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Students learn beach safety in Michigan City

Students learn about beach safety Monday. // WSBT 22 photo

We're two weeks from Memorial Day, and with this warmer weather many of you may be thinking of summer.

That's why there's a renewed warning about being careful if you swim in Lake Michigan. Some eighth graders were learning that lesson Monday afternoon.

They spent the day at Washington Park Beach in Michigan City learning how to save a friend from drowning. Experts say drowning is the number two cause of accidental death for people under 15. But those same experts say drowning is almost 100 percent preventable.

"Over there we did a relay race. My team won because I know how to run fast,” said eighth grader Makiya Butler.

It was a sunny day full of fun and games, but that relay race had an important lesson.

"Being a lifeguard, it's not just sitting around and getting a suntan. There's a lot of work involved,” said Bob Pratt, co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

He says life guarding is hard because drowning doesn't look like we expect it to.

“People think drowning is this big waving and yelling and carrying, on and that it happens for a long period of time. We wish the drowning looked like that because if it were, it wouldn't be the leading cause of accidental death in kids 1 to 4 and the second leading cause of accidental death in kids under 15,” Pratt said.

Pratt says someone who's drowning can't yell.

"If I'm in water that's over my head, and I lift my arms up to wave I'm going to sink deeper into the water, and I'm gasping for air and gagging on the water so I'm unable to yell,” Pratt said.

If you ever get into water over your head, Pratt says all you have to do is flip, float and follow.

"Flip over onto your back. Float to conserve your energy. Float to calm yourself down. Float to recognize there are no great white sharks in the lakes, there's no kraken, there's nothing that's going to pull you under. As long as you can stay afloat, you can breathe, you can stay alive,” Pratt said.

Then, follow the shoreline until you can safely swim in. Pratt says it's all about making sure a fun beach day doesn't turn into a bad day.

“We don't want to scare them away from the lakes. We simply want them to have a respect for the lakes so that they can come and be safer,” Pratt said.

Pratt says the most important part of the flip, float, follow method is the floating part.

If you can find something for yourself or a drowning person to hang onto you'll buy a lot of time. That's time for the fire department or coast guard to come rescue you.

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