed that at that time there was no signage about the rip currents or the dangers of Lake Michigan,” James Schmidt said. “There (were) no life-saving flotation devices.”
Brandon Schmidt’s mother, Brandi Donley, turned grief into resolve, and then action. In November of that same year, she went to the Port Sheldon Township Board and pleaded for warning signs and other safety equipment.
“The township took action,” James Schmidt said. “So now, there is signage warning people about the rip currents. Warning people about the dangers in Lake Michigan. And there’s life-saving flotation devices.”
The family will probably never know how many people read the signs and heeded the warnings. Or how many lives may have been saved. But they feel in their hearts they made an impact. The plaque at the beach entrance, dedicated on the day before what would have been Brandon Schmidt’s 22nd birthday, is one more part of that effort. “What we hope is that, perhaps through our tragedy, more harms can be prevented, and lives can be saved,” James Schmidt said.
07/02/2020 – Chicago Tribune – Beachgoers, park officials sound alarm for Lake Michigan safety: ‘The majority of our drownings could be prevented’. The lifeguards at the state park are trained to watch for rip currents and shut down swimming if they spot them, she added. “Other beaches don’t have that,” she said, adding when unsafe conditions shut down swimming, swimmers sometimes go to an unguarded beach. “That’s one of our biggest worries. That’s why they shut the beach down. Rip currents are very serious and can pull you away from the beach.”
06/30/2020 – Northwest Indiana Times – Practicing beach safety: Experts weigh in on how to protect yourself, kids during summer
Lifeguards make all the difference. “I believe the best lifeguards you can find on the Great Lakes are surfers,” Benjamin said, because they learn how the waves break and how to conserve energy in the water.
“We want the lifeguards to understand that drowning is one of the largest causes of accidental death,” Benjamin said.
Lifeguards not only have to worry about saving a swimmer in trouble, but also themselves. A person who is drowning is in panic mode and can push a lifeguard or other would-be rescuer under water.
“Unfortunately, a drowning person can climb all over you, and a drowning person can take you under,” Benjamin said.
Knowing the statistics helps look for who is more likely to get into trouble.
Benjamin said 80% of all drowning victims are male.
“Males are more likely to take risks, more susceptible to peer pressure, more likely to overestimate their ability,” he said.
And it doesn’t matter how good a swimmer believes his or her ability is — “66% of all drowning victims were good swimmers,” Benjamin said.
When a swimmer gets in trouble, there’s typically less than one minute until final submersion, he said. Seconds count.
“You have seconds to get to a person before they submerge,” Benjamin aid.
In a lake, unlike in a pool, finding the submerged victim can be tricky because of the visibility and currents.
“Once they submerge, it could be like finding a moving needle in a moving haystack,” Benjamin said. “It becomes a frantic search.”
That response time is why Benjamin strongly urges going to a beach where lifeguards are on duty.
“If you go to a beach without lifeguards, you are on your own,” he said.
At Michigan City’s Washington Park, which doesn’t have lifeguards this year, there are life preserver rings along the pier, but they’re on the opposite side of the beach. There are two rings at the lifeguard station, but that’s set back from the water, Benjamin noted.
Think of the scenario at a beach with no lifeguard.
You’re in the water and see a swimmer in trouble. You either try to rescue the person yourself and risk your own life, or you rush back to your mobile phone and call 911. Minutes pass while you establish your location and get emergency responders to the scene.
Those first responders quickly determine how to coordinate their efforts, and whether tools like SONAR can help pinpoint the victim’s location, but by that time it could be a recovery effort rather than a rescue, Benjamin said.
“This is why lifeguards are so important. They’re first responders on the beach,” Benjamin said.
Learn water safety
Brock advises parents to teach children what to do if you get in trouble in the water.
“Knowing how to swim doesn’t mean you won’t drown,” Benjamin said.
Thatcher knew how to respond if he gets in trouble in the water. Relax, he said.
And float, Benjamin would add. “It’s not how well you can swim, but how well you can float.”
Floating means getting your head above water, becoming more buoyant, and taking deep breaths of air instead of short gulps of water while hyperventilating during a panic attack.
When you’re floating and in control of your natural urge to panic, you can then wave your arm or shout for help, Benjamin said.
“We need to make a cultural change,” Benjamin said, to teach water safety skills early and often.
Schools with pools teach children water safety, but that should happen at all schools, Benjamin said. Being in the water, practicing swimming and floating, helps, but learning the technique could be drilled into students in an auditorium.
“We don’t light kids on fire to teach them ‘stop, drop and roll,’” Benjamin said.
06/26/2020 – Grand Haven Tribune – Swimmers, boaters asked to prepare before heading out on Lake Michigan – Push for lifeguards on beaches
Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has been pushing for communities to use lifeguards on Great Lakes beaches.
“A lifeguard’s job is to get to the drowning victim before the submersion, interrupt the drowning process, provide flotation and bring the victim back to shore alive,” he said. “And, according to ‘The Process of Drowning Timeline,’ lifeguards are a drowning person’s only hope.”
According to the timeline, it takes less than a minute of struggling in the water for a drowning person to submerge. At around 3 minutes of submersion, the heart stops. At around 4 minutes, irreversible brain damage begins.
Even though first responders can often be at the scene within four minutes, this doesn’t take into account how much time it takes for people to call for help, Benjamin says.
He adds that, at around 10 minutes of submersion, a person only has a 14 percent chance of survival. And those who do survive will likely have brain damage.
Plus, he says, there’s the cost of lifeguards versus a body recovery. Benjamin says the average cost per hour for a U.S. Coast Guard response boat is about $4,500. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter can run as high as $16,000 per hour.
Swintek said boats responding from Grand Haven run in the range of $3,000 to $4,800 per hour, depending on the vessel, its equipment and how much fuel it burns. Running a helicopter out of its summer birth in Muskegon (HH-65 Dolphin) costs about $10,000 per hour. If it comes from Traverse City (HH-60 Jayhawk), the cost is about $11,000 per hour.
Hawke said it would be great to have the funds to pay for lifeguards. In absence of that, he noted that the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety is a leader in water rescue training and is often called to help train personnel from other agencies.
Hawke said that all Grand Haven public safety officers are trained in water safety and water rescue. The officers have new rescue suits and equipment purchased in 2017 through a donation from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.
In 2019, Grand Haven State Park and City Beach posted numbered area signs to help get first responders where they are needed more quickly.
A full-time seasonal officer is also assigned to off-road vehicle patrol of the City Beach and state park, Hawke said. The officer carries rescue equipment and responds to rescue calls.
There are also life rings, an emergency phone and camera system reinstalled on the pier since the recent catwalk replacement.
“Hiring full-time lifeguards is a significant, on-going budget commitment which is a challenge for lakeshore communities,” Hawke noted.
06/24/2020 – ABC 7 – CHICAGO – Keeping Chicago beaches closed could be dangerous, safety experts say
Without lifeguards on duty to watch over those who choose to swim in Lake Michigan, experts are worried it could be a recipe for disaster.
“So much of our lakefront is right up to residences where kids have access to these parks and to the beaches and to the water and we’re doing nothing to protect them,” said Halle Quezada of Chicago Alliance for Water Safety.
Chicago says many social distancing ambassadors are also trained lifeguards. But, they may not necessarily be in a position to help in case of trouble.
“Their backs are to the water, so it could be lifeguards serving as social distance ambassadors, but they’re not lifeguarding,” Quezada said. “Time matters in a drowning incident.”
06/24/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Plainfield man drowns at Indiana Dunes National Park. So far in 2020, eight other people have died of drowning in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
06/22/2020 – ABC 57 – Man sacrifices life to rescue 8-year-old drowning in Saint Joseph River – “We see someone in trouble and we immediately want to help, it’s our instinct to just take action,” said Dave Benjamin from Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. But Benjamin says jumping in isn’t the first thing we should do in an emergency. You should immediately throw a flotation device into the water.
As for the person drowning — “You flip over on your back and float,” said Benjamin. “Float to keep your head above water, float to calm yourself down from fear of drowning, float to conserve your energy and then follow a safe path out of the water.”
Also, it’s important for people to be able to spot active signs of drowning. “Facing shore, mouth at water level, head titled back, their body is vertical, less than one minute until submersion,” said Benjamin. And most importantly, Benjamin says you should always have life jackets when around any body of water. “We don’t want someone’s special day at the beach or on the water to become a lifelong tragedy that they now have to bear the burden of.”
Another water safety tip Benjamin’s notes is when renting a kayak or paddle board, you should always ask for a safety briefing beforehand and make sure there is a leash attached to the equipment so you can be pulled back to shore if you have any problems.
06/21/2020 – NBC 5 – Illinois Coronavirus Updates: New Social Distancing Ambassadors, More People at Beaches – Water Safety Concerns Are on the Rise as More People Head to Area Beaches
Since pools closed for summer, more people are heading to the beach. But with high water levels and erosion leading to smaller beach fronts, many are packing in, leading to increased concern over water safety.
Dave Benjamin, co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has used this time to educate the public about the risks involved. GLSRP is a non-profit group that tracks drowning statistics and performs presentations and training around the Midwest.
“It’s not common sense that panic is the first stage of drowning. It’s not common knowledge that 66% of all drowning victims were good strong confident swimmers. Knowing how to swim is not enough. You need to know how to survive,” Benjamin said.
Since 2010, there have been more than 850 drownings in the Great Lakes. Benjamin said he hopes to eradicate tragedy with the mantra: Flip, float, follow.
06/21/2020 – CBS 2 – Summer Swimming Safety Tips As Indiana Beaches Reopen – CHICAGO — Beaches are still closed in Illinois, but they are opening up in Indiana. A group that promotes swimming safety says it is a good time to brush on some common sense rules. Dave Benjamin of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project gave a safety presentation at Wells Street Beach in Gary Saturday. About 30 moms, dads and kids learned how to tell when a swimmer is in trouble and some basic first aid that can save lives. They also discussed surviving hazardous currents and how to use floatation devices and other safety equipment.
06/20/2020 – NBC 5 – Water Safety Concerns Are on the Rise as More People Head to Area Beaches. Since 2010, there have been 854 drownings in the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Since pools closed for summer, more people are heading to the beach. But with high water levels and erosion leading to smaller beach fronts, many are packing in, leading to increased concern over water safety. Dave Benjamin, co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has used this time to educate the public about the risks involved. GLSRP is a non-profit group that tracks drowning statistics and performs presentations and training around the Midwest. “It’s not common sense that panic is the first stage of drowning. It’s not common knowledge that 66% of all drowning victims were good strong confident swimmers. Knowing how to swim is not enough. You need to know how to survive,” Benjamin said.
06/20/2020 – ABC 7 – Lake Michigan lifeguards emphasize water safety on 1st day of Summer to prevent unintentional drownings
06/15/2020 – The Mikey O Show – Drowning survivor, Evelyn Hernandez, and GLSRP Executive Director, Dave Benjamin, talk about Lake Michigan water safety on the Mikey O Show.
06/14/2020 – NWI Times – MICHIGAN CITY, IN – BYSTANDER RESCUE – NO LIFEGUARDS – two kids were walking along the pier near the lighthouse at Washington Park Beach and ended up in the water. It wasn’t clear if the kids were swimming or had fallen in. Ultimately, the children needed to be rescued. A good Samaritan jumped in the water and saved the children and had a life ring thrown out to them before the Coast Guard arrived on scene. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been eight drownings, along with one unknown condition, at Lake Michigan since Jan. 1.
06/11/2020 – WNDU TV 16 – Safety reminders on avoiding beach hazards this summer
06/11/2020 – WNDU TV 16 – Great Lakes Beach Hazard & Safety Awareness Week
06/11/2020 – WNDU TV 16 – Facebook Live – GLSRP and WNDU TV News water safety segment.
06/10/2020 – WXYZ Detroit – Officials emphasize safety after 2 drown in Lake Michigan
06/09/2020 – Huron Daily Tribune – Officials emphasize safety after 2 drown in Lake Michigan
06/09/2020 – Holland Sentinel – COVID furloughs meant no warning flags on Holland beach as two boys drowned
It was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, an organization that tracks drownings on the Great Lakes.
Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management at GLSRP, said he was aware of three other likely drownings in the last several days, including a father and son who capsized in Lake Erie and a body that was recovered from Lake Michigan in Chicago.
Benjamin said it’s time for Holland State Park to hire lifeguards.
“There is no excuse to continue to operate these beaches without lifeguards,” Benjamin said. “It’s irresponsible and dangerous, and people die from it.”
The beach was closed to the public Saturday evening and Sunday morning as the search resumed.
Lifeguards are trained to recognize the signs of drowning, which Benjamin said many people misunderstand. Drowning victims often appear to be treading water and often do not wave their arms or yell.
If a person is drowning, there’s a very small window — about four minutes — to rescue them without irreversible brain damage, or, in the worst-case scenario, death.
Benjamin said lifeguards stationed at the beach would be able to respond more quickly to a drowning or a missing child situation than emergency services.
GLSRP recommends the “flip, float, follow” method for drowning survival: flip onto your back, float to keep your head above water and conserve energy and follow the safest path out of the water to safety.
06/09/2020 – MLIVE – Double drowning tragedy underscores danger of Great Lakes – “The thing about drowning is it’s 100 percent preventable,” said David Benjamin, executive director of public relations at the Great Lakes Rescue Surf Project. His organization presents hundreds of educational programs each year, and at the start of each one gives a “pop quiz” on water safety, Benjamin said.
“Ninety percent in attendance will say they know how to swim, and less than 5 percent will know a drowning survival strategy,” he said.
Benjamin is a strong advocate for lifeguards, which most Lake Michigan beaches don’t have. Absent them, it’s up to swimmers to know how to save themselves.
It typically takes too long to get first responders to the scene of a possible drowning for them to perform an actual rescue, Benjamin said.
Educators like Benjamin want the phrase “Flip, Float and Follow” to become as well known as the “Stop, Drop and Roll” instructions for those who catch on fire.
Swimmers who are struggling in water over their heads need to flip on their backs, float to calm themselves and keep their heads above water and then follow – go with, rather than fight – the current until they are able to swim toward shore. Swimming parallel to shore typically is the most effective way of getting out of a current.
06/07/2020 – WNDU – Great Lakes Beach Hazard & Water Safety Awareness Week runs from June 7-13
06/03/2020 – South Bend Tribune – How to avoid crowds and COVID-19 at shrunken beaches of Lake Michigan – Michigan City decided against posting lifeguards at its beach this summer, a move that drew sharp criticism from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project as its director, Dave Benjamin, said, “Removing lifeguards will cost lives and the cost to recover a body is much greater than the lifeguards’ salaries.”
The advocacy group reported 48 drownings in Lake Michigan in 2019, two of them in Michigan City and seven total in northwest Indiana, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.
City officials countered that the pandemic interfered with their ability to recruit and train lifeguards and argued that rescues could put guards at risk of the virus, The Times reported.
05/29/2020 – Chicago Tribune – Column: Near-drowning experience prompts Hobart man to alert others to summertime hazard as beaches reopen
As cliché as it sounds to anyone who hasn’t had a near-death experience, Bokun’s life flashed through his mind, he said. He thought about his wife, Elise, his children, his granddaughter, and even his unborn grandchildren he hopes to enjoy someday. Faces of close friends and family members also flashed by. All in a matter of seconds.
“In that moment, as I yelled out, I felt a peaceful calm come over me,” Bokun recalled.
In a moment that will not ever be forgotten or dismissed, Bokun began reflecting on what just happened to him. The cold water. The panic. The terror. The flash of memories. The odd yet peaceful calm.
“It was the scariest thing, but…” Bokun told me after his family returned from Tennessee.
But… the experience has somehow changed him. Almost immediately. Without a doubt, profoundly, though he’s not quite sure how. Not yet. He’s still processing it
That day, Bokun returned to the family’s rented home near Spencer, Tennessee, joining his wife, his daughter, Alissa Baron, and other family members. Bokun never once thought about the dangers of hypothermia while swimming under a waterfall, especially in springtime in Tennessee.
“I never thought of any of that before jumping into the water,” Bokun said.
With summer weather here, people will be jumping into the potentially dangerous waters of Lake Michigan more often than in previous years, I predict. Most public swimming pools will be closed due to COVID-19 concerns and other entertainment options such as fairs and festivals are getting canceled for the summer season.
Also factor in that some budget-restricted municipalities, such as Michigan City, are not hiring lifeguards this year. Water levels are higher, beaches are thinner and more people will be converging at beaches for outdoor recreation. (Read my previous column on Indiana Dunes State Park beach last weekend as an example.)
My other prediction: There will be more drownings than usual in our nearest Great Lake. This possibility has been a public health danger for many years, as anyone knows who keeps track of these deaths and near deaths.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have already been at least five Great Lakes drownings this year, with three of them in Lake Michigan. Keep in mind that summer is still three weeks away, officially.
Since 2010, the organization has tracked 843 Great Lakes drownings, with 97 in 2019 and a record 117 in 2018. Drownings in Lake Michigan are a statistical surety.
Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, told me that the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is a hazard for potential drownings.
“The water erosion and debris is out of control. No one should go swimming there,” he said.
It hasn’t stopped visitors from swimming there this spring. And it won’t stop them as summer emerges. The water beckons visitors like a dip under a waterfall.
I’ve written too many columns on drowning deaths in Lake Michigan. Bokun has read too many stories about people who’ve drowned in that lake without the stereotypical image of flailing arms and desperate screams. Many of those victims simply go under and don’t come up.
“They say when you drown there’s no pain because when you yell there’s no one there to hear you,” Bokun said.
05/28/2020 – NWI Times – Pandemic squashes hiring of lifeguards, officials say; safety advocates contend danger’s ahead
05/28/2020 – Journal Sentinel – Wisconsin’s closed pools, lack of beach lifeguards and high water levels create ‘the perfect storm’ for Great Lakes drownings
With many public pools closed this summer because of coronavirus, folks looking to cool off will likely head to packed beaches.
Strapped local governments are not hiring lifeguards, which means places like Bradford Beach in Milwaukee won’t be staffed to handle emergencies.
Add in record high Lake Michigan water levels, which can create bigger waves and stronger rip currents, plus erosion that has reduced the size of some beaches, and it’s no wonder Great Lakes water safety officials are worried.
Last year there were 97 drownings on the Great Lakes — roughly half on Lake Michigan — and a record 117 in 2018.
“It’s kind of the perfect storm for Great Lakes drownings,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“Higher water levels, smaller beaches, more people on the beach, it’s easy to lose track of your children on a crowded beach.
“And canceling lifeguards is a huge setback,” Benjamin said.
This week Bradford Beach has been crammed as temperatures hit the 70s and 80s.
A fully staffed Bradford Beach would have 14 lifeguards working seven days a week for 10 weeks at a total cost of $70,000.
Benjamin cautioned that most drownings don’t look like what happens in a movie — people don’t wave their arms and thrash around.
Instead, drownings are subtle and look like someone with their head above water. Which can mean someone who is fine or someone about to slip beneath the surface.
That’s where lifeguards who know what to look for and typically sit on high platforms can notice someone about to drown, Benjamin said.
Jamie Racklyeft, executive director of the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium, pointed out that untrained beachgoers who try to save someone in distress often become casualties themselves. Since drownings happen within minutes, calling 911 to summon help often means first responders end up recovering bodies rather than saving lives.
Plus most people think they know how to swim and are unaware how quickly a rip current can pull them or their companions away from shore.
Swimmers who find themselves in trouble should follow the drowning survival strategy of flip, float and follow — flipping on their back to stay calm, floating to conserve energy and following the safest path out of the water which often means swimming parallel to the shore when caught in a rip current.
05/26/2020 – CBS 58 – Staying Safe on Lake Michigan As Temps Warm — With warm weather finally here, many folks may flock to the beach to stay cool over the coming months. And we want you to stay safe from dangerous swimming conditions this season. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there were 97 drownings on the Great Lakes last year. The year prior to that had a record 117 fatalities. Sadly, most of these drownings happen on our nearby pond, Lake Michigan. This year already reports 5 deaths, again the majority on Lake Michigan. The eastern shore is particularly hazardous due to the prevailing wind direction leading to favorable current development. Locally, since 2002, there have been 17 related deaths at Lake Michigan beaches from Sheboygan to Kenosha.
05/25/2020 – Herald-Argus – Water safety activist says not having lifeguards ‘will cost lives’
05/25/2020 – WSBT-TV – No Lifeguards, Michigan City Warns Beachgoers to Swim at their Own Risk
05/24/2020 – ABC 57 – Beachgoers angry as Michigan City declines to provide lifeguards — MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. — A water safety advocate and other beachgoers are calling out local government officials after the city reportedly decided not to include lifeguards at Washington Park Beach for Summer 2020, including this weekend.
05/24/2020 – Record Eagle – Warm air, cold water create deadly situation — The frigid water, high water levels and the fact that public pools are closed because of COVID-19 have created the perfect storm for cold water drownings, said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks drownings and advocates for Great Lakes water safety.
“We’re going to have a lot of people at the beach,” Benjamin said.
Statistics at the organization’s website show that 843 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010, with 97 of them taking place last year.
So far this year there have been five Great Lakes drownings, three of them in Lake Michigan.
Boat sales have also spiked nationally, according to International Boat Industry magazine, which means there will be a lot of inexperienced first-time boat owners out there, Benjamin said. They may not understand the need to check weather conditions before going out or realize the dangers of jumping off a boat to take a swim, he said.
Add to that the amount of trees and other debris that has washed into the Great Lakes with the high water and becoming another hazard for boaters and swimmers alike, he said.
“All these hazards are leading right into Memorial weekend,” Benjamin said.
Water that is below 70 degrees is considered dangerous and can quickly lead to hypothermia and death, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety.
Benjamin cites the 1-10-1 rule of hypothermia for anyone considering a swim in dangerously cold waters: One minute to control your breathing, 10 minutes until you are unable to move, one hour for hypothermia to set in.
The rule was coined by Gordon Giesbrecht, a Canadian physiologist who has studied the effects of extreme cold on the body.
Sudden immersion in cold water causes a gasp reflex and hyperventilation, with a person having about a minute to get their breathing under control before drowning. If they can do that, they’ll have about 10 minutes until incapacitation sets in and a person loses the ability to move and is unable to swim to shore or climb back into a boat.
Hypothermia will set in over the next hour. A person will become unconscious and their heart will stop.
“If a person doesn’t have a life jacket they are going to die of drowning before they die of hypothermia,” Benjamin said.
It takes three minutes of submersion in water for a person’s heart to stop; after four minutes irreversible brain damage begins. After 10 minutes underwater there is about a 14 percent revival rate, and most will be left with a traumatic brain injury, Benjamin said.
Life jackets are required by law for anyone going out in a boat, but it does no good if they are not wearing it, Belanger said. He has seen people who struggled to put one on after a kayak rolls over, but the lake just tears it away.
“Unless you have the darn thing on, it doesn’t do you any good,” Belanger said.
05/25/2020 – Herald-Argus – Water safety activist says not having lifeguards ‘will cost lives’
05/23/2020 – Windsor News – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project looking to flatten the curve of drownings – WINDSOR, ONT. — As Coronavirus cabin fever mixes with summer excitment, many people want to get out and jump in the pool or lake.
“This summer we could see the perfect storm for drownings in the Great Lakes region.” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “Many public pools across the Great Lakes region may be closed for the summer or have delayed openings, which means that many more people will be going to the beach.”
Since 2010, The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) has tracked over 843 Great Lakes drownings.
The not-for-profit group says drowning numbers will go down as more people, especially children, are educated about the many aspects of water safety.
The project wants everyone to learn the drowning survival technique; ‘flip, float and follow‘.
Executive director of education, Bob Pratt says it’s like the ‘stop, drop and roll‘ of water safety. “It gives kids something to focus on if they are struggling in the water. Flip over onto their back so they can breath when they want to, float to calm themselves down, float to conserve their energy and then follow a safe course back to safety. If we can just control that panic and get people to calm down, they’re half way to being saved.”
05/22/2020 – News Dispatch – Water safety activist says not having lifeguards ‘will cost lives’ – MICHIGAN CITY — A decision to terminate the lifeguard program at Washington Park beach will “cost lives,” according to a man who tracks drownings on the Great Lakes
“With many beaches closed due to erosion, Washington Park will see an increase in visitors,” said Dave Benjamin, co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“Our visitors have come to expect lifeguards at Washington Park. Our lakefront is a deceptively dangerous place to swim. We need lifeguards at Washington Park.”
He said not only do “Lifeguards save lives,” but they “educate the public about their specific beach hazards when patrons come to the beach.
“Removing lifeguards will cost lives and the cost to recover a body is much greater than the lifeguards’ salaries.”
He cited the cost of the body recovery for the U.S. Coast Guard, county dive teams, police departments, and fire departments, as well as the overtime and fuel for the helicopter and boats used in the recovery.
He cited news reports that a Coast Guard helicopter search can run as high as $16,000 an hour.
“That’s $384,000 per 24-hour day just for the Coast Guard response,” Benjamin said. “Add the city and county resources and you can run almost $500,000 a day for a single body recovery.”
He said it makes more sense “to spend that money on the front end” by providing lifeguards.
“In addition there’s the lost revenue for closing the beach and negative publicity to overcome with the drowning. Lifeguards make sense … Common sense and financial sense,” Benjamin said.
Other Indiana beaches with lifeguards include Whiting, Gary, West Beach in the Indiana Dunes National Park, and Indiana Dunes State Park, he said.
Even with lifeguards at many beaches, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project expects to see an increase in drownings this summer.
As of April 9, there have been five drownings in the Great Lakes so far in 2020, three in Lake Michigan. In 2019, there were 97 drownings in the Great Lakes, 48 in Lake Michigan, according to the GLSRP.
Nine of last year’s drowning were in Northwest Indiana, including two in Michigan City.
Since 2010 there have been more than 843 drownings in the Great Lakes, and for the 2020 swim season “several factors could lead to a deadly summer,” Benjamin said.
Those include “coronavirus cabin fever”; public pools being closed, cold lake water, high water levels, beach erosion and debris in the lake.
“As states start to loosen shelter-in-place restrictions and the economy restarts, people want to get out,” Benjamin said.
“This summer we could see the perfect storm for drownings in the Great Lakes region. Many public pools may be closed or have delayed openings, which means that many more people will be going to the beach.”
Natural factors could also add to the danger, he said.
“Because of the higher water levels and erosion, many beaches will have less beach space, so even as social distancing measures are put in place, beaches could still end up packed.”
And boat sales are up across the country as Americans search for socially distant fun, he said.
“There may be a lot of first-time boat buyers on the Great Lakes and they need to understand the basics of water safety like filing float plans, understanding changing marine forecasts, avoiding extra debris in the water, wearing lifejackets, and surviving cold water immersion,” Benjamin said. For more information on water safety, visit www.glsrp.org/water-safety/.
05/21/2020 – News Dispatch – Budget woes, lack of applicants mean no lifeguards at Washington Park – MICHIGAN CITY —Visitors to the lakefront at Washington Park are advised to swim at their own risk this summer, as the city has not hired lifeguards for the season.
City Controller Yvonne Hoffmaster broke the news to the Michigan City Common Council during a workshop on city finances Tuesday.
And despite the disapproval of several council members, Mayor Duane Parry said Thursday during a telephone interview that his hands are tied.
“Normally, Michigan City doesn’t start their lifeguards until Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “And so we sent out a letter on Feb. 6 announcing that we were going to be recruiting lifeguards; and then we did a press release on Feb. 7. But we got no replies.”
The initial lack of response was not concerning for Parry, he said, as it would be months until lifeguards would be needed. And when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the city in mid-March, the lifeguard issue fell off his radar.
“We already knew that we were going to be tight financially,” he said. “But we didn’t know exactly how tight we were going to be. We were still resolving the $3.4 million shortfall that we discovered shortly after I took office in January.”
As Hoffmaster explained during Tuesday’s council workshop, the city has lost $1.1 million in revenue per month since the Blue Chip Casino and Washington Park shut down.
She discussed the city’s cash flow projections through September and other additional revenues, noting that if the casino and park were to remain closed throughout the summer, the Municipal Fund would go into the red by October unless the city were to borrow from itself or another source.
But the city began issuing park stickers on Thursday, and will begin collecting for parking at Washington Park on Saturday.
And Hoffmaster has been researching how the city might have access to coronavirus relief funds from the federal and state governments.
Also good for city finances will be the $1.7 million in pension relief funds scheduled to arrive before the end of May; the anticipated reopening of the casino on June 14; and tax disbursements that should be released within the next several weeks.
She projected the city’s cash balance at the end of the year will be just over $6 million; and for a point of reference, noted it was just over $12 million on Jan. 1.
“Looking forward to the end of the year, our cash position to me is still concerning,” Hoffmaster said. “We are going to continue to limit spending and watch our revenues closely…
“I believe with close monitoring and watchful spending, that the city will come out of this on the other side OK, and that we will not have to reduce our workforce or reduce any of the services that our … residents have become used to.”
Of course, residents are used to having lifeguards at the Washington Park beach.
The mayor said Thursday that it worked out for city finances that only one lifeguard application has been submitted this year, as the city typically spends $130,000 per summer on lifeguard wages.
So, instead of manning the lifeguard station, “Swim At Your Own Risk” signs will be installed, and the Michigan City Police Department will perform frequent beach patrols, he said.
“People don’t realize how much we’ve been cutting ends because we don’t know how long the COVID pandemic is going to last,” Parry said. “We couldn’t go on at our current expenditures like nothing is wrong because we would have been out of money by July 15.
“I’m not unsympathetic. … But my job is the survival of Michigan City and its future. So, that’s what motivated me to take the position that this year we’re not going to have lifeguards.”
05/11/2020 – HF Chronicle – After nearly drowning, Homewood man works for prevention
04/23/2020 – Chicago Tribune – Community news: Homewood man named Lifesaver of the Year for drowning prevention efforts — Homewood resident Dave Benjamin, cofounder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has won the 2020 National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s “Lifesaver of the Year” award.
04/14/2020 – Patch – Homewood Man Wins ‘Lifesaver of The Year’ Award – Dave Benjamin has been recognized for his efforts to prevent drownings across the Great Lakes.
04/02/2020 – NDPA Lifesaver of the Year Award Acceptance Speech
01/13/2020 – Up North Live – Army Corps of Engineers: High water levels cause increase in Great Lakes hazards
01/13/2020 – WBCK FM – Six Ways High Lake Levels Can Kill You – 3. Rip Currents… To get out of a rip current, it is advised to “Flip, Float, Follow” until the current subsides to save your energy and reduce your risk of drowning.
12/27/2019 – MLIVE – Beach town seeks input on lifeguards, fines for swimmers after spike in Lake Michigan drownings – SOUTH HAVEN, MI — Residents in a Southwest Michigan city are encouraged to take a survey meant to help city leaders make the shoreline community safer after an increased number of drownings seen in Lake Michigan this year.
12/24/2019 – WWMT – Top 3 West Michigan weather stories of 2019 — New statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project showed Lake Michigan drowning deaths were up compared to 2018. Through July 31, 2019, there were 52 Great Lakes drownings, with 27 of those occurring in Lake Michigan, making 2019 a 80% increase through the start of August.
11/17/2019 – Valliant News – Michigan mission: Reduce drownings – Nonprofit groups, such as the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, have been teaching school children of all ages about water safety and what to do in the event of a potential drowning. “There’s been a real push in education the past couple years because the statistics are increasing,” said Sue Jennings, a wildlife biologist at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. She also serves as a peer counselor for staff and visitors in times of tragedies or rescue operations. The park had three drownings last year. “You know there have been drownings over the years, but it’s not until you start adding them up that you go, ‘Wow,’” she said.
10/25/2019 – NBC 5 Brandt Miller – In 2012 the GLSRP pioneered the “Flip, Float, and Follow” drowning survival technique to the public and media, and here is a Chicagoland woman crediting it for saving her life when she was on vacation this October. “Flip, Float and Follow” is the result of input from a variety of first responders and water safety groups that participated in the Great Lakes Water Safety Conference, sponsored by Michigan Sea Grant in 2011. In the spring of 2012, the GLSRP endorsed Flip, Float, and Follow and have been advocating it to the media and public ever since.
10/13/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Deadly currents stalk swimmers
10/01/2010 – The News Dispatch – Splashing around to save lives – Coolspring kids get tips on not becoming a Lake Michigan statistic
09/25/2019 – The Great Lakes Echo – Would lifeguards make the Great Lakes safer?
09/20/2019 – Capital News Service – Would lifeguards make the Great Lakes safer?
09/19/2019 – WWMT – New life jacket loaner station hopes to curb Lake Michigan drownings — Safe Kids of Greater South Haven, led by Bronson South Haven Hospital, spearheaded the project. The group worked with volunteer Deegan Boyles, who build the loaner station as his eagle scout project in memory of his grandfather. Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reported 36 drownings on Lake Michigan so far this year as of September 19, 2019.
09/18/2019 – MLIVE – Man stranded on Northern Michigan pier by high waves, rescued by Coast Guard — The man, who was in his 40s and not local to the Frank-Elberta area, planned to stay overnight on the pier on Thursday, Sept. 12. He woke Friday morning to find he couldn’t get back to shore because 3- to 4-foot waves were crashing over the walkway. He was rescued around 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, and handed over a gear box before getting on the Coast Guard vessel. During this year of record and near-record lake levels in the Great Lakes, drownings in Lake Michigan stand at 36, according to Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. There have been 76 in all five Great Lakes as of Sept. 18.
09/11/2019 – Cleveland.com – After kayaker death, Cuyahoga River Safety Task Force talks safety measures
08/31/2019 – WNEM 5 – How to stay safe in the water this Labor Day weekend
08/31/2019 – Mining Journal – High water – Officials urge caution at beaches, breakwaters, harbors, marinas
08/30/2019 – WSBT – Experts talk about how to stay safe in the water for Labor Day weekend
08/29/2019 – Univision – Revelan preocupante cifra por ahogamientos en el lago Michigan en lo que va del 2019. La organización Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project dio a conocer que en el lago se han registrado en total 27 muertes durante este año, es decir, 12 más que en el mismo periodo del 2018. Piden tomar precauciones al entrar al agua.
08/27/2019 – The Weather Channel – Lake Michigan’s Deadly Waves Prompt Warnings for Swimmers and Boaters in Illinois and Michigan
08/26/2019 – Univision – Revelan alarmantes cifras de muertes por ahogamiento en el lago Michigan – Según datos de Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, una organización que monitorea accidentes
08/26/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – Lake Michigan Safety Warning – Strong winds and dangerous waves continued to kick up on Chicago’s lakefront Monday after a weekend in which two people died in drownings. NBC 5’s Christian Farr reports.
08/25/2019 – WLS 7 Chicago – Beach Hazard in effect for 5th day; 2 drown in Lake Michigan over weekend
O8/25/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Potentially Life-Threatening Waves, Currents Persist On Lake Michigan
08/25/2019 – WLS 7 Chicago – 2 men drown in Lake Michigan over weekend; 14 rescued after boat capsizes
08/23/2019 – NBC KWQC – Illinois man dies while trying to save girl in Lake Michigan
08/23/2019 – News Dispatch – Body found off West Beach in Porter County
08/23/2019 – WBEZ – 10:05:37 AM: …Ireland jumped into grab her but was overwhelmed by the waves by cards Rescue the girl to the D.A. died despite efforts to revive him the National weather service says waves could be as high as 6 feet today through the evening great lakes Surf Rescue Project says more than 30 people have down like michigan illinois and other States
08/22/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – 34 Drownings In Lake Michigan So Far This Year, Advocacy Group Says
08/20/2019 – Detroit Free Press – Warren teen falls in Lake Huron at Port Austin, nearly drowns
08/06/2019 – WTMJ 4 – Search for missing swimmer changed to recovery effort
08/06/2019 – MLIVE – Search continues for teen who went missing in Lake Michigan
08/06/2019 – MLIVE – South Haven residents push for lifeguards after rash of Lake Michigan drownings
08/06/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Report shows Lake Michigan drownings up 87 percent
08/05/2019 – CBS 3 WWMT – UPDATED South Haven public brings lifeguard concerns to city council
08/05/2019 – CBS 3 WWMT – South Haven public scheduled to bring lifeguard concerns to city council
08/05/2019 – CBC – 2019 on track for record number of Great Lakes drownings
08/04/2019 – WZZM – Lake Michigan drownings up 87% in 2019, group says – To date in 2019, there have been 54 drownings in all the Great Lakes.
08/03/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – Lake Michigan drownings up 87% over last year.
08/03/2019 – Chicago Press – Group: Lake Michigan Drownings up 87% Over Last Year
08/01/2019 – WBEZ – Morning Shift – Lake Michigan Drownings Are On The Rise. Here’s Your Water Safety Primer.
08/01/2019 – WWMT – Lake Michigan drownings up 80% over last year
08/01/2019 – NBC 25 News – Ascension Genesys Health Club explains rip current danger
07/31/2019 – Lakeshore Public Radio – All Things Considered – Regionally Speaking – Today: We talk with Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the alarming number of drownings in Lake Michigan this year — although he says it’s been worse in the past. He talks about a recent rescue effort that he personally joined in, at Washington Park beach in Michigan City, and offers tips to swimmers when they step into Lake Michigan.
07/31/2019 – Rogers Edge Reporter – Wave Warning Once Again on Lakefront Beaches
07/31/2019 – FOX News 11 – Great Lakes water levels raise breakwater safety concerns
07/31/2019 – WMUK 102.1 – Safety Group Says Great Lakes Drownings Are Preventable
07/30/2019 – Duluth Tribune – Lake Michigan drownings up 80% from this time last year
This year, more people have drowned in Lake Michigan than the other Great Lakes combined.
07/30/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Threat Of Dangerous Waves, Currents Prompts Warning About Beach Hazards
07/30/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Police: Being a hero isn’t always the safest bet during water rescues
07/30/2019 – WKZO – Great Lakes drowning deaths are now over 50 so far this year – Lake Michigan has the highest rate of drowning occurrences.
07/30/2019 – WTVB – Great Lakes drowning deaths are now over 50 so far this year – Lake Michigan has the highest rate of drowning occurrences.
07/30/2019 – ABC 57 – Lake Michigan drownings are way up in 2019
07/30/2019 – Tri-County Times – Drowning deaths up on Lake Michigan – Swimmers and boaters on Great Lakes and inland lakes should heed caution from ‘pop up’ storms and high winds
07/30/2019 – Click On Detroit – Officials issue warning about massive uptick in Great Lakes drownings this year – Drowning deaths on Lake Michigan up 80% this year
07/30/2019 – Herald Mail Media – Lake Michigan drownings up 80% from this time last year
07/30/2019 – Fox 17 – Lake Michigan drownings nearly double; on pace to be the deadliest year on the Great Lakes
07/30/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – Victim of state park drowning identified; incident believed accidental
07/30/2019 – Huron Daily Tribune – Boaters rescue teen swept off pier into Lake Michigan
07/30/2019 – MLIVE – Great Lakes drowning deaths increasing, Lake Michigan drownings have nearly doubled
07/29/2019 – News/Talk 94.9 WSJM – Lake Michigan Drownings In 2019 Up Sharply From 2018
07/29/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Drownings On The Rise In Lake Michigan
07/29/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – Local Experts Hope Water Safety Workshop Avoids More Lake Deaths
07/28/2019 – ABC 7 Chicago – Lake Michigan drownings up 80 percent this year, water safety group says
07/29/2019 – WWJ Newsradio 950 – Swim Warning Issued In Lake Michigan After 80 Percent Spike In Drownings – Every weekend brings more cases
07/29/2019 – The Detroit News – Great Lakes drownings on record pace again
07/29/2019 – ABC 13 on your side – Certified lifeguard says swimmers should pay attention to flags, conditions at Lake Mich. Beaches – There have been 27 drownings in Lake Michigan in 2019.
07/29/2019 – MIX 95.7 – Dangerous conditions on Lake Michigan expected again Monday
07/29/2019 – WTOL 11 Toledo – Experts offer drowning prevention strategies after 12 people drown in Lake Erie – In all of the Great Lakes, 50 people have drowned in 2019.
07/29/2019 – WBBM News Radio 780 – Drownings In Lake Michigan Up 80 Percent Over Last Year: Report
07/29/2019 – 9 & 10 News – Swimmers at Risk on Lake Michigan: Winds Cause High Waves, Currents
07/29/2019 – Chicago Tribune – Lake Michigan Drownings up 80% over this time last year
07/29/2019 – Chicago Sun-Times – Drownings in Lake Michigan up 80% over last year: report
Drownings in Lake Michigan account for over half of the total drownings in all five great lakes
07/29/2019 – NBC 24 – Drowning victim identified, officials urge water safety
07/29/2019 – Detroit News – Warning issued for dangerous swimming conditions on Lake Michigan beaches
07/29/2019 – CBS 3 WWMT – South Haven beachgoers swim despite red flag warning of dangerous conditions
07/28/2019 – UpNorthLive – GLSRP: Lake Michigan drownings up 80 percent over last year
07/28/2019 – Detroit News – Lake Michigan drownings up 80% since last year 51 Great Lakes drownings in 2019; 27 in Lake Michigan
07/28/2019 – Huron Daily Tribune – Warnings posted for Monday on Michigan side of Lake Michigan
07/28/2019 – Detroit Free Press – Dangerous conditions expected at Lake Michigan beaches Monday
07/27/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Group: Lake Michigan worst Great Lake for drownings – LUDINGTON — West Michigan is home to the deadliest Great Lake when it comes to drownings, according to new numbers from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
GLSRP says half of the 44 Great Lakes drownings that have happened so far this year took place in Lake Michigan. Additionally, one person pulled from Lake Michigan was last listed in critical condition, and two scuba divers from Illinois who died in the big lake.
Great Lakes drownings in 2019 (As of July 24, 2019):
Lake Michigan: 22 drownings
Lake Erie: 10 drownings
Lake Ontario: 6 drownings
Lake Huron: 5 drownings
Lake Superior: 2 drownings
GLSRP says since 2010, 784 people have lost their lives in Lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Great Lakes drownings spiked at 117 last year, with the water claiming 29 more lives than the year prior.
The most recent Lake Michigan drowning involved 18-year-old Daniel McCarthy of Baldwin, who got caught in a current along with eight other swimmers, but never made it to shore. Crews recovered his body around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday at Ludington State Park. Read the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s full drowning summary at www.glsrp.org/statistics.
07/27/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Man drowns in Lake Michigan near Holland
07/27/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – 35-year-old Michigan man dies after slipping under water at Indiana Dunes State Park
07/27/2019 – The Sandusky Register – How can Nickel Plate be safer?
Benjamin said a lifeguard would have an immediate impact. That’s because a lifeguard could educate people on where currents are located and help prevent swimmers from getting carried out into the lake.
But White is resistant to that idea. He pointed out at Tuesday’s city council meeting they had trained rescue professionals in the water trying to find Young, but it was so bad that some of them got into trouble.
“So I worry about the additional risk posed to lifeguards who would come to the beach,” White said. “But with that being said, it’s something to be considered.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, several people gave suggestions of limiting the area where swimming is allowed to a shallower depth.
“We’ve talked about defining a swim area that would be no farther than 4-feet deep and move it away from the pier,” White said. “The tremendous force and energy that’s created reverberate some length down the beach and there are going to be conditions where I don’t think it’s going to be safe even with those safety features in place.”
It’s for this reason that after Martin’s death, the city checked the beach’s condition each morning to see if it was safe to open. But White wants to be able to close it at any time.
“What’s most import is the detection of the turning of events,” White said. “I think council through its vested power in my office should be able to close the beach Monday morning, Friday afternoon, Sunday, it doesn’t matter.”
The city doesn’t have a policy in place for closing the beach on the weekend when the staff is off, and White said that’s the situation they got into on Sunday with Young.
His office is researching a warning system that records wind and wave activity and could set off an alarm or strobe light when it’s too dangerous to be in the water.
White said the city is also in the process of relocating the rescue box closer to the water and including life jacket in it as well as the life ring. The city is also looking into a program to provide the police department with a personal watercraft to store at the beach.
Another option Benjamin suggested, updating the signage to be specific to the dangers at the beach, is already underway. White said the city has placed an order to erect six signs along the beach with information on rip currents and what to do in an emergency situation.
What to do if you’re stuck in a current?
The project advocates for people to use the “Flip, Float and Follow” method, which tells the person who is struggling to flip over, float on their back and to not fight against the current.
The toughest thing to do if you’re caught in a rip current is to swim directly to shore,” Oudeman said.
Once a person figures out which way the current is moving they should swim perpendicular to the current until they’re out of it. Benjamin said education inside schools is the best and most cost efficient way to try to prevent the number of drownings.
“Public education is the missing piece of the puzzle for water safety,” Benjamin said. “Schools have fire drills, active shooter drills and tornado drills, but drowning kills more children every year than fires, guns and tornados.”
Benjamin wants the “Flip, Float and Follow” slogan to become as well known to people as the “Stop, Drop and Roll” motto taught to children during fire safety.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources both recommend people wear life jackets when going into the lake.
07/27/2019 – UpNorthLive – GLSRP: Beware of offshore winds on Great Lakes
MICHIGAN (WPBN/WGTU) — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Projects debuted its latest water safety illustration to address the dangers of offshore winds and side-offshore winds.
“Inflatable toys like rafts, ducks, unicorns, swans and other objects can get blown fast and far offshore when the wind is blowing from the land and out to open water,” GLSRP Executive Director Dave Benjamin said. “We hope that this new illustration can educate the public as fast as these toys can float out.”
During offshore winds, the water at the shoreline can be deceptively calm, but the farther one gets from shore, the winds become stronger and the water can become choppy.
According to the GLSRP, on Sunday, July 14, 2019 a 33-year-old mother drowned in Lake Ontario trying to rescue her six-year-old son who got carried away from shore while floating on an inflatable unicorn.
On Monday, July 15, 2019 a toddler was on an inflatable duck in Michigan City, Indiana that was blown out to open water by a side-offshore wind.
“Southernly winds will be blowing today. It can cause offshore wind conditions for Indiana and side-offshore winds for northern Illinois, southeast Wisconsin, and southwest Michigan,” Benjamin said. “As the winds travel farther north, the winds may also create waves and dangerous currents such as longshore currents, rip currents, and structural currents. The south sides (windward sides) of all piers will be the most turbulent and the dangerous spots on Lake Michigan.”
The GLSRP is tracking 49 Great Lakes drownings in 2019, 25 of which occurred in Lake Michigan. The GLSRP recorded 117 in 2018
07/26/2019 – Cleveland 19 – Officials warning swimmers of dangers in Lake Erie; 2019 could set record for drownings
07/26/2019 – WZZM ABC 13 – NWS warns beachgoers of dangerous swimming conditions Saturday – “We strongly advise NOT going into the water.”
07/26/2019 – Detroit News – Beware boaters and swimmers: High winds on Great Lakes this weekend – Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said looking at the warm weekend, southerly winds can cause offshore wind conditions for southeast Michigan. “As the winds travel farther north, the winds will also create waves and dangerous currents such as long-shore currents, rip currents and structural currents,” Benjamin said. “The south sides (windward sides) of all piers will be the most turbulent and dangerous spots on Lake Michigan.”
07/26/2019 – Fox 17 – Lake Michigan drownings up 58% over last year – As officials continue to search for a missing father who drowned at Ludington State Park, a group is urging safety on the water this weekend. Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says Lake Michigan drownings are up 58% over this date in 2018 and the numbers are likely to continue to rise. In 2019 the GLSRP is tracking 44 Great Lakes drownings; 22 of those in Lake Michigan.
“The ‘4 W’s – warm, wind, waves and weekend- may come into play this weekend bringing more people to the beach. Winds are the primary source of the dangerous currents on the Great Lakes,” said Dave Benjamin, GLSRP Executive Director. “Southernly winds blowing this weekend can cause offshore wind conditions for Indiana, side-offshore winds for northern Illinois, southwest Wisconsin, and southeast Michigan. “As the winds travel farther north, the winds will also create waves and dangerous currents such as longshore currents, rip currents, and structural currents. The south sides (windward sides) of all piers will be the most turbulent and dangerous spots on Lake Michigan.”
07/26/2019 – Detroit Free Press – Drowning deaths on Lake Michigan have skyrocketed this year
07/26/2019 – Michigan Radion NPR – Reports of drowning in Lake Michigan are higher this year than last, group says
07/25/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Man Dies After Being Pulled From Water At Rainbow Beach
07/25/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Lake Michigan Drownings Up 57 Percent This Year, Water Safety Group Says
07/25/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – EDITORIAL: Keep your wits when venturing into the lake
07/25/2019 – WILX NBC 10 – Lake Michigan more dangerous for swimmers
07/25/2019 – WBCK FM – Almost 800 People have Drowned in the Great Lakes Since 2010
07/25/2019 – WLNS – 44 Great Lakes drownings reported in 2019
07/24/2019 – WXYZ Detroit – 44 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2019
07/24/2019 – WOOD TV – Group: Lake Michigan worst Great Lake for drownings SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
07/24/2019 – NBC WKYC 3 CLEVELAND – Near-drowning survivor issues Great Lakes safety warning – Be safe versus sorry while enjoying the water. “You never play in fire but you know a fire survival strategy, you always play in water every summer, every vacation, every pool that you go to you play in water but very few people know a drowning survival strategy.”
07/22/2019 – The Neighbor – UPDATE: Five fatal drownings at Lake Michigan beaches in the Region this year, officials say
07/23/2019 – News Dispatch – Man pulled from lake dies in ICU – MC man is second fatality in two weeks off Washington Park
07/23/2019 – Star Beacon – Woman pushes for water safety education
07/22/2019 – FOX 6 – Breakwater safety hazards up with high Great Lakes water levels
07/22/2019 – WSBT – 21 people drowned in Lake Michigan this year. Here’s what to know before going for a swim
07/22/2019 – WNDU – Warnings of Lake Michigan dangers come after swimming deaths
07/22/2019 – ABC 57 – Mother creates petition to bring lifeguards back to South Haven
07/22/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Lake Michigan Drownings Continue Despite Warnings
07/22/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Chicago Weather: Beach Hazard Statement, Small Craft Advisory For Lake Michigan
07/22/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – UPDATE: Five fatal drownings at Lake Michigan beaches in the Region this year, officials say
07/22/2019 – ABC 57 – An area lifeguard takes to Facebook to strongly warn of dangerous swimming
07/21/2019 – WGN Chicago – Officials remind public about water safety after man drowns in Lake Michigan
07/21/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – After Recent Tragedies, CFD Officials Offer Water Safety Tips
07/18/2019 – MLIVE – Toddler floats away on inflatable duck on Lake Michigan, bystanders rescue child
07/18/2019 – Detroit Free Press – Bystander saves toddler who floats away on inflatable duck in Lake Michigan
07/18/2019 – Daily Mail UK – Toddler is rescued by a boater on Lake Michigan after strong winds push his yellow inflatable duck away from shore
07/18/2019 – Inside Edition – Toddler Sobs as He Drifts Out on Lake Michigan on Giant Duck Float
07/17/2019 – The Weather Channel – Beachgoers Rescue Kid Who Floated Away – winds blew inflatable duck away from shore toward open water.
07/17/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Red flags: [Not So] Well-known warning system at state park not always heeded
07/17/2019 – Good Morning America – Boater helps rescue toddler stranded on inflatable duck
07/17/2019 – ABC 7 Chicago – Kids learn water safety in junior lifeguard program in Wilmette
07/17/2019 – South Bend Tribune – Toddler saved in Lake Michigan by nearby boater after winds carry inflatable
07/17/2019 – WWMT – PETITION: BRING BACK LIFEGUARDS – SOUTH HAVEN, MI — The drowning of a 13-year-old in South Haven sparks public cry for the return of lifeguards on South Haven beaches. As of late Wednesday, 5,400 [8,500+] people had signed the petition.
One former lifeguard said with so many deaths the lack of a lifeguard on the beach is dangerous. “For someone that’s just like a citizen walking around they don’t really have the skills in that and the strength a lot of times to be in the water and saving lives, so it’s important to have trained lifeguards.” Bridget Reebe said.
Earlier this week Newschannel 3 spoke with South Haven City Manager Brain Dissette. We asked if lifeguards would ever come back to South Haven?
He said it was a question for the City Council. So, we went to city hall to speak with city council. We were told NO MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL WAS AVAILABLE.
07/17/2019 – North Cook News – GLENCOE PARK DISTRICT: Glencoe Park District launched Beach S.A.F.E.
07/17/2019 – WNEM 5 – Boater rescues toddler on giant inflatable duck on Lake Michigan
07/17/2019 – Mirror, UK – Screams and panic after toddler on inflatable duck floats out to sea from beach
07/16/2019 – Herald Argus – Tragedy avoided at MC beach, Boaters rescue child after inflatable toy drifts to open water
07/16/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Toddler Rescued From Lake Michigan After Drifting Away On Inflatable Duck In Michigan City
07/16/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Video Captures Dramatic Rescue As Toddler Floated Away From Shore In Inflatable Duck In Michigan City
07/16/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – Close Call Caught on Cam on Lake Michigan After Toddler on Inflatable Duck Carried Away by Wind – What began as a peaceful day at the lake in Michigan City, Indiana, quickly turned to panic Monday afternoon
07/16/2019 – ABC 7 Chicago – Boater rescues toddler who floated away from shore in inflatable duck in Lake Michigan
07/16/2019 – WNDU NBC 16 – Toddler saved in Lake Michigan after winds carry inflatable
07/16/2019 – WTTV CBS Indy 4 – Indiana toddler saved in Lake Michigan after winds carry inflatable
07/16/2019 – WPVI ABC 6 – Boy rescued from inflatable duck after drifting offshore in Indiana
07/16/2019 – FOX 59 – Boater saves Indiana toddler in Lake Michigan after he drifted away on inflatable duck
07/16/2019 – The News Dispatch – Tragedy avoided at MC beach – Boaters rescue child after inflatable toy drifts to open water
07/16/2019 – New York Daily News – Tot on inflatable duck reportedly carried away into Lake Michigan, saved by boat
07/16/2019 – US News – Toddler Saved in Lake Michigan After Winds Carry Inflatable — Witnesses say a toddler was rescued in Lake Michigan after he drifted away from his family on an inflatable duck in Indiana.
07/16/2019 – Toronto Sun – 773 drownings in Great Lakes since 2010: Safety group
07/16/2019 – Windsor Star – Great Lakes drownings high in number, but often preventable, safety group says
07/16/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – UPDATE: Toddler saved in Lake Michigan by nearby boater after winds carry inflatable, witness says
07/16/2019 – ABC 57 – Toddler rescued by bystanders in Michigan City
07/15/2019 – ABC 57 – Recent Lake Michigan drownings bring safety into question
07/15/2019 – WZZM 13 – Water safety advocates continue push to bring back lifeguards on Michigan beaches – The drowning of a boy in South Haven has ignited the debate again if Michigan beaches need lifeguards.
07/12/2019 – The News Dispatch – Busy weekend for Beach Rescue Unit – Tragic drowning one of several calls about Lake Michigan
07/10/2019 – WSBT 22 – Crews back on Lake Michigan to find missing teen, what they now call a recovery operation
07/09/2019 – WSBT 22 – Officials give water safety tips after a dangerous weekend on Lake Michigan
07/09/2019 – WSBT 22 Facebook Live – Michigan City, IN – Water Safety tips
07/09/2019 – The Herald Argus – Search continues for missing swimmer – South Bend teen went under Saturday evening off Washington Park
07/07/2019 – Herald Argus – SB teen missing in Lake Michigan
07/07/2019 – ABC 7 Newsviews: Water Safety – The weather has finally warmed up and maybe you’ve spent time at the beach this weekend. WATCH: Newsviews Part 1 & 2.
07/06/2019 – ABC 7 – Swimmer missing near Michigan City as weather service warns of life-threatening waves
07/04/2019 – Cleveland 19 – Lake Erie second deadliest Great Lake for drownings; total deaths down from last year
07/04/2019 – UpNorthLive – GLSRP: 22 drownings in Great Lakes so far in 2019 – GREAT LAKES (WPBN/WGTU) — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) has released their statistics for the number of drownings in the Great Lakes for 2019. According to the GLSRP, there have been 22 Great Lakes drownings so far for 2019. Since 2010, the GLSRP said there have been 762 drownings in the Great Lakes.
07/03/2019 – WILX – 22 Great Lakes drownings in 2019
06/05/2019– Lakeshore Public Radio – All Things Considered – Regionally Speaking. We bring back our summer 2017 conversation about Lake Michigan drownings with Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.” (The Interview begins at 27:38)
06/05/2019– Southbend Tribune – After loss of Lake Michigan kayaker: ‘Look out for our brothers and sisters’
06/04/2019– Southtown Star – Just because you know how to swim, doesn’t mean you know how to survive — As pool and beach season gets underway safety experts remind water lovers not to have a false sense of security because a lifeguard is on duty or because they know how to swim.
The World Congress on Drowning states that an estimated 66% of the more than 360000 people who drown worldwide each year knew how to swim, said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (www.glsrp.org).
That explains why people take risks, such as swimming alone or beyond their physical capability, and why so often would-be rescuers become drowning victims, he said.
As beaches and pools open for the season, he reminds patrons that in June beach water is cold and visitors likely haven’t been swimming for months.
“Their swimming endurance may be down,” even if their confidence is not, he said.
Know a survival strategy
Being able to swim is not the same as being able to survive a drowning event, he said.
Benjamin has given classroom presentations in Oak Lawn, Palos Heights and Blue Island this past spring. He said he always begins with an informal survey that typically reveals about 90% of the students say they know how to swim. But, he added, less than 5% know a drowning survival strategy such as “Flip, Float and Follow” when caught in a current or floating on your back and breathing deeply for added buoyancy.
“Knowing how to swim reduces your fear of water. But people often overestimate their swimming ability,” Benjamin said. “Males overestimate it by about 50 percent.”
Benjamin said a Red Cross report showed 54 percent of Americans who say they can swim don’t have basic swimming ability to survive a water emergency. The criteria for survival included five points: 1) resurfacing after falling into water over your head, 2) treading water for one minute, 3) spinning 360 degrees to spot an exit, 4) swimming 25 yards or length of the pool to get to that exit, and 5) climbing out of water without assistance.
“We want people to know how to swim but we want them also to understand their true swimming ability and that there’s a distinction between knowing how to swim and knowing how to survive,” he said.Most people can run but that doesn’t mean they have the ability to run a marathon, he added.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death, particularly for children and particularly for males, in the nation and the world, he said. Eighty percent of drowning victims are male, he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in five people who die from drowning in the United States are children age 14 and younger. In addition, the CDC states, for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
These are things every parent should know and are reasons to “watch your kids like a hawk,” Benjamin said.
There were 117 Great Lakes drownings in 2018, he said, making it the deadliest year since the GLSRP began tracking such deaths in 2010.
Already, 2019 has claimed 16 Great Lakes drowning victims, with the latest victim being pulled out of Lake Michigan at the end of May.
Benjamin said because the physical struggle often takes place under water, as the victim’s legs and arms “climb a ladder” or “paw at the water,” onlookers are often unaware the individual is in trouble.
For the victim, Benjamin said, panic is the first stage of drowning.
“It’s a panic attack in the water. If you don’t understand that you’re likely to exhaust all your energy and submerge,” he said. “That’s why you need a survival strategy.
“If you want to survive a drowning incident, you have to stay at the surface and continue breathing, by treading water and floating or having a flotation device with you,” he said.
06/04/2019 – Interlochen Public Radio – Record number of drowning deaths in Great Lakes last year
06/04/2019– Post-Tribune – Drowning doesn’t look like drowning, says water safety advocatenlike the way it’s portrayed in movies, drowning is often quiet. There’s usually no screaming or thrashing in the water. It’s something that can go unnoticed, unless it’s being watched. Most importantly, it can happen to anyone — more than 50 percent of drowning victims are strong swimmers, according to the United States Coast Guard. Last year, the number of deaths due to drowning in the Great Lakes was 118, making it the deadliest year since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began tracking drownings in the Great Lakes in 2010. Since they began, they’ve tracked more than 750 deaths.
06/03/2019– Fox 6 – ‘It’s about time:’ Life rings installed at North, South Pier in Kenosha after 4 drownings in 2018 — KENOSHA — Life rings were installed at Kenosha’s North Pier and South Pier after four drownings in 2018, including a case involving a 17-year-old Indian Trail High School student. It was a simple solution that became very complex.
“It’s about time,” said Maria Rasch of Kenosha. “Ever since I moved here, we had always heard of different drownings, and it wasn’t until this past season somebody decided to actually do something about it.”
Three life rings were installed at the North Pier Monday, joining one life ring on the South Pier and another on the Pike River after a tragic year.
Donovan Anderson’s body was recovered from Lake Michigan near Carthage College on Sept. 12, 2018. He was part of a group of students taking pictures and playing in the water on Sept. 6. Officials said he jumped into the lake off the pier and didn’t resurface. It was one of four drownings in 2018, putting officials under pressure to do something.
06/03/2019– TMJ4 – Life rings finally up on Kenosha’s north pier 6 years after Lake Mills’ mom lost her son
05/31/2019– Northwest Indiana Times – Lake Michigan claims 7 lives already this year; good swimmers not immune, expert says
05/30/2019– WTTW Chicago Chanel 11 – “Beach Season is Here, and Water Safety Advocates Say They’re Worried”
05/30/2019– WKZO – A deadly year so far in the Great Lakes
05/30/2019– WWMT – Data shows deadly year so far on Great Lakes — 751 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010; 11 to date in 2019 — GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces its current drowning statistics. In 2019, the GLSRP is tracking 11 Great Lakes drownings. Overall since 2010, the GLSRP has tracked 751 Great Lakes drownings. Full statistics here. Note: * = (+/-) Awaiting 100% confirmation of drowning.
05/28/2019– Fox News Chicago – ‘Flip, Float and Follow’: What to do if you may be about to drown
05/25/2019– Lake County News Sun – Moran: Beach season opens with a reminder that Lake Michigan is not a kiddie pool
05/24/2019– Fox 17 – Grand Haven launches new beach safety initiatives – GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — In the summer of 2018 more than 100 people drowned in the Great Lakes, three of those individuals in the waters of Lake Michigan by the Grand Haven lakeshore.
Now, community officials are banding together, announcing new safety tools at Friday’s “Beach Safety Initiative” on the Grand Haven Beach.
The first of the Beach Safety Initiatives is 14 red zonal signs meant to help rescue crews find exactly where an emergency is happening.
Also included in the initiatives is a new flag pole to display warning flags, extra rigging rope and life rings to throw to those in distress, water rescue goggles for emergency personnel, and a safety message that will be playing on loop on AM 1700.
05/24/2019– The News Dispatch – Lake safety part of curriculum — Lake Michigan can be dangerous — After the deadliest year on the Great Lakes in 2018, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is reminding swimmers and beach-goers to be safe when in or near the water.
Last year was the deadliest on the Great Lakes since the GLSRP began tracking drownings in 2010. And so far in 2019, the project is tracking seven drownings, and possibly an additional four, which happened in the last week. Overall since 2010, there have been at least 747 Great Lakes drownings. Of the 2018 drownings, 117 were in Lake Michigan, including six in Northwest Indiana and two in Michigan City.
One of the possible drownings being tracked this week is a South Bend man who is still missing after he disappeared off Porter Beach last weekend. A search is underway for Jacob Sandy, 23, last seen heading onto Lake Michigan to kayak. Porter Police found Sandy’s car in the parking lot near the beach, and a search has been underway since Monday.
The GLSRP offers the following reminders for those heading to the water over the holiday weekend:
- Water temperatures are in the 50s at the south end of Lake Michigan, and swimmers are advised not to jump off boats or piers. If you enter the water, ease your way in and wear a lifejacket. Cold water shock can cause an involuntary hyperventilation gasp reflex, so know the rules of hypothermia.
- This summer the beaches may seem more crowded because the water lines are higher and there’s literally less beach space. In addition, check local sandbar formations. There may be sudden drop-offs, inshore holes, or debris/trees submerged along some shorelines.
- Wear a lifejacket – especially while traveling on boats. “You wouldn’t try to put your seatbelt on during a car crash. If an incident happens while boating, you likely won’t be able to put on your lifejacket in a life and death situation,” Bob Pratt, GLSRP executive director, said.
- It’s likely been several months since most people have been to the beach, so swimming endurance may be low and cold water will incapacitate swimming ability.
05/24/2019– Star Beacon – Take care when boating – Many people will be getting their boats out on the water for the first time this weekend. While the water provides plenty of great opportunities for fun, it is important to take precautions and be safe because summer fun can turn to tragedy quickly.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, since 2010 there have been more than 750 Great Lakes drownings.
“I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue,” Dave Benjamin, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project executive director, said last fall. “A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”
05/23/2019– Chicago Tribune – Going to the beach can be dangerous. Here are ways to stay safe.
Even when it comes to a fun, enjoyable activity like a day at the beach, beachgoers still should understand the risks before going in the water.
Last year, at least 42 people drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a group that tracks drownings across the Great Lakes. The Chicago area has already had five people drown in Lake Michigan this year.
The Chicago Park District assigns each beach a color-coded flag. A green flag means there are no swim restrictions, and the water quality is good. A yellow flag means be cautious because weather conditions are unpredictable or bacteria levels in the water are above the threshold deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. A red flag means swimming is prohibited due to the weather, water quality or surf conditions of the beach — or that the beach is closed to swimming because there are no lifeguards.
“If there’s a red flag out there don’t go in the water,” said Adam Bueling, assistant manager of beaches and pools for the Chicago Park District. “That means there may be bacterial contamination. It may mean there’s high wind or high waves or there’s no lifeguard on duty.”
Be cautious of waves and currents
Lake Michigan is vulnerable to dangerous waves and currents, Rodriguez said. When winds blow directly onshore, that creates strong waves and increases the possibility of dangerous currents, including currents that flow away from the beach and back out to the lake, Rodriguez said.
“If someone gets caught in that it becomes a very dangerous situation,” he said.
The National Weather Service advises all beachgoers to steer clear of piers and pier-like structures because waves are often more chaotic near them.
“Our beaches get structural currents around jetties and piers, and when you’re close to those structures you can get caught in a current, which can carry you out to deeper water,” Bueling said.
Waves and currents can be unpredictable and that’s why the weather service encourages people to wear a life jacket.
Lifeguards can be a lifesaver
Chicago’s beaches are staffed with lifeguards only between the hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Obey the rules,” Bueling said. “Don’t swim where and when there are no lifeguards.”
The drowning of a 13-year-old girl last summer 30 minutes after lifeguards had ended their shift at Loyola Beach prompted the Park District to plant a red flag at all beach locations when lifeguards were not on duty.
There are roughly 1,050 lifeguards employed by the Park District, which includes 500 spread across the lakefront and 550 at pools throughout the city, a spokeswoman said. However, the Park District is still looking to hire more lifeguards.
Lifeguard hours were cut from 9 a.m to 8:30 p.m. to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in 2009 in an effort to save about $700,000 a year.
A task force put together after the girl’s drowning recommended this spring that the Park District extend lifeguard hours, but noted that the district and Chicago Public Schools also are working to expand lifeguard training, because not enough lifeguards are available.
05/22/2019– Herald Palladium – Water safety training on North Pier — ST. JOSEPH — The St. Joseph Department of Public Safety and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department will host a joint water safety event on the North Pier at Tiscornia Beach at noon Sunday. The presentation will cover water safety, pier safety, rip currents and life rings. Nearly 750 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since tracking began in 2010.
- 05/20/2019– ABC 57- Beaches get smaller as Lake Michigan water levels continue to rise — The high levels are also impacting Lake Michigan beach lines.
The co-founder of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that works to cut the number of Great Lakes drownings through training and education, Dave Benjamin is asking beach goers to take certain precautions due to the higher water levels.
Benjamin says that the high water levels are shrinking Lake Michigan beaches. Putting it simply, he says more water means more hazards for people out on the beach.
“Water is one of the leading causes of accidental death. If we’re looking at the beach here in Michigan City, Indiana, there’s a lot less beach here than there was last year. And, we have a lot of people that come to this beach every summer, which means this beach is going to be even more crowded, and in a smaller space,” Benjamin said.
He explains that although the higher water levels don’t change the way lifeguards are trained, crowded beaches due to the changing beach lines make it harder for lifeguards to monitor the open water.
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is just one example of the devastating impact higher water levels have had on shorelines across the area. Right now, the beach is temporarily closed due to hazardous conditions from erosion.
Benjamin asks that swimmers are careful on the sandbars because the arrangement of their formations can change due to the high water levels.
Plus, if you take the boat out, be on the lookout hazards like vegetation or trees that could’ve been washed off the shore line that are now submerged close to the water due to high water levels and wave activity.
He also says to take water safety into consideration is along the piers of Lake Michigan.
“Because the water level is higher along the piers, a smaller wave, 2 feet 3 feet might be enough to wash someone off the pier. So, we always tell people to steer clear from the pier. It’s one of the mantras across the great lakes. Whenever there’s water washing over the piers you should definitely stay off them, do not swim near them,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin tells ABC57 that last year was the deadliest year on the Great Lakes with 40 drownings in Lake Michigan.
- 05/12/2019– Kenosha News – After a deadly 2018 season, water safety program aims to save lives on the lakefront
A push for safety – Saturday was the culmination of a week of water safety events organized by the Safety Around Water (SAW) coalition in partnership with the city, Kenosha Unified School District and the local police and fire departments.
The week included presentations about water safety by David Benjamin from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project at Unified high schools and middle schools. A water safety video created by Cochran was also shown at all district middle and high schools.
On Saturday, the coalition held a water safety event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kenosha Harbor, including safety demonstrations, a presentation by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and life jacket giveaways.
The week of education programs was part of a larger series of initiatives to improve safety at the lakefront, including larger warning signs, “throw bags” for police squad cars and the installation of life ring kiosks at areas where there are dangerous currents, including near the mouth of the Pike River and at the North Pier.
Deadly summer – Ironically, as the coalition began meeting [in July of 2018] in the hope of pushing for improved safety, Kenosha entered what became a deadly summer on the water.
Five people died in drownings in the county in 2018, including an 18-year-old high school student who died after jumping from North Pier with friends and a father who drowned trying to save his daughter from a rip current off the beach where the Pike River flows into Lake Michigan.
- 05/02/2019– Kenosha News – Moving past ‘I don’t know’ is key to water safety – I didn’t know that I could drown because I know how to swim.
I didn’t know that panic is the first stage of drowning.
I didn’t know about dangerous currents in the Great Lakes.
I didn’t know that 80 percent of all drowning victims are male.
I didn’t know, yet there I was … I was male. I was in a structural current. I was panicking. I could no longer swim. I was drowning.
Luckily I survived. I survived by floating. When I had given up my exhausted struggle to stay at the surface in the pounding waves, I luckily had enough float in my surfing wetsuit to stay at the surface and breathe — I could float, breathe, overcome the panic and eventually float back to shore.
After that nonfatal drowning event I co-founded the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
And I didn’t know that “I didn’t know …” would become the number one thing that we would hear from family and friends of drowning victims after a tragic event.
And when we listened to these “I didn’t know …” factors from these families and friends of drowning victims, we realized that these factors were not complex ideas. These factors were actually quite simple.
Many people may think that these factors are common sense, but there is currently no common sense when it comes to water safety.
Our society is so far behind the eight ball when it comes to water safety when compared to other public safety programs.
Answer these questions:
What do you do if your clothes catch on fire?
Yes. That’s right… Stop, Drop, and Roll.
What do you do if you are drowning?
Less than 5 percent of people we surveyed know a drowning survival strategy like “Float” or “Flip, Float, and Follow”.
Consider how often do you play in fire? Never.
And now consider how often you play in water. All the time.
So you never play in fire, but you know a fire survival strategy. Yet you always play in water, but you don’t know a water survival strategy.
Let that sink in and now truly understand that water safety is not common sense. We need a water safety school curriculum to save future generations from drowning.
Dave Benjamin is executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
- 04/29/2019– Sheboygan Press – Scientists: 15-minute storm caused Lake Michigan rip currents that killed 7 hours later — The research team looked at eyewitness incident reports that show rip currents have led to 94 fatalities at Lake Michigan beaches over the last 15 years, and compared them with meteotsunami events in Lake Michigan.
The comparison showed “16% of fatal current incidents and 12% of reported rescues occurred on the same day that meteotsunamis were observed in the lake,” according to the paper the team published.
This could suggest meteotsunami-induced rips may be frequently related to water safety incidents, the paper said.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 117 drownings occurred on the Great Lakes in 2018.
- 04/25/2019– Chicago Tribune – Lake Michigan’s deadly ‘freak wave’ of 1954 is Chicago folklore. Turns out it was a meteotsunami. [Since 1929 there have been 24 deaths attributed to meteotsunamis, yet since 2010 there have been over 745 drownings in the Great Lakes.]
The Great Lakes saw 118 drownings in 2018, by far the most since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began keeping track in 2010. Director Dave Benjamin acknowledges the threat posed by meteotsunamis, but he said only one-third of the drownings in the region are caused by dangerous waves or currents. To him, it speaks to a larger need for overall water safety education.
Meteotsunamis are “sort of the sharks of the Great Lakes,” Benjamin said. “It gets national news, but there are only a small percentage of people affected.” “States spend millions on top of millions of dollars in tourism campaigns to bring people to Great Lakes states — for revenue and taxes — but almost nothing is spent on water safety.”
04/24/2019– 9 & 10 News – Spring Kayak Safety: Over 100 Drowning Related Deaths in 2018
04/23/2019– TMJ4 – Leaders with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project report there were 42 drownings in Lake Michigan last year alone. Leaders are trying to teach people water safety. During the entire week of spring break, Kenosha’s YMCA is offering free swim safety lessons.
The message is to Flip, Float and Follow in a water emergency.
If you’re stuck in a rip current, first flip on your back. Float to conserve your energy. Then, follow a safe path out of the water.
04/04/2019– Kenosha News – Safety Around Water coalition plans May event
02/02/2019– WSBT 22 – SPECIAL REPORT: WSBT meteorologist discusses what to do if you find yourself on thin ice – “If you are to fall in the water, you have one minute to control your breathing, ten minutes of meaningful movement, and less than one hour until hypothermia sets in,” said Dave Benjamin, Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
01/07/2019– WLUC TV 6 – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Inc. is reporting 2018 as the deadliest year for drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010 and they say almost all drownings are preventable.
The project reports 117 lives were lost on the Great Lakes because of drowning and they say, that number should be zero.
“We believe that every drowning is preventable and we’ve got to start asking ourselves as a society, ‘Why are we not preventing them?’” prompted Dave Benjamin, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Great Lakes Surf Project.
The organization says it may not be as easy to identify a drowning victim as you may think.
“Drowning is swift, it doesn’t look the way Hollywood portrays it,” said Benjamin. “When you’re panicking, it’s an emotional and an irrational response to the situation. We start making a lot of mistakes and that’s why we start to hyperventilate.”
A person who is drowning will usually be facing shore, their mouth will be at water level and may have their head tipped back. They’ll be vertical, so it may almost look like they’re treading water.
“You have to, instead of fight to survive, you have to roll over and get your breathing under control,” said Benjamin.
If you find yourself in a panicked drowning situation, flip yourself on to your back, float to get yourself and your breathing under control, and then follow a safe path out of the water.
As the drowning deaths increased on the Great Lakes, the city of Marquette reports zero drowning deaths in 2018.
“We’ve worked very closely with Northern Michigan University in order to make sure the information gets out to people, especially those new to the area, about the dangers of the lake, the dangers of certain areas within the city limits where people swim,” said Marquette City Manager Mike Angeli.
The city employs 30 lifeguards in the summertime, and the Police Department has a designated park patrol to help keep an eye on the water.
“We’ve made a pretty good effort to try and deal with it,” Angeli added.
There’s more information on Great Lakes drowning statistics and how to keep yourself on the water, www.glsrp.org.
12/05/2018 – Sun Prairie Star – “Before I researched drowning, diving and spinal cord injuries for the book, I was very naïve about potential dangers relating to these water sports,” she said. This year, more than 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes making it the deadliest year in a decade. That’s according to a tally by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit water safety group that keeps a comprehensive database of Great Lakes drownings.
11/18/2018 – Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning – Sunday Survival Story: Swim Near a Lifeguard!
11/09/2018 – US News & World Report – Safety Group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Great Lakes Commission – Daily News – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/08/2018 – Wood TV 8 – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI – 2018 deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings
11/09/2018 – Fox 17, Holland, MI – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Herald Courier, Holland, MI – 2018 deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings
11/09/2018 – Herald Palladium, St. Joseph, MI – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Detroit Free Press – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – 9 & 10 News, Cadillac, MI– Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – WKAR, Michigan State University – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – WXYZ TV Detroit – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/11/2018 – Grand Haven Tribune – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/10/2018 – South Bend Tribune, IN – 2018 is the deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings
11/09/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2008 – The News-Herald, OH – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/13/2018 – The Crescent-News, Defiance, OH – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – KSTP ABC 5, Minneapolis, MN – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – CBS 4, MN – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Lancaster Online, Lancaster, PA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Mankato Free Press, South-Central Minnesota – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – TribLive, Pittsburg, PA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – SF Gate, San Francisco, CA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – New Jersey Herald – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/02/2018 – Bridge Michigan – Bob Pratt, executive director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and a retired East Lansing fire marshal, offers tips for staying safe while you’re enjoying the vast bodies of water.
11/02/2018 – Bridge Michigan – Great Lakes drownings peaked in 2018. And the year’s not over. More than 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes so far this year, making it the deadliest year this decade already.
That’s according to a tally by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit water safety group that keeps a comprehensive database of Great Lakes drownings.
The group has tracked 728 such drownings since it started gathering the data in 2010. That includes 105 drownings in the first 10 months of 2018, at least six more than any other year.
Lake Michigan, with its vast shoreline and beaches near large populations, has claimed the most lives thus far, 37, followed by Lake Erie, 33, Lake Ontario, 21, Lake Huron, 8, and Lake Superior, 6.
At least 13 of this year’s drownings were in Michigan waters, the data show. Another drowning — in September off of Lake Erie’s Turtle Island — happened along the Michigan-Ohio border.
11/02/2018 – WWMT – Greats Lakes rescue group said 2018 is seeing record number of drownings – A new report released Friday says 2018 is already the deadliest this decade for drownings in the Great Lakes.
The report, from a nonprofit called the “Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project” attributes the increase to warmer weather. Drownings typically spike in periods with what the project calls the three Ws — waves, winds and weekends. The report states that so far in 2018 there have been 105 drownings. That’s almost twice as many as I 2015. Also, the report states, most people who drown aren’t wearing life jackets.
10/31/2018 – UP Matters – Stay off piers, breakwaters during high winds, storms, wave action – Water Dangers. While many victims who have fallen or jumped off these structures were said to have been very good swimmers, the reality of past statistics paint a sad picture. In 2018 so far, there have been 102 drownings in the Great Lakes. Though not all of these drownings occurred at harbor structures, it is a grim reminder of the risks and dangers that are present when in and around water.
10/18/2018 – Detroit News – Tourists, residents alike hit by Mich. water deaths
10/14/2018 – The Record Eagle – DANGEROUS WATERS – Families, advocates deal with aftermath of death in or near water
10/10/2018 – CBC – Why are so many more people drowning in the Great Lakes? It’s been a deadly year in the Great Lakes with a record number of people killed by drowning. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project one hundred and two people have died so far in 2018. Their executive director of education, Bob Pratt, spoke with us about the spike in drowning deaths this year.
10/05/2018 – Kenosha News – Readers discuss installation of first life ring kiosk — Life rings are credited with saving lives in Grand Haven, Holland and St. Joseph in Michigan, and Gary and Michigan City in Indiana
10/03/2018 – Kenosha News – City installs first life ring flotation equipment at Kenosha Harbor — “All I can say is, it is amazing, an historic moment for the city of Kenosha, the city government and the people of Kenosha. (We) came together and now we will have lifesaving devices (going up) on the north and the south piers,” Jim Zondlak, a KSFCA board member and former president, said Wednesday.
At the Common Council meeting earlier this week, Zondlak thanked aldermen for approving Mayor John Antaramian’s amended proposal authorizing four of six planned kiosk installations. In addition, the council approved a resolution by Ald. Dan Prozanski Jr., stepping up water safety education annually in middle and high schools, guided by the U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with the Kenosha police and fire departments, the Kenosha YMCA and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “I’m overwhelmed with pride in everyone coming together. I could feel the vibe in the Common Council,” Zondlak said.
10/01/2018 – Kenosha News – Council to consider authorizing installation of life saving devices at Pike River, pier – Initiatives intended to bring life-saving devices and public awareness to the dangers of drowning in Lake Michigan will come before the City Council tonight.
Among them will be a resolution authorizing the city to install three life ring buoys on Kenosha Harbor’s north pier, a life ring set on the south wall of the harbor and another near the mouth of the Pike River which feeds into the lake near the band shell at Pennoyer Park.
The devices are expected to be stored in a cabinet, or kiosk, and will include attached ropes. The devices will be accessible to the the public in the event of an emergency.
Another resolution aims to educate middle and high school students about water safety. It calls for presentations led by the U.S. Coast Guard in partnership with Kenosha police and fire departments, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Kenosha Unified School District. The month of May would also be declared as “Lake Michigan Safety Awareness Month.”
Both are coming before the council tonight after at least three drownings over the last four months, including Donovan Anderson, 17, of Kenosha, who died after jumping into the lake at the pier with friends on Sept. 6. His body was recovered less than two weeks later.
10/01/2018 – Buffalo News – For Erie and the Great Lakes as a whole, 2018 ties a deadly record — This year has been Western New York’s deadliest for drownings in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The seven local drownings in 2018 – and two others with local connections – make up what’s also been among the deadliest years throughout the Great Lakes.
In all, 99 people have died so far in 2018 on the Great Lakes, tying 2012 and 2016 for the highest number of deaths on record, data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project shows.
Those lost include a beloved Lancaster school teacher, a Southtowns fisherman and Hamburg liquor store owner who was kite-surfing.
Two other deaths on Lake Erie occurred just outside of New York waters, including the July drowning of a 12-year-old Elmwood Franklin School girl in Fort Erie, Ont.
Great Lakes drownings in WNY – The seven drownings on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined is more than double the number of fatalities this decade.
The Buffalo sector of the U.S. Coast Guard reported, anecdotally, that it has seen more and more distress calls in the water in recent years. This year has been no exception.
“It’s been a busy season – a lot of responses,” said U.S. Coast Guard junior grade Lt. Kyle Maxey. “I think that’s had a lot to do with paddle-boarding and an increase in the amount of watercraft on the Great Lakes.”
You could also blame the heat. The summer of 2018 was the region’s seventh warmest on record, which would tend to draw more activity to the shorelines by boaters, swimmers, paddlers and jet-skiers.
The two summers this decade warmer than this past one – 2012 and 2016 – were the equally deadly years on the Great Lakes.
The first two drownings of the season occurred on Lake Erie five days – and about 5 miles – apart in May.
Eric Przykuta, a 43-year-old seventh-grade science teacher at Lancaster Middle School, died in an evening accident when the fishing boat he was riding in with two other men struck the breakwall near the Small Boat Harbor. Przykuta’s body was recovered the next morning by the U.S. Coast Guard. An avid boater and outdoors enthusiast, Przykuta was not wearing a life vest.
A few days later, Hamburg fisherman Robert Maccubbin, 50, died after apparently going overboard from a raft into the 46-degree lake off of Athol Springs.
On June 21, the Surf Rescue Project cites another suspected drowning that occurred when the body of a man was recovered from Lake Erie off of Woodlawn Beach. Accomplished kite-surfer Jeff Biehler, who owned Biehler’s Village Square Liquors in Hamburg, died after taking to Lake Erie on a warm and gusty afternoon on Aug. 15 and running into trouble in choppy waters. Lifeguards at nearby Hamburg Town Beach tried reaching Biehler, but they were unable to.
Weeks earlier, Catherine Winfield Butsch, a 12-year-old girl known as “Caty,” died after apparently suffering a medical event while swimming near Fort Erie, Ont. Caty was found unresponsive near Crescent Beach in the late afternoon of July 21. Bystanders and medical personnel tried to resuscitate the girl, but she later died in a Buffalo hospital.
Lake Ontario saw its own share of water-related tragedies this summer with at least three drownings in five weeks, including:
- Stacy Fishbein, 21, of Vaughan, Ont., whose body was recovered July 28 near Olcott.
- Carl F. Hazel, 66, of Albion, who was on a fishing boat that sank Aug. 25 about 9 miles off of the Orleans County shore.
- Daniel Saik, 66, of Niagara Falls, Ont., whose body was recovered Aug. 31 along the lake shoreline in Burt.
In Hazel’s case, authorities said he was wearing a life jacket when his boat sank. Hazel and a companion were rescued by another fishing boat, but they’d been in the cold water for about two hours. His companion survived.
Other drownings across the Great Lakes drew international attention.
Former NHL goaltender and Stanley Cup champion Ray Emery died July 15 after he jumped off a boat to go swimming in Lake Ontario’s Hamilton Harbor and never resurfaced. The body of Emery, who was a native of Hamilton, was recovered later that afternoon about 60 feet from where he jumped in, according to a CTV News report.
On Aug. 30, a father and his three children drowned in a kayaking accident off a northern Wisconsin shoreline in Lake Superior. The Wisconsin family of five had launched a tandem kayak that afternoon to paddle to an island about 4 miles away, but the kayak capsized. Eric Fryman, 39, his two daughters, Kyra, 9, and Annaliese, 5, as well as his 3-year-old son, Jansen, drowned. The children’s mother, Cari Mews-Fryman, 29, was later rescued by a passing ship captain, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Great Lakes drownings – Three of the warmest summers this decade have also brought the three highest numbers of annual drownings.
Think safety, be safe – Each drowning occurs because of its own set of circumstances, but experts say many of the tragedies are preventable.
The Coast Guard encourages anyone who plans to use a watercraft – whether a boat, Jet Ski, kayak or canoe – to seek the appropriate training first.
“Boater safety courses are one of the most important things you should do before heading out on a boat,” Maxey said.
Two other important tips from the Coast Guard: avoid alcohol and wear a life jacket.
“Wearing a life jacket is really important,” said Marty Denecke, the town of Hamburg’s director of youth, recreation and senior services.
Because of the number of boats, kayaks, Jet Skis and paddle-boats in the lake off of Hamburg’s shoreline, Denecke said the town takes extra precautions and stations some crew along the shoreline even when swimming at the town’s beach is closed.
“Surveying of the water, whether we are open or closed for swimming, is standard operating procedure,” Denecke said. “We don’t want it to happen on our watch. We take it very seriously.”
And even with that vigilance, tragedy struck twice this summer off of Hamburg’s shore.
Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said family members who have lost a loved one often talk about how the drowning victim was physically fit and a good swimmer. Such was the case with Biehler, the Hamburg kite-surfer.
“Good swimmers drown,” Benjamin said. “Knowing how to swim is not enough; you need to know how to survive.”
Did you know? Benjamin’s regional nonprofit organization tries to prevent drownings through education and has tracked fatalities on all five lakes dating back to 2010. It’s the only organization collecting data for all drownings across all of the Great Lakes.
Benjamin gets people to think about water safety with a simple question: “Can you swim?”
Then he takes them through a series of common sense questions, including “What do you do if your clothes catch fire?” and “What number do you call in an emergency?”
Nearly all of the 30,000 people the organization surveyed knew the answers to those simple questions, and 90 percent of them knew how to swim.
The third question Benjamin asks stumps almost everyone: “What do you do if you’re drowning?”
“We’re not often playing with fire, but we are often playing in water,” Benjamin said.
That’s where the need for education comes in.
“Water safety is not common sense, but people assume it’s common sense,” Benjamin said. “There’s a stigma of drowning. People blame the victim.”
Benjamin added: “That’s getting in the way of getting funding for public education. Drowning is a public health issue, and it’s not treated like a public health issue.”
So, what do you do if you’re drowning?
“We call it the ‘flip, float and follow,’” Benjamin said, comparing it to the advice for if clothes catch fire. “It’s like the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of water safety.”
If you find yourself in deep water, the Surf Rescue Project recommends flipping over onto your back, floating or treading water with your head above the water and following a safe path out of the water.
The key is not panicking. Panic can trigger a set of physical symptoms – like shortness of breath and tightness in the chest – that can actually work against survival.
“When someone gets in trouble in the water, they have a panic attack.
“Do the opposite of your instincts. If you don’t get your breathing under control, you’re not going to survive.”
09/24/2018 – Kenosha News – Committees approve installing life rings, education resolution, violation penalties — In the wake of four lakefront drownings here the past two years, including most recently high school student Donovan Anderson, the city of Kenosha is moving toward a comprehensive approach to upgrade water safety.
It calls for the U.S. Coast Guard to make safety presentations to students in middle and high schools, in cooperation with the KPD, Kenosha Fire Department, Kenosha YMCA and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
09/16/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Water safety presentation tonight in Chesterton open to all – CHESTERTON — Learn how to stay safe while swimming in the Great Lakes during a presentation tonight at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. One hundred people have drowned in the Great Lakes this year, more than any other year since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began tracking drownings in 2010. In all, 723 people have died in all five Great Lakes since 2010, the project’s data show. In Lake Michigan so far this year, 33 people have drowned.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project will talk about water safety during a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2050 W. 1100 North in Chesterton. The presentation is hosted by Chesterton Girl Scouts Troop 30373. The presentation is for everyone, including beachgoers, surfers, lifeguards, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, water rescue team members, dive team members and the U.S. Coast Guard, said Dave Benjamin, co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The presentation will include information about drowning statistics; the signs of drowning; survival strategies, including “flip, float, follow;” how, why and where dangerous currents occur; basic water rescue; and basic water resuscitation.
09/13/2018 – Kenosha News – Mayor: Safest option is to fence off the north pier – Dave Benjamin, of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, put it similarly. “The indications are these incidents happen because the public isn’t educated and neither are the politicians. A throw ring, a rope and a hook, I would think, is about $50,” said Benjamin, who has been involved in the Kenosha YMCA’s project to promote water safety in the schools. “It’s time to stop talking about it and just do it,” Benjamin added. “Unfortunately, this boy probably would have survived if there was a throw ring there within 50 feet. If you smelled smoke right now, you would look for a fire alarm. If you saw someone drowning, you would look for a throw ring.”
“A life ring gives the opportunity to save a life or rescue a person, where a sign just won’t do that,” Costabile said. ”You know, we’ve all been guilty of being a pier jumper. I asked my dad, and he did it, too. As long as that pier and water are together we have to have a life-saving device available so we can help in a situation like we had last week.”
Robert Stanick, the Army Corps of Engineers area engineer for the Lake Michigan office, said the required lease is “a simple real estate agreement.” “These are done relatively quickly. It could be a matter of a few weeks depending on the complexity of the situation. We did one in Port Washington that was completed in four weeks. It was mounting multiple life rings on a pier,” Stanick said. He noted the city and the Corps already have a real estate agreement for the south pier of the harbor and might not need to do a new and separate one for the north pier. He said the city could ask to expand the existing lease to the north pier across the channel.
09/13/2018 – Kenosha News – Life rings helping save lives in beach locations – There should be no question that life rings are an important step toward public safety. Looking at other beach locations: life rings are credited with saving lives in Grand Haven, Holland and St. Joseph in Michigan, and Gary and Michigan City in Indiana, according to the non-profit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “If someone is drowning, they can find the life ring on the pier.” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the organization.
The experience of Michigan City is worth sharing today and could offer insight and a road map for Kenosha officials. “Just call them the ‘rings of life,” read the headline of a July 30 story in the News Dispatch in Michigan City. “Mayor: Life rings along pier proving to be great investment.” Life rings were installed in Michigan City’s Washington Park in late 2016, and for at least the second time in July they were instrumental in saving a life.
Indiana conservation officials credited Myles Wright and Devin Newton with saving two young girls from drowning, the News Dispatch reported. “They absolutely came in handy,” Wright told the paper of the rescue in high winds and choppy water. “Without those rings, I’m not sure we could’ve gotten them out. The first girl might have been OK, but the second girl definitely would not. Without that ring, she would’ve gone under and been unconscious.”
Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer issued this statement: “It humbles me to know that the equipment we installed was utilized by two Michigan City residents to prevent drownings from occurring. I am so glad this had a good ending.”The city’s Fire Department, with the help of donations, raised money to buy the rings, ropes and cabinets; a $13,000 grant from ArcelorMittal to the city’s Lakefront Safety Committee allowed them to proceed with the purchase, the News Dispatch reported. “Through the efforts of the city and ArcelorMittal, two girls were rescued in rough waters on Tuesday,” the mayor said in late July.
Kenosha officials should act quickly when given approval to install the life rings and equipment and work toward permanent funding. Examples like this are out there.
09/10/2018 – WILX – Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected – “I hoped the Great Lakes drownings would subside after the 13 Labor Day weekend fatalities, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon,” said Dave Benjamin, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “This year is on track to be the worst year on record for the Great Lakes.”
A total of  drownings have been reported on the Great Lakes this year, 33 in Lake Michigan. Benjamin calls drownings a public health crisis.
“I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue. A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”
09/10/2018 – WTMJ – Non-profit hopes to teach “Flip, Float & Follow” water safety
09/10/2018 – FB Promo Today’s TMJ4 – LAKE MICHIGAN DROWNINGS: 33 people who have drowned in Lake Michigan this year. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is working to spread the word about what to do if you’re struggling in the water: flip, float, follow. Julia Fello has the story
09/09/2018 – The Herald Argus – Stay out of the water — Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected
09/08/2018 – The News Dispatch – Stay out of the water – Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected – “I hoped the Great Lakes drownings would subside after the 13 Labor Day weekend fatalities, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “This year is on track to be the worst year on record for the Great Lakes.” A total of 96 drownings have been reported on the Great Lakes this year, 33 in Lake Michigan. Benjamin calls drownings a public health crisis. “I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue. A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”
09/08/2018 – Fox 6 News – ‘On track to be the worst year on record:’ Almost 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2018
09/07/2018 – CBS 58 – “Beyond a nightmare:” Mother whose son drowned in 2013 calling for change after Kenosha teen drowns. Susan Foster lost her son five years ago on the same pier. She was watching the rescue efforts on Friday. “Really rough to see these boats out here and relive what we did five years ago,” Foster said. Her son, Ben drowned and it took 12 days for crews to find his body. “Broke my heart that this family is going to have to go through this… just like we did,” Susan Foster said.” To think that your child is in that water is beyond a nightmare.” Foster said her son was a pilot, athletic and a good swimmer, but Lake Michigan is just too dangerous.
09/07/2018 – Kenosha News – Search called off for teen presumed drowned in harbor – With conditions worsening on Lake Michigan, the Kenosha Fire Department ended the search for a teen presumed drowned in Kenosha Harbor. The Kenosha Fire Department, which is leading the search efforts, said it had searched the harbor channel and areas near the pier multiple times without success, and said conditions, including strong currents and 6-foot waves, were putting search crews at risk. The search was called off at about 4 p.m. “We’ve used literally everything at our disposal today — firefighters, drones, a helicopter, sonar — and have been unable to locate the victim at this point,” said Battalion Chief Matthew Haerter.
The 17-year-old boy was with friends when he jumped off the north pier at the harbor and was overcome by strong currents Thursday. Witnesses said the boy, a student at Indian Trail High School and Academy, was pulled under the water and surfaced twice, each time about 20 yards further away, before disappearing. The teen’s name has not yet been released.
09/06/2018 – WGN 720 AM – Water Safety with Dave Benjamin – Tonight on The Patti Vasquez Show with Andrea Darlas: To discuss water safety and to share some tips to stay safe we welcome Dave Benjamin (Director of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Halle Quezada, creator of the Chicago Alliance for Waterfront Safety, and John Kocher, co-founder of the Matthew Kocher Foundation).
09/06/2018 – Herald Argus – Man rescued after falling off pier – Lifeguards keep him from being ‘deadly weekend’ statistic – MICHIGAN CITY — A man who fell off the pier in Washington Park onto the rocks on Sunday was pulled from the water by lifeguards and taken to a hospital in stable condition. The Michigan City Fire Department and La Porte County EMS were called to the park just after 4 p.m. on Sunday.
09/06/2018 – WNDU – ST. JOSEPH, MI– Even though Labor Day is over and lifeguards are no longer on duty at beaches, many beach-goers are taking a final advantage of the warm weather. But according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Lake Michigan has taken 31 lives this year alone, marking it one of the deadliest summers since 2010. That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Joseph, Michigan is stressing water safety as the seasons begin to change.
09/06/2018 – The News Dispatch – MICHIGAN CITY – A man who fell off the pier in Washington Park onto the rocks on Sunday was pulled from the water by lifeguards and taken to a hospital in stable condition.
“An elderly man fell off the wall onto the rocks near the lighthouse,” a Fire Department report said. When firefighters arrived, lifeguards had the man out of the water on a board, and firefighters assisted in carrying him over the wall and back to the beach, the report said.
“We heard a call come over the scanner that a man had fallen off the pier and hit his head,” Michigan City Parks Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz said. “Three of our lifeguards responded and were able to get to him and put him on a backboard to safely transport him to EMS once they arrived.”
The man was fortunate because Sunday was one of the last days lifeguards were on duty this season. Overall it was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes, with at least a dozen drownings reported, three in Lake Michigan.
“This was the deadliest Labor Day Weekend since we started tracking statistics in 2010,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“And the worst part of this weekend are the people on social media abusing the stigma of drowning and attacking the victims and their family members.”
The Lake Michigan victims, all of whom drowned on Friday, were a 25-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man in Chicago; and a woman in her 60s in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There were four drownings in Lake Erie and four more in Lake Superior, where a father and three children – ages 3, 5 and 9 – drowned when their kayak overturned near Madeline Island off Bayfield, Wisconsin. A 12th drowning was reported on Lake Ontario.
“Unfortunately this societal point of view gives the public the false sense of security that ‘It can’t happen to me,’ and ‘It can’t happen to me because I wouldn’t be that stupid,’ and ‘You can’t fix stupid,’ Benjamin said.
“‘I didn’t know…’ is the number one thing that we hear from family and friends of victims after a tragic event. Water safety is not common sense, yet most people assume it is common sense and that is one of the reasons why drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue.”
As of Tuesday, the GLSRP had confirmed 91 drownings in the Great Lakes this year, including 31 on Lake Michigan. That is the highest number for any year since 2010, except 2012 and 2016, when there were 99 for the entire year. Since 2010, the project has reported 710 drownings on the five lakes, 291 in Lake Michigan.
09/04/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Organization says recent Labor Day weekend deadliest for drownings since 2010 – This was the deadliest Labor Day weekend since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began tracking drowning statistics in 2010, the organization’s director said. There were 12 drownings in the Great Lakes over the holiday weekend, adding to the 91 total drownings that were recorded so far this year, according to a Tuesday news release from the organization. Since 2010, there have been 714 Great Lakes drownings.
09/04/2018 – Journal Sentinel – The body of a swimmer from Franklin who disappeared in Lake Michigan two weeks ago has been found, authorities reported Tuesday. Ahmad Z. Adl, 34, was part of a group of five people who were camping at Harrington Beach State Park in Ozaukee County on Aug. 20 when they decided to go swimming about 1 p.m. A search was launched for Adl when he didn’t return to shore. Adl’s body was found floating at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County at 7:54 a.m. Sunday
09/04/2018 – Fox 6 News – ‘The deadliest since we started tracking in 2010:’ 12 drownings in Great Lakes over Labor Day weekend
09/01/2018 – The News Dispatch – Caution urged when swimming in big lake — Two Lake Michigan drownings make for deadly start to long weekend
08/31/2018 – WZZM – Father and three children die after kayak capsizes in Lake Superior – Going into Labor Day weekend, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is warning people to be careful around the water.
08/28/2018 – NPR: Ideas Stream – It has been a deadly year on Lake Erie. We’ll talk with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the dangers the lake still poses on these hot, final days of summer into fall. And if you’re drowning education comes from what you’ve seen on movies and television, you may miss the moment when your help is needed most. They’ll explain. Guests: Dave Benjamin, Executive Director, The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and Melissa Zirkle, Great Lakes Safety Advocate
08/28/2018 – CBC News – Great Lakes swimmers ignoring warnings to stay out of the water, report says — 73 people have drowned in the Great Lakes this year
08/27/2018 – The Star Beacon – ASHTABULA — A memorial fundraising dinner has been scheduled to help the family of 16-year-old drowning victim Micah Nugent with funeral expenses. Nugent died Aug. 22 at MetroHealth Medical Center after getting caught in dangerous waves the day before at Walnut Beach.
Melissa Zirkle, of Madison, who is organizing the fundraising dinner, said she reached out to the Nugent family because she knew from experience their biggest need, aside from prayers, was help with funeral expenses. Zirkle, whose own 13-year-old son, Jermaine, drowned five years ago in Lake Erie, hopes to draw 200 people to the dinner. “I’ve hosted benefits and fundraisers many times before so I offered to host a benefit,” she said. “I want to get the word out and make this a wonderful turnout for this incredible deserving family.”
Zirkle has made it her mission to honor her son’s memory and save people from the same tragedy through water safety education. Her efforts, which include water safety classes for Madison and Ashtabula students in partnership with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, earned her the honor as the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium 2016 Water Safety Superhero of the Year.
Eighty-eight people drowned in the Great Lakes last year, and 73 to date in 2018, with 26 of the 73 in Lake Erie, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
08/27/2018 – 9 and 10 News – Ohio Man Dies After Falling Off Frankfort Pier into Lake Michigan
08/26/2018 – MLIVE – Michigan surfer tells of attempts to save drowned man who was washed off pier — One of those attempted rescuers was surfer Ryan Gerard, 40, of St. Joseph. Gerard was at the Frankfort beach enjoying the day with his family, riding the cascading waves and stopping for breaks between sets. It was during one of those breaks that Gerard, owner of the Third Coast Surf Shop, noticed commotion near the pier. A few second later, Gerard realized someone was in trouble and sprang into action. The surfer recalled the accident and its heartbreaking aftermath in a long post published on his company’s Facebook page.
08/24/2018 – Cleveland 19 News – Ashtabula teen becomes latest Lake Erie drowning death in 2018 – Safety experts and government officials are expected to meet in Cleveland this fall to discuss water and swim safety in Lake Erie. A GoFundMe page has been setup to help Nugent’s family with funeral costs. Link in story.
08/24/1018 – Cleveland.com – Ashtabula teen dies after being caught in Lake Erie waves – Nugent was not swimming alone on Tuesday, according to a GoFundMe to support his family.
08/24/2018 – WKYC – 16-year-old swimmer drowns at Ashtabula’s Walnut Beach; 26 Lake Erie fatalities this year. 7 drownings have taken place on Lake Erie this month, including 5 in Northern Ohio. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the Nugent family with funeral arrangements. (Link in article.)
08/22/2018 – WGN 720 AM – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and great water safety tips – WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez is joined by Dave Benjamin, Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project to discuss water safety and how you can stay safe while swimming during your aquatic fun.
08/22/2018 – WLS 890 AM the John Howell and Ray Stevens show – Live Water Safety Segment, Online here: http://player.listenlive.co/22231/ Call in with your questions, comments, and concerns too!!! Call or text during the show to 312-591-8900.
08/22/2018 – ABC 5 News Cleveland – A 16-year-old in critical condition after nearly drowning in Lake Erie; Lake Erie leads the Great Lakes in 2018 drownings with 25.
08/21/2018 – ABC 7 – Beach Hazard in effect for Lake Michigan Tuesday after 3 boys drown over weekend – As if on cue, surfers like Jim Hoop began showing up at Indiana’s Whiting Beach. “If you don’t know how to swim or do this, it’s absolutely not the time. Especially the lake,” Hoop said. “It’s nonstop. It’s not like the ocean where there is a lull in the wave. Here the wave is breaking every moment so it will suck you right out and down faster than you can expect.” The warnings come after three boys died this weekend after they were pulled from Lake Michigan in separate incidents. Two of the boys were Joshua Torres, 10, of Chicago, and Malik Freeman, 14, of Aurora, who were swimming in restricted areas at the same Indiana Dunes State Park beach.
08/20/2018 – WLS – ‘THEY SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING’ – Malik’s mother, Micah Freeman, said she did not know that a 10-year-old boy had been pulled from the water just an hour before her son went under. “They should have said something, a 10 year old was just pulled out of the water lifeless. They should have said this, I would have taken my kids and went home,” Freeman said. From shore, Freeman had been keeping a close eye on her kids in the water when she noticed they drifted down a bit. “I started jogging a little bit to tell Malik to come closer, then I noticed his hand go up, then I started screaming ’cause I could tell he was in trouble at the time,” she said. Her husband, other beachgoers and just two lifeguards went into the water to help, Freeman said. “There were two other lifeguards with their hands on their hips just watching, I said, ‘I need you to help.’ He said, ‘We don’t have our gear,” she said. Malik, who his mother said was a good swimmer and knew the dangers of rip tides, was pulled out of the water a short time later. Life-saving measures were not enough. He was taken to a local hospital and then airlifted to a Chicago hospital where he was pronounced dead. Malik was to turn 15 next week. He was to be a sophomore at Waubonsie Valley High School in High School in Aurora.”He was so much fun and he was so protective of me, you couldn’t ask for a better kid, his heart was so pure,” Freeman said.
08/20/2018 – WWMT – Officials warn public of dangerous water, swimming conditions
08/20/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Number of kids drowning in Lake Michigan increases; dangerous conditions continue Tuesday
08/20/2018 – NWI Times – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project: 22 people have drowned in Lake Michigan this year as NWS forecasts life-threatening swim conditions
08/20/2018 – Hawaii News – There have been 64 drownings in the Great Lakes this year so far, with Lake Erie accounting for the most deaths. According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 23 people have died in Lake Erie between the start of the year and Aug. 19. The most recent drowning in Lake Erie according to the GLSRP occurred Friday morning when a man jumped out his boat near Put-in-Bay. He did not resurface. Lake Michigan follows Lake Erie with 21 total drowning deaths this year, including two this past weekend. Since the group started accumulating data in 2010, 687 Great Lakes drownings have been reported.
08/20/2018 – Cleveland Scene – More Drowning Deaths in Lake Erie Than Any Other Great Lake in 2018
08/20/2018 – Cleveland 19 News – Lake Erie has the most drowning deaths of the Great Lakes this year
08/20/2018 – Tuscon News – Lake Erie has the most drowning deaths of the Great Lakes this year
08/19/2018 – Your Erie – Water safety organization releases Great Lakes drowning statistics
08/19/2018 – ABC 7 – 3 boys, ages 10 to 14, die after being pulled from Lake Michigan at Indiana, Waukegan beaches – Friday evening a 14-year-old boy recovered from the water near Waukegan died Sunday. Saturday evening, 10-year-old Joshua Torres, of Chicago, and 14-year-old Malik Freeman, of Aurora, were pulled from the water within an hour of each other at the same Indiana Dunes State Park beach. Both boys also died.
08/19/2018 – WGN 9 – 3 boys drown during dangerous weekend for swimmers in Lake Michigan
08/19/2018 – NBC 15 – 2 killed, 1 in critical condition in separate drownings this weekend; bringing total to 64 across Great Lakes
08/19/2018 – Fox 6 – 2 killed, 1 in critical condition in separate drownings this weekend; bringing total to 64 across Great Lakes Unfortunately the boy in critical condition died. 65 Great Lakes Drownings in 2018; 24 of those in Lake Michigan, plus 1 last listed in Critical Condition. 688 Great Lakes drownings since 2010; 313 of those in Lake Michigan.
08/06/2018 – UpNorthLive – Safety tips for swimming in the Great Lakes — “It blows my mind that water safety curriculum isn’t in the state, statewide, because you’re always near a body of water,” said Dave Benjamin, the executive director of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “And it blows my mind that you have all these beaches with no life guards.”
08/06/2018 – WZZM – Tips for surviving a rip current in Lake Michigan – Rip currents are quite common in the Great Lakes; here are some survival tips if you get caught in one.
08/02/2018 – WSBT 22 – Special Report: What to do for a drowning victim after you call 911
07/31/2018 – WSBT 22 Promo – “When seconds count…”
07/30/2018 – Kenosha News – Water safety initiative calls on greater action to prevent drowning deaths — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project gave a presentation Monday on water safety education to a group that included YMCA Executive Director Cindy Altergott, Somers Fire Chief Carson Wilkinson, John Raquet, and Peggy Burke, a Kenosha resident whose husband drowned in Lake Erie while on a fishing trip, among others.
The presentation focused on a number of ways people can prevent drownings, including the use of flotation devices, wearing life jackets, knowing weather and water conditions and identifying what drowning looks like.
The group also discussed ideas from staffing beaches with lifeguards to better signage indicating the dangers of swimming in dangerous areas, such as the Pike outlet, as well as flotation devices that could be placed in and around the piers. Some floats are equipped with live cameras and signals that allow 911 dispatchers to recognize that the device has been activated at a specific location.
The group recognizes funding will be a challenge but it also looked to see which businesses and nonprofits, as well as elected officials, step up to help bring water safety to the fore.
One thing for sure is it takes a community willing to come together to prevent drownings.
07/17/2018 – WNDU – Facebook Live – Beach Safety
07/17/2018 – WNDU – How to know if it’s safe to swim in Lake Michigan
07/17/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Second man drowns in Allegan County in two days
07/12/2018 – ABC Channel 10/13 – Under Water: Searching for Air Pt.
07/12/2018 – NBC – More Lifeguards, Signage Called for After Drowning Traged
07/12/2018 – WGN – After girl drowns in Lake Michigan, petition seeks extended lifeguard hour
07/12/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Darihanne’s death and lifeguard hours: Dealing with a fickle Lake Michigan
07/12/2018 – Chicago Tribune – A nighttime drowning in Lake Michigan – and no city lifeguards on duty prompts calls for change
07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Advocates: More Great Lakes lifeguards are needed to prevent drownings – The Great Lakes State boasts the nation’s longest freshwater coastline. Each summer, tourists and locals in Michigan flock to beaches to cool off in the water. But along with beautiful sunsets on the shoreline and family memories, the Great Lakes carry danger in their powerful waters. Since 2010, 662 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, with nearly half of those drownings taking place on Lake Michigan. Yet despite of an average of 33 drownings per year, very few Lake Michigan beaches have lifeguards watching the waves.
“Lifeguards are the gold-standard when it comes to beach safety,” said Bob Pratt, education director at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit which aims to eradicate Great Lakes drownings through water safety advocacy. “It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution to hundreds of people dying every decade from drownings, yet the powers that be don’t do what’s right.”
07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Keep safe on the Great Lakes with these tips
07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Quick Hits: Four thoughts on this week’s news 2. Invest in lake safety for summer – With Lake Michigan temperatures reaching into the 70s, we’re happy to share Holland’s beaches with tourists who come to soak up the West Michigan sun.
What we’re not happy to share is the danger that comes with swimming in the Great Lakes. As Audra Gamble and Melissa Frick reported Thursday, July 12, over 660 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010. Almost half of those drownings take place in Lake Michigan. For those who aren’t from Michigan, the power of the big lake is often underestimated. This is especially true of teenage boys, who are some of the most likely populations to drown.
The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign has been wildly successful, making Michigan a hotspot for summer vacations. To make the Pure Michigan campaign so effective, the state piled money into TV ads, billboards and radio spots. Perhaps it’s time the state also puts money into lifeguards that keep those families safe once they make their way to Michigan beaches.
The U.S. Coast Guard does a fine job of keeping Michigan’s waterways safe, but there’s clearly a need for more public education and eyes on the water to prevent us reporting on the 700th Great Lakes drowning later this year.
07/12/2018 – Kenosha News – Safety Around Water: Be aware of dangerous currents, winds and cold water
07/12/2018 – AP – US News & World Reports – Chicago Urged to Extend Lifeguard Hours After Drowning – The Chicago Park District is being urged to extend lifeguard patrols after the recent drowning of a 13-year-old girl.
07/10/2018 – WDIO – Thursday at Ten: Under Water: Searching for Air – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Program, there have been 660 Great Lakes drownings since 2010, and there have been 37 already this year. Drowning was the reported cause of death in 80 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2016, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and 83 percent of who drowned were not wearing a life jacket. There are ways to keep you and your family safe. How can you tell if there are dangerous rip currents and what should we do if we are ever caught in one?
07/08/2018 – WLNS – A look at safety on the water, following 4 drownings in Mid-Michigan this week
07/08/2018 – WBEZ 91.5 – Why Do Chicago Beaches Ban Flotation Devices? – Many people underestimate the dangers that come with the windy, unpredictable local conditions on the Great Lakes, says Dave Benjamin, a safety advocate who heads the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“We’ve had 660 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010,” he notes. “Half of those were in Lake Michigan,” and half of those happened in the south end of the lake, here in Chicago, and in Milwaukee and Northwest Indiana. Benjamin attributes these drownings, in part, to the shifting winds and dangerous water currents in the area. When you add flotation devices to that equation, he says, that combination can be surprisingly dangerous.
“These toys can actually pose some hazards that people are not aware of,” Benjamin says. “If there is a light offshore wind, it could blow the inflatable object into deeper water where the child or parent could go after it.” And when they go after it, he says, swimmers can end up in currents or winds that make it impossible to return. Other beachgoers can be blown far into the lake while on a flotation device that they can’t control. This happened to an Indiana couple in 2012 and to Chicago kids in 1988.
Two cousins — a boy and a girl — took a raft out near Montrose Harbor on a warm April afternoon, after the wind pushed them far into the lake. Finally, they jumped off to try to swim back, the winds were strong and the water was cold. A windsurfer was able to save the 11-year-old boy, but the boy’s 10-year-old cousin drowned. At the beaches in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, flotation devices are permitted but authorities “caution their use for safety reasons during strong winds, specifically south winds, as they can push swimmers far into Lake Michigan.”
And at the many completely unguarded beaches throughout Michigan’s Harbor Country on the other side of the lake, swimmers can use flotation devices freely — but at their own risk. For those folks, Benjamin has some advice: “Don’t go out in an inflatable raft with an offshore wind,” he says. “And if the wind blows an inflatable toy out, just let it go. It’s not worth it.” Finally, if you have to choose just one flotation device for your next trip to the beach, he says, “make it a U.S. Coast Guard-approved, properly fitting life jacket.”
06/07/2018 – Detroit News – Near-tragedy inspires [Jamie Racklyeft’s] Great Lakes anti-drowning effort
07/06/2018 – ABC 7 – dangerous waves, rip currents make local beaches hazardous
07/05/2018 – Pioneer Press – Water recreation can be fun, but also dangerous — FRANKFORT — While people turn to the water to get relief from the summer heat, it can also be dangerous, especially on Lake Michigan.
According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, more people drown in Lake Michigan each year than any of the other Great Lakes. In 2017, 40 people drown in Lake Michigan. This year, seven have drown so far.
In any water emergency, the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project advocates a flip, float, follow strategy. If people think they are starting to drown, they need to remain calm and flip onto their backs and float. Just keep your head above water and keep your chest at the water level. Floating can calm people down. When people panic, they exhale more, and they deflate their lungs and lower their natural buoyancy. Floating also conserves energy. Once you are floating and calm, find the safest route out of the water.
07/05/2018 – Kenosha News – Another tragedy too easily avoided – It’s happened again — someone has drowned in Lake Michigan. In this most recent drowning, a 10-year-old girl was swimming near the area where the Pike River meets the lake Saturday evening when she began having trouble in the water. Her father, a 28-year-old Kenosha man who didn’t know how to swim, entered the water to save her. However, he soon got into trouble as well. When first responders arrived, he was “floating and being pushed by waves.” He was revived, but died two days later at a Kenosha hospital.
In 2015, Dave Benjamin, a spokesman for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, an organization that seeks to prevent drownings in the Great Lakes, said Michigan enacted legislation that shields municipalities from lawsuits related to safety equipment near the water.
And those life-saving devices work. “First off, life rings really do save lives. It’s irresponsible to have that access to water without having lifesaving devices there,” Benjamin said. “A life ring is one of the easiest ways to save a drowning victim, especially off a pier. We don’t advocate pier jumping, but we know people will do it. So having the equipment there is great.” More signs and the addition of life rings and ropes may not prevent another drowning, but if just one person is saved, isn’t it worth it?
07/01/2019 – Chicago Tribune – DNR hosts free events for public to explore Lake Michigan Water Trail — Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project was in attendance and set up a tented booth next to the lakeshore to teach children and adults about safety when in the water. Bob Pratt, director of education, said he teaches people to flip, float and follow when encountering an emergency in the water. Most folks know to stop, drop and roll when they catch on fire, he said, but many don’t realize what to do when faced with a potential drowning situation in the water.
06/30/2018 – ABC 7 – GLSRP at IL DNR Lake Michigan Water Trail Event at Winthrop Harbor.
06/30/2018-2 – ABC 7 – GLSRP at IL DNR Lake Michigan Water Trail Event at Winthrop Harbor — Chicago Weather: Excessive Heat Warning in effect for area as heat wave continues Saturday
06/30/2018 – Daily Herald – Excessive heat warning extended to 7 p.m. Sunday – – “We call this a lake, but it’s really like an inland sea. But when you come and use the lakes, you need to remember it’s not like a backyard pool,” said Bob Pratt, of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
06/21/2018 – MLIVE – 99% of Great Lakes drowning victims weren’t wearing a life jacket — Since 2010, 643 people have drowned in the Great Lakes and all but six of those victims weren’t wearing a personal flotation device.
With summer’s arrival on Thursday, June 21, comes plenty of fun on the water, spurring officials, advocacy groups and loved ones of drowning victims to remind those recreating on a boat or kayak to always wear a life jacket.
To date this year, there have been 20 drownings on the Great Lakes, according to data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy group that tracks drownings. David Benjamin, a spokesman for the organization, said his team is working to confirm four additional drownings that may have taken place over the past few weeks.Seven of the 20 drownings this year occurred in Lake Michigan, which has been the deadliest of the Great Lakes over the past eight years.
There were 298 drownings on Lake Michigan since 2010 — making up about 46 percent of total drownings on the Great Lakes in the past eight years.
Benjamin said the number of drownings have fluctuated, but the dips in 2014 and 2015 were likely due to cooler-than-normal temperatures during the summer months. The organization doesn’t track inner-water drownings, like on rivers.
Benjamin got involved with the organization in 2010 after he nearly died from a drowning while surfing on the Great Lakes. Since then, he’s advocated for people to always wear properly fitted life jackets and take as many safety classes as possible, and then bigger tasks, like requiring retailers to sell life jackets with recreational watercraft, like paddle boards and kayaks.
People can find themselves in potential drowning situations after going overboard on a boat, simply jumping into the water to cool off or becoming detached from a towing activity, like water skiing or tubing.
But the No. 1 reason those people ultimately drown is because they weren’t wearing a life jacket. None of the Great Lakes drowning victims in 2017, for instance, were wearing a life jacket.
06/18/2018 – WNDU – Lifeguards get summer training for beach season
06/17/2018 – WSBT 22 – Lake Michigan beaches work to reduce drownings
06/15/2018 – WNDU – Officials prepare for busy Father’s Day weekend at Lake Michigan beaches
06/09/2018 – Video – GLSRP Open Water Surf Lifeguarding In-service…
06/08/2018 – NBC 5 – Authorities Warn of Dangers to Lake Michigan Swimmers
06/07/2018 – Post-Tribune – Lifeguards train to save lives at Indiana Dunes – On a windy day that caused the waves on Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park to be even more unpredictable than usual, Bob Pratt, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project director of education, told the group of lifeguards that stood before him that they are going to train until they get it right.
“Most people’s experiences with lifeguards are at swimming pools, but a beach like Lake Michigan is far more challenging and requires a completely different skill set,” Pratt said. “We train harder than professional athletes in many cases. If (LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers star forward) has a bad day, he might not win the game. If a lifeguard has a bad day, someone might lose their life.”
Pratt and Dave Benjamin, GLSRP executive director, were tasked with leading over a dozen lifeguards, mostly teenagers, in an open water surf lifeguard training session Tuesday afternoon. Benjamin said, according to the Centers for Disease Control, that drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the U.S. as well as worldwide, and that it is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4.
“We take the research, statistics and data and break it down, so beachgoers know it’s one of the leading causes of accidental deaths, which most people don’t know,” Benjamin said. “This summer with this grant (through the Indiana Department of National Resources), we can provide 24 hours of lifeguard in-service training for each Lake Michigan lifeguard.”
Benjamin said with the drowning of 16-year old boy, Angel Sedano of Gurnee, Ill., on Sunday, the number of Great Lakes drownings since 2010 is now 643, almost half of which occur in Lake Michigan. Benjamin said part of the training process is explaining the signs of a potential drowning victim and how to identify a potential victim.
“People assume drowning is a lot of waving, yelling and splashing as a long traumatic even at the surface of the water, but when someone is drowning it often appears as if they’re treading water,” Benjamin said. “If you don’t know what drowning looks like, you’ll miss it. We believe drowning is preventable and survivable.”
06/07/2018 – Western Michigan University – WSW: The Rare Lifeguard On A Great Lakes Beach In Michigan — Finding statistics on drownings in the Great Lakes is difficult. Malewitz says there is not a government source for those numbers. But the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project attempts to compile numbers by monitoring media and police reports. Bob Pratt, one of the two people who runs the project says there have been at least 640 drownings on the Great Lakes since 2010. But Pratt says it’s possible the number is higher.
Despite what is called a “vastly neglected area of public health,” it’s rare to find a lifeguard on a Great Lakes beach in Michigan. New Buffalo is an exception, there was a backlash when the city budget did not include money for lifeguards. Malewitz says after a very heated public meeting, the city council decided to stay the course for now, and keep lifeguards on New Buffalo beaches.
06/06/2018 – CBS – News of the Day – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project; Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation in Ogden Dunes June 16th.
06/06/2018 – CBS 2 – Mobile Weather Lab: Drowning Prevention — CBS 2’s Ed Curran is live with the Mobile Weather Lab to discuss drowning prevention. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 20 people have already drowned so far this year.
05/21/2018 – Chicago Tribune – From one end of the region’s Lake Michigan shoreline to the other, officials who oversee beaches are making similar plans to line up lifeguards before Memorial Day weekend, the official kickoff of beach season.
The lifeguards, officials said, are in place for a reason: Lake Michigan can be dangerous and unpredictable. According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy organization, Lake Michigan claimed 291 lives between 2010 and 2017.
The year 2012 was the deadliest of those years, with 50 drownings; 2016 followed with 46. The lake claimed 40 lives last year, according to the project’s statistics.
At the Hammond Marina, Kruszynski said lifeguards would be on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week starting Memorial Day weekend.At Whihala Beach in Whiting, lifeguards have been a part of the seasonal mix as long as Mike Nastav, recreation director for Whiting Parks and Recreation, can remember.
“We feel it’s for the best for the safety. It’s obvious how dangerous Lake Michigan can be. The weather can change at the flick of a switch with the wind and the waves. We’re pretty cautious,” he said.
Indiana Dunes State Park, which has a large swath of beach in front of the pavilion, expanded its lifeguard corps last year to cover more territory, said property manager Brandt Baughman.
Previously, the beach east of Dunes Creek did not have lifeguards during the week but as that section of the beach got busier, the park could justify adding lifeguards there seven days a week, he said, adding the beach west of the creek had lifeguards seven days a week.
Last year was the first season the park had lifeguards on both sides of the creek for the entire week.
“I think that was something that made the park run a lot smoother,” Baughman said, adding people didn’t understand why that section of the beach was closed.
The park will have 20 lifeguard positions this year, comparable to last year, he said.
05/11/2017 – LaPorte County Life – City of Michigan City Shares Swimming Safety – “Swimming is a fun and enjoyable activity for children and adults alike, and it’s an easy way to stay physically active and improve strength, flexibility and stamina,” said Park Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz. “The City of Michigan City is committed to providing as many opportunities as possible for everyone to swim and learn water safety practices.”
As part of National Water Safety Month in May, the City of Michigan City and Michigan City Area Schools have collated together in an effort to prevent “water emergencies.” Beginning May 15, 2017, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) will be educating our youth on the necessity of Lakefront Safety.
During this time students will learn the following safety tips to practice when in and around the water:
Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.
Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.
Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
Parents or guardians of young children should be within an arm’s reach.
Children and adults should not engage in breath holding activities.
The Michigan City Fire Department is always concerned about the safety of our personnel and the safety of the public,” stated Fire Chief Randy Novak. “Drownings are 100% preventable, and we are committed to preventing all drowning’s in the City of Michigan City and adjacent communities. GLSRP is one of those water safety programs that we feel will assist us with reaching our goal of zero drownings.”
05/10/2018 – WNDU – Flip, Float, and Follow – U.S. Coast Guard stresses water safety as summer approaches – “Even the best of swimmers can get caught in something,” said BM2 Casey Johnson of Station St. Joseph. “For 2016, we had almost the highest number of fatalities and a lot of those came from paddle boarders or kayakers.”
05/04/2018 – Holland Sentinel – 3. Take proper precautions near the waterThere were 88 drownings in the Great Lakes last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. There have been six in 2018 already. Don’t be another statistic. Pay attention to red flag days, where it is not safe to enter the water; bring along flotation devices in case you tire while in the water; and, most importantly, watch out for one another. Be safe this season.
04/30/2018 – rockthelake.com – Why you should wear your lifejacket if you paddle this spring: safety tips for chilly Lake Erie
First, put on your personal flotation device — and dress for the water temperature, which in Lake Erie Monday was about 38 degrees. Since 2010, 631 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, said Bob Pratt, director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. About 85 percent of them are men. And most drownings happen during this most dangerous time of the year, when frigid water incapacitates people who accidentally fall in. The U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday suspended the search for a man who reportedly fell off a boat in Sandusky Bay Friday night. “If you fall into 40-degree water without a life jacket on, your survival is measured in seconds — even if you’re a really good swimmer,” Pratt said. That’s because the body’s instant response to cold water is to gasp.
“This isn’t just a little gasp, like the kind you’d experience if somebody jumped out of a closet and scared you,” says the National Center for Cold Water Safety. It’s a huge gasp that totally fills your lungs… If your head is underwater when you gasp, you will immediately drown, and without the support of a PFD, you will head straight for the bottom.”
Men are less likely to take safety precautions, Pratt said. Hence, more drownings.
He urges kayakers, boaters and paddlers to wear their lifejackets, rather than just have them aboard. He compares lifejackets to seatbelts; you don’t put them on after you’re in a crash.
04/29/2018 – WSBT – Conference discusses ways to prevent drowning
04/24/2018 – Southend Tribune – New Buffalo votes to keep lifeguards this summer — “If you remove lifeguards, when seconds count help is going to be minutes away,’’ Benjamin said.
04/23/2018 – ABC 57 – New Buffalo votes to keep lifeguards this summer — The New Buffalo city council voted Monday to keep lifeguards on duty at least for one more summer. Although the council voted to keep the lifeguards this summer, it will revisit the discussion in the fall to determine if the program will continue in the future.
04/23/2018 – WNDU – New Buffalo beach will keep lifeguards – Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV who said he thought the city was rushed into the idea of going guard less, and that the city should “step back and look at this more carefully.” After another summer of the status quo, the mayor said the subject should be revisited in the fall.
04/23/2018 – WSBT – New Buffalo leaders have decided to keep lifeguard program for the summer
04/19/2018 – Record Eagle – Free YMCA class encourages adults to test the waters
04/18/2018 – Water Safety in Racine – The City of Racine, Wisconsin is using the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project project’s illustrations, the Signs of Drowning and Flip Float and Follow. Pretty sweet
04/18/2018 – Harbor County News – Don’t balance budget on backs of swimmers
04/14/2018 – Southbend Tribune – New Buffalo considers eliminating lifeguards Official: Understaffing creates ‘false sense of safety
04/12/2018 – Dave Benjamin speaks out at New Buffalo City Council Meeting – Lifeguards save lives, are an asset, are first responders.
04/12/2018 – Nora Howe speaks out at New Buffalo City Council Meeting – Don’t balance the budget on the backs of swimmers.
04/12/2018 – Peter Carey Speaks out at New Buffalo at City Council Meeting – to oppose the termination of the beach lifeguards
04/12/2018 – ABC 57 – Open forum held to discuss the future of New Buffalo lifeguards — “We were given three minutes today to talk about the importance of lifeguards, only three minutes. We want people to understand that for a drowning victim three minutes is the world,” says David Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. A final decision on whether to keep the lifeguards on New Buffalo beaches will be made at a public hearing at the end of May.
04/12/2018 – ABC 57 – Open forum to discuss future of New Buffalo lifeguards to be held Thursday
04/12/2018 – WZZM – Michigan beach town of New Buffalo axing its lifeguards, despite drownings — Last year, 40 people drowned in Lake Michigan, down slightly from 46 a year earlier, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a safety group that tracks drownings.
04/12/2018 – WNDU – New Buffalo City Council debates removal of lifeguards from budget — City leaders say they are simply not equipped to have well-trained lifeguards on duty at the New Buffalo beach. “I can’t get enough qualified lifeguards to apply,” said Richards. “I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards, and we are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service; which I don’t think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”
04/12/2018 – WSBT – No lifeguards this summer? Future of New Buffalo lifeguard program in doubt — New Buffalo leaders are still debating the future of the city’s lifeguard program. They didn’t set any money aside in the budget for this summer or next. Some people are pretty unhappy about that.
Even on a beautiful day like today, they say the Great Lakes can be dangerous. Swimmers need to be protected from those dangers. But leaders with the city say that protection isn’t real, and is a liability. I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards,” said David Richards, city manager. “We are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service, which I don’t think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”
Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says he’s seen lifeguards save lives in New Buffalo. He says the average beach-goer doesn’t know enough about water safety.
04/11/2018 – Detroit Free Press – Michigan beach town of New Buffalo axing its lifeguards, despite drownings — The city of New Buffalo wants to eliminate its dozen life guards due to liability, said city manager David Richards.
“It’s at the suggestion of our insurer, we’re eliminating life guards – at least proposing to eliminate life guards,” Richards said. Instead of lifeguards, he said, the beach would use existing flags and signs noting that visitors are swimming at their own risk.
[SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK is a Fallacy!] “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ people will die from this fatal decision but ‘when,’” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Rescue Project. Since 2010, the Great Lakes Rescue Project has recorded 631 drownings in the Great Lakes.
“It’s risky to have lifeguards on duty. They give the impression that they are able to protect people when they go into the water and that’s not the case,” said David Richards, city manager.
Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue project couldn’t disagree more.
04/11/2018 – WSBT – New Buffalo leaders consider cutting lifeguard program – “Having no lifeguards at the beach makes it a lot less safe. On a long enough time line, I don’t believe it’s if we’ll have a drowning, it’s when will we have a drowning,” said Benjamin.
He says New Buffalo beach is unique because of the jetties and the boat channel. Benjamin says frequent winds from the north cause currents along the shore line.
“When they hit that pier, they go out and around that pier and one of the duties of lifeguards at that beach is to keep people from swimming in the water around that pier,” said Benjamin.
The city hasn’t made a final decision about the lifeguard program. Richards says the council has special meetings Thursday and Friday.
“They will decide if they want to move forward with lifeguards, and if they do then we will schedule public meetings for the residents to come in and express their opinions,” said Richards.
04/04/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Water safety group to debut public safety announcement via Facebook Live — The public service announcement has a focus on the Great Lakes, but is applicable to all bodies of water. It’s being presented by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project in partnership with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium and the Matthew Kocher Foundation.
The announcement will include comments from National Drowning Prevention Alliance Lifesaver of the Year award winners Bob Pratt, of East Lansing, Michigan; Melissa Zirkle, of Ashtabula, Ohio; and John and Kathy Kocher, of Tinley Park. The film also features NDPA Community Lifesaver Award winner Dave Benjamin, of Homewood, and drowning survivors Evelyn Hernandez, of Chicago, and Jamie Racklyeft, of Ann Arbor.
04/04/2018 – Journal Review – Water safety group to debut public safety announcement today via Facebook Live
03/30/2018 – The Herald Argus – Flip, float and follow — Surf Rescue educator gives advice for surviving in rough water
03/29/2018 – The News Dispatch – Bob Pratt, executive director of education at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, spent the past week providing water safety education to Michigan City Area Schools students, and opened each of their 16 different presentations with the quiz [which ended with, “What do you do if you are drowning?”. Less than 5% of the students can answer it. ]
“We do such a great job teaching kids about fire safety, tornado drills, earthquakes, school shooters; but the fact of the matter is that drowning kills more people than all of those things combined,” Pratt said. “Yet there’s so little education regarding water safety, and we live on the shores of one of the most beautiful lakes in the country.”
Erin Breen, a kindergarten teacher at Marsh Elementary School, said, “Living in a beach community, our kids need this training. ‘Flip, float and follow’ should be second nature to them the way ‘stop, drop and roll’ is. I appreciate the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project for coming to MCAS, because the more kids who are exposed to this information, the fewer water-related accidents we’ll have.”
Since 2010, 631 people have drowned in the five Great Lakes; and 295 of those drowned in Lake Michigan.
03/29/2018 – Herald Palladium – Silver Beach seeks lifeguards, offers safety info — Lifeguards at Silver Beach must be at least 16 years old and have current American Red Cross (or equivalent) lifeguard certification and CPR certification for adults, children, and infants.
Pay is $10.40 an hour. Applicants will have to pass a lifesaving test at a local indoor pool before being hired.
Silver Beach lifeguards receive additional training throughout the summer season from U.S. Coast Guard, local law enforcement, and Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, among others.
03/14/2018 – MSU – Great Lakes Water Safety 2018 – Conference to address dangerous currents that continue to take lives April 26-27, Evanston, IL
03/13/2018 – NWI Times – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project educators stress water safety to kids, say specific techniques should be learned LAKE STATION — Officials with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said schools today will conduct fire drills, tornado drills and active shooter drills, but there are no schools that conduct water safety education. Yet, more school-age children may die from drowning each year in the United States than die in fires, tornadoes or even school shootings, they said. Edison sixth-grader Dakota Sullivan said he can swim a little but not very well. He said the most important aspect of what he learned was that “floating is the key to survival.”
02/19/2018 – NWI Times – UPDATE: Flood warnings issued for Little Cal at Munster, Kankakee River — Despite the warm-up, shelf ice remained along the Lake Michigan shoreline, prompting a warning Monday from the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The nonprofit issued a warning that walking on shelf ice is extremely dangerous after it received reports of two groups of people walking on shelf ice near Gary’s shoreline last weekend. A person easily can fall into hidden holes in shelf ice, with little chance of climbing out.
02/19/2018 – WLS 7 – Dangerous shelf ice forms along Lake Michigan
02/17/2018 – MDJ Online – Teaching others to swim safely — Benjamin’s life changed forever Dec. 26, 2010, when he had a nonfatal drowning accident.
He had a bad wipe out, fell on his back and had the wind knocked out of him. Waves pushed him to the bottom [and he struggled] for about two minutes, before he could get back to the surface and cough up the water. It took him another 38 minutes to float and backstroke back to the shore.
Benjamin decided he wanted to teach others about water safety and drowning prevention, and [organized] a surfboard rescue class in June 2011 [led by Bob Pratt]. A wide audience of police officers, firefighters, everyday people and surfers showed up, and the project grew.
He now serves as a [co-founder] and executive director at the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, which has given 487 presentations since 2011. About 300 more presentations are scheduled this year, with 100 of those in Northwest Indiana, he said.
“Unfortunately, water safety and drowning survival is not common sense,” he said. “It’s a silent epidemic that gets very little proactive funding or attention.”
02/09/2018 – Petosky News – Water safety education important at any age
02/05/2018 – WWMT – Lake Michigan Winter Surfing
01/28/2018 – Lake Michigan Surfing – Mike Killion’s Monday Recap for the boyz
01/28/2018 – Lake Michigan Surfing – Gerri Matras Lanter Video
01/02/2018 – CTV News – ‘We must do better’: Group tracks 88 drownings on Great Lakes in 2017
01/01/2018 – PR – 88 Great Lakes Drownings in 2017; 625 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010 – Mom of drowning victim speaks out and helping schedule Water Safety Presentations for 2018
12/13/2017 – Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant – Great Lakes waves can make lake viewing dangerous — Don’t get swept away this winter while sightseeing near the Great Lakes.
Drownings occur in the Great Lakes every year. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, at least 99 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016; 622 since 2010. Many of these deaths happen when people swimming end up in dangerous currents such as rip or structural-caused currents. Other drownings happen because of boating or kayaking accidents. And several deaths each year occur when people are blown or washed off breakwaters, docks, cliffs and other similar nearshore structures.
Preventing these drownings in the Great Lakes can be as easy as checking the weather report. Any month of the year there is the potential for high waves in the Great Lakes. If you are headed to a Great Lakes shoreline to walk out on a breakwater, climb some nearshore rocks, or jog along a lakeshore path, it’s important to know what the predicted wave and wind patterns will be for the day. If the waves and winds will be high, then stay away from these types of areas. Be aware that icy buildups can increase your risk of falling in even on relatively calm days. It’s better to watch waves and the water from a safe distance, than to risk losing it all.
11/24/2017 – Petoskey News – Preventing people from jumping from the pierheads on Lake Michigan is the best action to take.
Officials from Michigan State University Michigan Sea Grant Extension, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium also were in attendance. Each of them took time to express the importance of water safety and education.
Leland Township Supervisor Susan Och also spoke about a young person who drowned on Aug. 30, 2012, at Vans Beach after jumping from a pier similar to Charlevoix’s. “I wish I wasn’t here. I wish that I didn’t know anything about structural currents, about rip currents,” Och said. “I was on the town board at the time (of the drowning) and that was the worst town board meeting ever … all of these seats are filled with people who want to know why you didn’t do something. There is a lot of regret.”
11/10/2017 – Green Bay Press Gazette – Blaming drowning victims is stupid, cruel
11/08/2017 – WBAY ABC 2 – State of Lake Michigan conference highlights importance of water safety education – One man says water safety education in schools could help stop what he calls a drowning epidemic in the Midwest. Since 2010, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project statistics show there have been 622 drownings in the Great Lakes, 292 of them in Lake Michigan, with 41 Lake Michigan fatalities so far this year.
10/27/2017 – Petoskey News – Officials: Pier-jumping illegal, dangerous activity – About 1/3 of drownings are current-related – “People should be aware of the dangers in the Great Lakes,” Benjamin said. “Our goal is to prevent Great Lakes drownings through training, public preparedness, and public awareness.”
Since 2010, 267 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, nearly half of all 564 Great Lakes drowning deaths. The only year with more than 100 deaths on all Great Lakes was in 2012, with 101 drowning deaths. “On average almost half — 47 percent — of all Great Lakes drownings happen on Lake Michigan,” Benjamin said.
Experts said the distinctive shape of the lake, which is 307 miles long with parallel, uninterrupted shores running north to south, makes it susceptible to dangerous currents. Lake Michigan is also the Great Lake with the sandiest shores, drawing more visitors and creating tides along sandbars that are deceptively strong and prone to risky currents.
“On all of the Great Lakes, Winds equals Waves and Waves equals Dangerous Currents,” Benjamin said. “The configuration of Lake Michigan as well as its residential population density and tourism population density creates a higher probability for accidents; i.e. simply said, the more people in and around the water, the more possibility for an accident to happen.”
Men, especially, are susceptible to drowning. Benjamin said 80 percent of drowning victims are male. “The psychology of men is that they’re more likely to take risks, to succumb to peer pressure and overestimate their abilities,” he said. “Boys don’t know that, moms don’t know that. Water safety is not common sense.”
Benjamin said, in his opinion, that’s where lifeguards are critical. “Lifeguards are first responders and just as important as police and firefighters,” he said “We’re a huge advocate for lifeguards. One of the biggest objections to having lifeguards, is that there’s no funding,” Benjamin added. “But if Pure Michigan can spend more than $30 million a year to bring people to water, which has billions of dollars in return through tourism, there’s money out there.”
He said that according to the World Health Organization, drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue. “This isn’t just Michigan. Every state has a tourism budget to bring people to water. In our opinion, drowning should be treated like a public health issue,” he said.
09/26/2017 – Manistee News Advocate – Fall and winter season pose new hazards to fishermen – The danger of drowning doesn’t disappear with the summer season. While some news outlets are claiming Lake Michigan saw fewer drowning deaths this past summer season than in 2016, Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, says people need to look at the big picture, not just during peak swimming months.
“We still have four more months to go,” Benjamin said. “Now what happens is, people may not see any more swimming drownings, but people might be washed off the pier, fall out of a boat or, as we get into December, fall through the ice while ice fishing. It could be kayakers, people on paddleboards or other recreational activities.” (Full Story here)
09/24/2017 – Holland Sentinel – ‘A much better summer:’ Drownings down from 2016 — Five people died in Ottawa County waters last year. This year, two drowned.
09/21/2017 – The News Dispatch – Surfing documentary to be held at Fire & Water – MICHIGAN CITY — A showing of “Southend: The Place Where I Go Surfing,” will be held at Fire & Water, 6 on the Lake, Michigan City (in Washington Park), on Friday at 6 p.m. A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m., and a question and answer session will be held at 7:10 p.m.
09/20/2017 – On Milwaukee – Our dear Lake Michigan is the deadliest of the Great Lakes [NOTE: The drowning stats listed in this article are outdated at 537 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010. The updated stats are 612 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010.]
09/10/2017 – The Cutoff News – Surfing the Region: Filmmaker brings documentary to NWI. “Southend: The Place Where I Go Surfing” was screened Sept. 14 at The Towle Theater in Hammond and will be screened again Sept. 22 at Fire and Water At Washington Park in Michigan City.
09/08/2017 – Post-Tribune – Sand, surf season ends with no drownings at lakefront parks. Note: There was a mix-up of some of the statistical information in the story.
“46” was the 2016 Lake Michigan Drownings yearend total.
If we we’re comparing Labor Day 2016 with Labor Day 2017…
By Labor Day 2016 there were 36 Lake Michigan Drownings.
By Labor Day 2017 there were 33 Lake Michigan Drownings.
09/05/2017 – Associated Press – Water Safety Group Finds Fewer Lake Michigan Drownings
A water safety nonprofit group has found that the number of drownings decreased this swim season on Lake Michigan compared with last year.
09/04/2017 – Chicago Sun-Times – 33 Lake Michigan drownings so far this year; down from 36 last year – Thirty-three people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year, compared with 36 in the same period last year. Three bodies found in the lake this year are not yet confirmed as drownings, said David Benjamin, executive director of the safety group.
A man was pulled from Lake Michigan on Friday morning near the 31st Street beach, but his cause of death hasn’t yet been confirmed nor has he been identified.
09/02/2017 – WZZM – 68 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2017
09/02/2017 – WISN ABC – Surfer helps save man from rough Lake Michigan At Bradford Beach
09/01/2017 – WNEM – Report: 68 drownings reported in Great Lakes this year
09/01/2017 – WLNS – Great Lakes drownings prompt warning for holiday swimmers
08/31/2017 – ABC 10 & 13 – August Was Deadliest Month So Far on Lake Superior in 2017 – Five people drowned in Lake Superior in August, with four drownings in a 2-week span.
08/30/2017 – Harbor County News – Summer of Saving Swimmers: New Buffalo lifeguards reflect on busy season NEW BUFFALO — The lifeguard crew at New Buffalo’s public beach has been very busy this summer. “My sister and I have rescued 17 people,” said 21-year-old Emily Richards while setting up for another day of guarding the beach on Friday, Aug. 25.
Emily Richards said the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project organization (including Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin) has worked with the New Buffalo lifeguards on water safety issues such as board rescue techniques (which she has since used in actual rescues). “It’s fun to learn from people that have the same passion for lifeguarding that we do,” she said.
08/18/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Great Lakes drownings reach 600 since 2010 – While many folks in Michigan are turning their thoughts from summer days at the beach to backpacks and school supplies, there are still several weeks of warm weather for families to enjoy at the lake.
But that comes with a special warning as the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project releases the latest drowning statistics for the Great Lakes.
Since 2010 there have 600 drownings in the five Great Lakes. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, on average almost half of all Great Lakes drownings happen in Lake Michigan. They released their latest report Thursday.
The good news is that drownings are down this year over last year at about this time. By Sept. 2, of 2016, 73 drowning deaths had occurred. We are two weeks away from that date and so far this year the number stands at 63. While that is a step in the right direction, one life lost to drowning is too many. Just last week a father and daughter died after being rescued from dangerous currents in Lake Superior. Experts say too often swimmers overestimate their abilities and underestimate dangerous conditions.
08/13/2017 – WBBM’s At Issue: Drowning & Water Safety – Every year dozens of people will drown while swimming in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes preventable deaths in most cases. WBBM’s Mike Krauser talks with Dave Benjamin, Executive Director at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the risk of drowning and water safety.
08/11/2017 – My Sheboygan – Sheboygan resident and surfer Larry Williams talks about water safety.
08/08/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Illinois boy, 4, dies days after being pulled from Lake Michigan – In 2016, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes – ranging in age from about 9 to 75, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks incidents and spreads awareness. The number nearly doubled the previous year, and was the worst for drownings since 2012.
08/05/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – 7 ways to avoid drowning in Northwest Indiana
08/05/2017 – CBS 2 Chicago – Hammond Woman, Kaitlynn Boswinkle, 24, Found Dead in Gary’s Marquette Beach
08/01/2017 – Harbor County News – Matthew Ramirez, M-4 – a 4-year-old boy ‘fighting for his life’ after being pulled from Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park on Tuesday afternoon. The preliminary investigation revealed several children were playing in the water and family members believed he had exited the water and returned to the beach with other family members.
07/31/2017 – WBEZ Public Radio – The GLSRP’s Dave Benjamin was be on WBEZ’s Morning Shift, 91.5 FM, Monday to discuss the current Great Lakes drowning statistics and Great Lakes Water Safety with host, Jenn White.
07/31/2017 – The Journal Times – Drowned teen’s life goal ‘was to help people’ — Water Safety Tips: Only one third of drownings that occur are due to dangerous currents, according to Dave Benjamin Executive Director of Public Relations for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a non-profit based in Illinois that educates school children about the dangers of water. “Something happens in the water that causes panic. When you are struggling in water over your head we recommend you flip over on your back, float and then follow the safest path out of the water,” Benjamin said. “When you are on your back try to cough to get the water out and calm yourself down.” Benjamin said flotation is the key — only five out of 589 reported Great Lakes drowning victims wore life jackets. “You have a better chance of survival in the Great Lakes if you have a life jacket. People don’t use them because they’re not fashionable, and restrictive or because they overestimate their true swimming ability,” Benjamin said.
07/29/2017 – NBC 5 – Brandt Miller, Flip, Float, and Follow & Weather App
07/28/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Lifeguards are the first reponders on the beach!
07/28/2017 – Detroit Free Press – 5 teens rescued from Lake Michigan, 3 hospitalized — This year, 49 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, at least 22 of them in Lake Michigan, where hidden rip currents are known to pull people away from beach areas, causing them to panic. In 2016, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes – ranging in age from about 9 to 75, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks incidents and spreads awareness. The number nearly doubled the previous year, and was the worst for drownings since 2012.
07/28/2017 – WLS 7 – Life threatening waves, rip currents lead to swim bans – The latest statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project report 49 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year.
07/28/2017 – NBC 5 – ‘Stay Out of the Water’: Warning to Chicago-Area Beachgoers Extended
07/25/2017 – Ozaukee Press – Port Washington helps prepare beachgoers for possible emergencies with water safety cards
07/19/2017 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – The Great Lakes are on track to see over 100 drownings this year, with half of those in Lake Michigan, said Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit group that collects data on drowning incidents. For the first time in five years, lifeguards are not on duty at Atwater Park beach due to a shortage of lifeguard applications received by the Milwaukee County Parks Department. Signs at the park advise visitors to swim at their own risk. But it is unclear if a lifeguard would have made a difference in Sareyi’s drowning. In the past, summer shifts for Atwater Park lifeguards were from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. And a lifeguard for the public beach would not have been able to see the break wall on private property from which Sareyi jumped, Tyke said.
07/19/2017 – South Bend Tribune – Paddle in awe of Great Lakes — in Michiana and up north – The nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 45 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year. None of the victims wore life jackets. Granted, some fell from shore rather than a boat. But, out of the 582 drownings since 2010, only five wore life jackets — all of whom died because they were in really cold water for a prolonged time, says Bob Pratt, the project’s director of education. It doesn’t do you any good if your life jacket just sits in the boat. When you need it, Pratt says, it would be like trying to fasten your seatbelt during an accident. And on a stand-up paddle board, he says, attach the leash to your ankle, which helps you to retrieve the board after you fall off.
07/12/2017 – WCMU Public Radio – 2017 may be deadliest year on Great Lakes – – “It’s important to understand what drowning looks like for two reasons, one so you can spot someone who’s in dire need of flotation, and two if you ever find yourself struggling in water and doing the signs of frowning you stop doing the signs of drowning and flip, float and follow.”
07/09/2017 – WTMJ 4 — 414Ward – How to prevent drownings
07/03/2017 – UpNorthLive – Your Health Matters: Increase drowning awareness
07/03/2017 – NBC 5 – Man Dies Trying to Rescue His Nephew in Water Near 63rd Street Beach
06/30/2017 – MLIVE – East Grand Rapids working to prevent drowning with SwimEGR
06/30/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – NWI surfers featured in film ‘Southend’
06/30/2017 – The Detroit News – Michigan Rescue: Reduce Drownings
06/28/2017 – WJR News Talk 760 a.m. – Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Project talks to Paul W. Smith about the dangers of Lake Michigan rip [currents] tides. 6-28-17
06/25/2017 – Detroit Free Press – How even good swimmers are drowning in Lake Michigan
06/22/2017 – The Star Beacon – Conneaut Township Park offers life-saving gear at its popular beach
06/21/2017 – ABC 7 – Floating water park set to open on Lake Michigan in Whiting, Indiana — The $300,000 floating playground is a result of a joint venture between the city and the private company. The beach also plans to have kayak and paddleboard rentals. With the new attraction set to open this weekend, Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project spent the day teaching summer campers and kids about proper water safety.
06/21/2017 – NBC 5 Chicago – New Floating Water Park Emphasizes Safety in Indiana – Lake Michigan’s first floating water park will open in Whiting, IN this weekend, but there’s more than just fun to be had at the attraction, as educating the public about water safety is at the top of the agenda. NBC 5’s Regina Waldroup has the remarkable story.
06/19/2017 – WSBT 22 – Berrien County holding water rescue and emergency drill at Silver Beach – ST. JOSEPH, Mi. — It’s the time of year when thousands of you head to the beach. According to the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, 2017 has been the deadliest year for the start to drowning season.
Lifeguards there are working hard to keep swimmers safe. Lifeguards say they need practice to make sure they can get you out of trouble.
They teamed up with the sheriff’s department, the Coast Guard, and EMS, all ready to save lives.
06/19/2017 – WZZM – VERIFY: Is Lake Michigan the deadliest Great Lake? Is Lake Michigan the deadliest Great Lake or just the most frequented?
We verified what is true using information from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks drowning statistics and trains people in water safety, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Thirty people have drowned in the Great Lakes during 2017 and 16 of those incidents happened in Lake Michigan. Dave Benjamin from Great Lakes Rescue Project explained that their organization is confident in labeling Lake Michigan as the deadliest.
He said they attribute this to the accessibility (beach access), population density in surrounding cities and the lake’s configuration (strong currents). Lake Michigan is only the third largest Great Lake but it is surrounded by densely populated cities, like Chicago.
Don Olson from the DNR said that the most visited parks are along Lake Michigan, and that state parks surrounding other Great Lakes have less visitors. We can verify that Lake Michigan is the most frequented of the Great Lakes and because of that it is also the deadliest.
06/18/2017 – ABC 57 – Michigan Lake named deadliest Great Lake – Over half of the drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year have occurred in Lake Michigan. This is Michigan Lake’s highest death count this time of year since 2012.
06/17/2017 – UpNorthLive – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosts first water safety expo It’s important to know the basics of water safety when out on the beaches this summer.
To help educate the public, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosted the first Water Adventure Expo on Saturday.
The expo event was inspired by, Tyler Spink. In September 2016, Tyler, 21, went kayaking without a life jacket in Lake Michigan and never returned.
06/11/2017 – WLNS 6 – Staying safe around water as summer approaches — “It’s shaping up to be a very hot summer and unfortunately that means that we’ll have an increase in the number of drownings,” says Bob Pratt, Director of Education at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
Pratt says, more than 20 people in Michigan have died after drowning this year alone. Those numbers are being updated almost daily.
“The cold water plays a part, the wind and waves cause a part, so unfortunately it turns out to be a tragic situation,” says Pratt.
Pratt says, drowning is the leading cause of accidental deaths in children ranging in age from 1 to 4. And although it’s portrayed on television as a dramatic, long lasting incident, Pratt says, drowning can happen in the blink of an eye.
“While there may be a little bit of splashing, lifeguards call it climbing the ladder, it will be this vertical motion of just trying to keep their head above the surface of the water, and especially with children it may only last a matter of second,” says Pratt.
He says, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself and those around, while still having fun in the sun.
For example, you can designate a “water watcher,” who will keep an eye on children at all times while in the water. Also making sure everyone is wearing a life vest.
“Of the 562 fatal drownings that we’ve reported since 2010, only 5 of them were wearing life jackets… That’s less than 1%,” says Pratt.
It’s called a life jacket, for a reason. Pratt says, wearing one can decrease your risk of drowning. He says it all boils down to this, respect the water and understand you need to be prepared for it.
06/11/2017 – Lansing State Journal – Bob Pratt, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s director, told the State Journal the Lansing man was 27 years old. The man’s death, Pratt said, marks the 560th fatal drowning on the Great Lakes since 2010.
Pratt said nearly half of all drowning deaths take place on Lake Michigan, a powerful body of water that’s often underestimated.
“It’s really more of an inland sea than just a lake,” Pratt said. “It has currents; it has waves; it has wind.”
06/11/2017 – CBS Chicago – At least three people drowned in Lake Michigan this weekend, including a woman pulled from the water near Loyola Beach on Saturday, prompting a warning about the dangers of swimming when the water is still dangerously cold.
While the weather hasn’t been really warm until recently, that hasn’t stopped people from going into the lake, oftentimes unprepared.
Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said at least 16 people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year, more than all the other Great Lakes combined.
Benjamin said 46 people drowned in Lake Michigan last year, one of the worst years for the lake since the group started tracking drownings in 2010. With swimming season just getting started, this year could match that total.
“Right now, we are on a record pace to match last year,” he said.
06/11/2017 – PR – Drownings continue to rise — Lake Michigan leading the statistics — Hot weekend, strong south winds can cause hazards — Especially with beach toys — GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces its current drowning statistics. In 2017, the GLSRP is tracking 25 Great Lakes drownings.
06/08/2017 – Michigan Radio NPR – Holland tries new approach to warn people about dangerous lake conditions — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports that 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes last year, the most since 2012. Currents caused by wind or structures like piers can make swimming in the lakes dangerous.
06/07/2017 – UpNorthLive – Benzie County nurse, Barbara Smith, recognized as hometown health hero — She was awarded for her water safety advocacy efforts at the State Capitol during public health week in April.
06/05/2017 – Fox News Chicago – Whiting Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-service Training.
06/06/2017 – ABC 57 – Training session for Lake Michigan lifeguards – Lake Michigan lifeguards participated in an “open water surf lifeguard” training session Tuesday, June 6th in Michigan City. The training focused on the dangerous currents in the Great Lakes, rescue techniques, and CPR.
“Water safety is really important, since 2010 there’s been 559 fatal drownings on the five Great Lakes, typically almost half, 47%, happened on Lake Michigan and about half of those happen here at the south end of Lake Michigan so this is one of the most dangerous waters in the country,” said Director of Education for Great Lakes surf rescue project, Bob Pratt.
The training was led by the Great Lakes surf rescue project and the purpose of the training was to prevent deaths on the lake this summer. 2016 was the deadliest year on the lake.
06/07/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Training to combat drowning in the Region – Here in Northwest Indiana, drowning is always top of mind for lifeguards, especially those who trained on Tuesday morning at Washington Park beach in Michigan City, and on Monday at Whihala Beach in Whiting, as part of the Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-Service Training Program. The training was conducted by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“There is a huge difference between pool and open water training. In a pool you have 100 percent visibility, warm water, consistent water depths and [the pool is a contained area]. In open water surf there are winds, waves, dangerous currents, drop-offs and holes, temperature fluctuations of 10 to 20 degrees in pockets, and thousands of people coming and going,” he said.
Using rescue boards, rescue cans, and rescue tubes, some 36 area lifeguards participated in [Monday and] Tuesday’s training.
Mo Hakim, one of the head lifeguards at Washington Park, realized the dangers of Lake Michigan firsthand last summer when he rescued a victim who dived off of the pier, even though this is forbidden. “Many deaths in the Great Lakes happen off of these structures,” he said, pointing to the pier, “and last summer was probably one of the roughest in a few years. I pulled a kid out who was under for 10 minutes. I dove down and got him off of the bottom of the lake, got him on a Coast Guard boat, and we transported him, and he’s alive today.” He said he hopes that this summer will be safer as people become educated to the dangers of Lake Michigan and Tuesday’s training helps lifeguard teams to properly respond.
Jacob Breault, a rookie lifeguard with Indiana Dunes State Park, says the training will no doubt help him this summer. “This is a lot different than a pool. You get the experience of a real rescue on wavy days,” he said.
06/07/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Gallery: Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project lifeguard training
06/06/2017 – MLIVE – 5 Lake Michigan beaches could have dangerous conditions today — There have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes already this year, including 12 deaths in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project tracker.
06/06/2017 – ABC 7 – Lake Michigan beach hazard warning, swim advisory in effect Tuesday — “With a possibility of a closure on Wednesday, or maybe yellow flags on Wednesday, which means people allowed in the water up to a certain depth,” said Nick Kalwinski, Whihala Beach supervisor. There have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year. Ten of those were in Lake Michigan.
06/05/2017 – ABC 7 – Weather service warns of high waves at Chicago beaches — It was training day for lifeguards at Whihala Beach in Whiting, Ind., where the strong winds and choppy waters actually created the ideal conditions for water safety education.
In addition to getting in the water, the lifeguards-in-training learned about the risk of drowning. David Benjamin with the Great Lakes Rescue Project, said drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Already in 2017 there have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes, and 10 of those were in Lake Michigan.”On average, half of all Great Lakes drownings happen in Lake Michigan, and then half of Lake Michigan drownings happen in the south end of Lake Michigan,” Benjamin said.
Keeping in mind three simple steps if you find yourself in dangerous water can be a life saver. Just remember: Flip, float and follow.
“You flip on your back and you float – float to keep your head above water, float to conserve your energy, and float to calm yourself down from the fear and panic of drowning – and then follow the safest path out of the water. According to Benjamin, 66 percent of all drowning victims are good swimmers.
06/05/2017 – Lakeshore Public Radio – Don’t become another drowning statistic
06/03/2017 – The News Dispatch – In brief – Lake Michigan lifeguards to participate in MC training — Indiana Lake Michigan Lifeguards will be participating in one of these two Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-Service training sessions, Monday in Whiting, Indiana, or Tuesday in Michigan City.
The in-service training will focus on the worldwide drowning epidemic, how it relates to the Great Lakes region, Great Lakes dangerous currents, open water surf rescue techniques, and the latest water resuscitation CPR techniques (i.e. it will explain why Compression Only CPR is inappropriate for drowning victims).
The project is being headed by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, with Lifeguards out of Whiting, Chesterton, and Michigan City. It is sponsored by ArcelorMittal.
The Michigan City training will be held 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at North Point Pavilion, 6 On the Lake, Michigan City.
06/02/2017 – Holland Sentinel – City of Holland warns against swimming on red flag days at state beaches – Lake Michigan is the deadliest of the Great Lakes, causing nearly half of all Great Lakes fatalities in 2016. Forty-six people died on Lake Michigan last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
06/01/2017 – Wood TV – Holland groups create red flag video aimed at curbing drownings – A record number of drownings were recorded in the Great Lakes last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The group says this year, there have been 20 possible drownings so far.
05/30/2017 – My North – Splash into Summer at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Water Adventure Expo
05/29/2017 – Chicago Tribune – Lake Michigan brings both beauty and danger to summer season – Benjamin and Pratt partnered with city officials, lifeguards and sponsor ArcelorMittal to host the event, which offered lessons similar to those the pair present to audiences all around the Great Lakes region.
05/27/2017 – Pantagraph – Don’t blame Darwin, says anti-drowning project leader — A director of a group working to prevent drowning in the Great Lakes area says stigmatizing drowning hampers such efforts. “People blame the victim, blame the parent or caretaker or blame Darwinism,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. But doing that gives people a false sense of security that it wouldn’t happen to them or their loved ones, said Benjamin.
In fact, it can happen to anyone and it can happen quickly. Part of the problem, according to Benjamin, is that people don’t know what they don’t know. Few people know that swimming ability alone might not be enough in a water emergency, he said.
05/26/2017 – Marquette Mining Journal – Officials talk water safety ahead of summer season – – According to statistics gathered by the GLSRP, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016 — a 78 percent increase over the previous year.
“It’s going to continue to be a leading cause of accidental death until we start to look at the bigger picture,” said Benjamin. “There’s a huge disconnect. Information is not being delivered effectively or efficiently to the public.”
According to the American Red Cross, 54 percent of Americans do not have the basic swimming abilities to save their own lives in a water emergency. That statistic is based on a controlled setting, such as a pool, said Benjamin. But when you add in wind, waves, dangerous currents and cold water temperatures, that percentage would likely be higher.
Like the widely known “stop, drop and roll” technique used when clothing catches fire, Benjamin said everyone should know “flip, float and follow.” “If you want to live, you have to stay at the surface of the water and continue breathing,” he said. “If you can’t survive the initial drowning experience, you’re not going to make it out.” If in a water emergency, swimmers should flip over onto their back, float to keep their head above water, calm themselves down and conserve energy, and then follow the current to assess which way it’s flowing. Then, either swim perpendicular to the flow until reaching safety, or continue floating and try to signal for help if too tired to swim.
Benjamin and Bob Pratt, GLSRP’s executive director of education, are currently traveling throughout the Midwest to provide in-school presentations on water safety. They believe it’s the best approach to spreading information quickly, having completed more than 450 presentations in seven of the eight Great Lakes states. “They have fire drills, tornado drills, shooting drills and even earthquake drills in school,” said Benjamin. “But it’s more likely school-aged children will die from drowning. Why is there not water safety curriculum?”
With these presentations, as well as additional outreach, training, public awareness and preparedness efforts, GLSRP hopes to reduce the number of Great Lakes drownings. “It’s really simple. It’s not rocket science. It’s just bullet-pointed information that is not being delivered,” he said. “If people knew, they would be much safer and it would cause a huge decrease in drowning deaths.”
The stigma surrounding drowning, as well as the lack of industry-backing and scarce funding, also contribute to the epidemic, said Benjamin. “One of the main contributors is the stigma — when a drowning happens, from a public point of view, people blame the victim, blame the parents or blame it on Darwinism,” he said. “It gives the public a false sense of security that drowning wouldn’t happen to them, that it only happens to stupid people. It’s false. People think drowning happens to other people, until they become the other people.
05/26/2017 – Pantagraph – Experts urge safety on, near water – One problem is people don’t know what drowning looks like, says Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. It’s not like the movies, with a lot of splashing and yelling, he said. Instead, a person’s mouth might be barely above water level, with their head tilted back and body vertical, making ladder-climbing motions as they try to stay above water, explained Benjamin.
Benjamin said, “Learning how to swim isn’t enough.” Learning survival skills in a water emergency should start with children in school, he said. “’Flip-float-follow’ is the ‘stop-drop-and-roll’ of water safety,” said Benjamin, with the emphasis on float. He said people should flip to face up and float to control breathing, calm themselves and find an escape route to follow.
05/24/2017 – Tinley Junction – Tinley Park couple spreads water safety message in memory of son – Tinley Park residents John and Kathy Kocher, teaching water safety and giving back to their community is more than just a passion for them; it is their mission. The Kochers’ only child, Matt, drowned in Lake Michigan while at camp in 2013 at the age of 15, pulled from the shore by a rip current. That defining moment in the Kochers’ lives was the moment they knew they had to do something about water safety and drowning prevention, Kathy said.
05/17/2017 – Chicago Sun-Times – Balmy temps and frigid Lake Michigan a lethal mix — Tianna Hollinside, 13, and Juan Cornelio, 23, may have never known what hit them before they joined the ranks of Chicagoans who died too young.
But it wasn’t a bullet that killed them. It was cold water. Hollinside and Cornelio both drowned Tuesday in separate swimming accidents on Chicago’s north lakefront, lured to their deaths by balmy 80-degree-plus air temperatures that belied a fatally frigid Lake Michigan. Swimming may not even be the right word for what happened…
05/17/2017 – The News Dispatch – Staying safe in the Great Lakes – MICHIGAN CITY — “Ten people per day in the United States drown. Drowning is a huge, huge problem.” That was the sobering message Barker Middle School students received at the beach this week via Bob Pratt, the executive director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
The Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentations were a collaboration between the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project the city of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Department and the Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards.
05/17/2017 – PR – Memorial Water Safety Presentation or 2015 Lake Michigan Drowning Victim as Lake Michigan drownings are up 57% over 2016
05/16/2017 – PR – CRITICAL UPDATE: Great Lakes Drownings Increase; Water Safety Presentation Wednesday on the beach in Michigan City, Indiana.
05/15/2017 – ABC 57 – As summer nears, experts warn about dangers of Lake Michigan — Life-saving lessons along the lake shore. Last year there were 46 drownings in Lake Michigan plus 6 listed in Critical Condition. To date in 2017, there have been 9 drowning in Lake Michigan.
05/15/2017 – WSBT 22 – Students learn beach safety in Michigan City
05/14/2017 – PR – Michigan City Students Heading to the Beach this week for Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentations – The GLSRP is partnering with the City of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Department, and Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards to perform Lake Michigan water safety presentations for Barker Middle School students.
05/11/2017 – Laporte County Life – City of Michigan City Shares Swimming Safety Tips – making their beaches SAFER!
05/07/2017 – PR – Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation for Valparaiso Swim Club and the general public as Great Lakes drownings continue to rise in 2017
05/07/2017 – PR – National Lifesaver Award Winners Continue Efforts with Chicagoland Water Safety School Presentations this week – As Great Lakes drownings continue to rise in 2017
05/01/2017 – infoSuperior – Statistics Show Spike in Lake Superior Drownings — What if rescuers didn’t have to enter the water? Basically a remote controlled life ring, or drone, that could be kept at swimming beaches, on board vessels for man overboard situations or in emergancy response vehicles for cases involving potential drownings.
04/29/2017 – PR – Come on out today for a Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation at the Green Gary – Earth Day Celebration – Lake Michigan Drownings were up 84% last year over 2015; Tracking 14 Great Lakes drownings in 2017
04/26/2017 – Liquid Adventuring – Drowning – It’s Not Just for Stupid People
04/23/2017 – Journal Sentinel – With Great Lakes drownings spiking, rescuers look to education, technology
04/19/2017 – Tinley Park Patch – Kocher’s Receive National Life Saving Award
04/19/2014 – CBS 2 Chicago – Lake Michigan Drownings Spike In 2016 – The number of drownings in Lake Michigan spiked 84 percent in 2016, compared with the previous year, according to a water safety advocacy group.
04/18/2017 – PR – Lake Michigan Drownings up 84% in 2016 over 2015; GLSRP presenting at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium’s “Great Lakes Water Safety Conference” Thursday and Friday, April 20 and 21, at the Maywood Environmental Park, 3615 Mueller Rd. in Sheboygan, WI.
04/14/2017 – PR – Tinley Park Parents Win National Drowning Prevention Alliance “Lifesaver of the Year” Award for water safety advocacy after son’s Lake Michigan drowning – Announces Illinois Water Safety School Presentations May 8 – 12.
04/04/2017 – Stand Up Paddle the World Radio – Bob Pratt is serious about drowning, very serious. As an EMT and Lifeguard, he knows that drowning is preventable, especially in the sport of Stand Up Paddle Boarding. In fact, Bob believes the stand up paddle industry has a golden opportunity to introduce life preserver and leash safety early on in this exploding sport. Bob Pratt and The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project are both very serious about water safety and drowning and give many lifesaving tips in the interview.
04/01/2017 – News Dispatch – Staying Safe in the Water – MICHIGAN CITY — Flip. Float. Follow. Those three words were heard throughout Michigan City Area Schools this past week with hopes that they will be remembered by area students as well as “Stop, drop and roll” has. “If you ask anyone anywhere in the United States, ‘What do you do if your clothes catch on fire?’ they will tell you, ‘Stop, drop and roll.’ But ask them ‘What do you do if you are drowning?’ and you’ll most often get silence and blank stares,” explained Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (www.GLSPR.org).
03/28/2017 – WSBT – Lake Michigan drownings up 84% in 2016; 19 Great Lakes Water Safety presentations in 9 Michigan City schools this week
03/27/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Lake Michigan was deadliest Great Lake last year – Water Safety School Presentations this week in Michigan City
03/26/2017 – PR – Great Lakes Drownings up 78% Last Year over 2015; Water safety presentations this week for Michigan City
03/20/2017 – UpNorthLive – Increase in drownings brings high need for water safety education
03/19/2017 – PR – 2016 Great Lakes Drownings increased 78% over 2015; Water Safety School Presentations this week in Benzie County, MI
03/16/2017 – Record Eagle – Great Lakes Surf Rescue teaches safety to water-loving residents – If “stop, drop and roll” can be accepted parts of childhood education, why not “flip, float and follow?” asks the founder and executive director of Great Lakes Surf Rescue.
03/06/2017 – MSU & MI Sea Grant – How can we stop drownings in the Great Lakes? Water safety conference to address ways to improve safety, education and more – Learn why drownings in the Great Lakes were up 78 percent last year and what you can do about it. Join the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium for compelling presentations by and networking opportunities with experts in water safety, risk communication, lifeguarding, beach safety, and hazard mitigation. Speakers from the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, National Weather Service, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, universities, and many others will share the latest science, techniques, and technologies. Upon completion of the conference, attendees will leave with new strategies, insights, and know-how to save lives in their communities and the best ways to respond in the event of a tragedy.
Register by March 20 for the early-bird rate of $49 ($59 after). Sponsorship opportunities are also available.
2012 GLSRP Media Mentions