Lake Michigan beaches work to reduce drownings

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Drownings are becoming more common in our area. Beaches in New Buffalo and St. Joseph will have lifeguards stationed all summer.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project will hold a lifeguard training tomorrow.

The main focus is on drowning and knowing how to react.

In 2017, 88 people drowned in the Great Lakes. Half of those occurred in Lake Michigan.

Bob Pratt, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project member, said it is probably due to unguarded beaches.

“Unfortunately here in Michigan, we have very few guarded beaches. We spend 33 million dollars a year on our Pure Michigan campaign to draw people to our beaches and unfortunately we don't protect them while they are here,” said Bob Pratt.

Most Illinois and Indiana Beaches have a lifeguard program put in place.

Select beaches in the Southend of Lake Michigan have lifeguards.

“We urge everybody to swim near a lifeguard. The United States Saving Association has estimated that your chances of drowning at a guarded beach are 1 in 18 million,” said Pratt.

Pratt said most people involved in fatal drownings consider themselves to be good swimmers.

He said to leave it to the lifeguards to help someone in danger

“Another big problem we have are people who become "would be rescuers" and then become victims themselves. So if someone is struggling in the water don't swim out and try to save them. A trained lifeguard will take their rescue equipment with them,” said Pratt.

The Rescue Project wants to ensure lifeguards are trained properly.

Beach goers like Rich Osgood said he feels more secure after hearing about the training.

“I think it's a great thing they should be doing, especially with the beaches they are going to be getting more and more crowded as summer gets hotter so it's going to be good for the parents, good for the public and good for everybody.” Said Rich Osgood, beach goer.

Around 12 lifeguards from New Buffalo and St. Joe beaches will participate in the training.

It will focus on rescue techniques and the latest water CPR techniques.

Lifeguards will still be on duty at those beaches throughout the day.

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