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.
"If you’re ever struggling in water over your head you flip, float and follow. Flip over on your back and you float. Keep your head above water. Calm yourself down from the panic of drowning. Conserve your energy, and then follow a safe path out of the water," Benjamin said.
At Wells Street Beach Saturday, Benjamin spoke with a group of about 30 parents and their kids about the scope of drowning. Most said they were surprised to learn how common it is.
"It's a shock," parent Charles Tanner said. "We learned it’s the second most leading cause of accidental death for kids between 1-14 today. It's interesting that most people don’t know the signs of drowning and what to do to prevent it. It's always good to educate oneself."
Benjamin also addressed the signs of drowning explaining it's often silent and happens quickly with no arm flailing or yelling, as is often seen in movies. He talked about dangerous currents, basic beach safety and water rescue.
"Throw. Don’t go. Water rescue is very dangerous. Often times the ‘would-be’ rescuer also becomes a drowning victim. It’s important to understand how a flotation device such as a throw ring, throw rope, surfboard or other objects that float can rescue a person in distress or in a dangerous current," Benjamin said.
Benjamin warned that many beaches are unguarded so people should "know before you go."
Swim near a lifeguard; know where the emergency call boxes and rescue equipment are located; wear a life jacket; and “steer clear of the pier," according to Benjamin.