New water safety campaigns aim to prevent tragedy

Be Current Smart and Play it Safe in the Water help educate summer season swimmers about the importance of water safety.

A demonstration on how to throw a life ring to someone in need. | Michigan Sea Grant
A demonstration on how to throw a life ring to someone in need. | Michigan Sea Grant

With summer coming just around the corner, key efforts are being offered in Northwest Lower Michigan and along Great Lakes beaches to promote water swimming safety and encourage best practices and safety at beaches.  These opportunities are all about outreach and education -- reaching people, both visitors and local residents -- to prevent tragedy.

The Be Current Smart regional campaign, announced May 14, 2015, is an excellent program that includes a central website with animated messages and tips for parents (such as “when the waves are high, stay dry”), a video with interviews of U.S. Coast Guard, county sheriffs, park officials; social media components; and various news media resources.   New water safety and emergency rescue equipment is being deployed at hundreds of beaches in the Great Lakes region – working groups in six states have collaborated on specifying needs and distributing equipment such as U.S. Coast Guard-approved loaner life jackets for youth.

Staff and volunteers pose in front fo a safety ring and post. Photo credit: Michigan Sea Grant

Staff and volunteers pose in front fo a safety ring and post. | Michigan Sea Grant

The Northwest Michigan Water Safety Network’s Play It Safe In The Water announced on May 21, 2015 that it has deployed 39 rescue stations with a life ring, throw rope and instructional signage to beaches in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie counties to promote safety as the summer swimming season launches.  Led and facilitated by the Grand Traverse County Health Department, the network’s throw ring rescue stations represent a tangible implementation of a larger risk reduction plan for beaches.  Network members include Acme Township, American Red Cross, City of Traverse City, Concerned Citizen Advocates, Grand Traverse Area Hospitality Association, Grand Traverse Bay YMCA, Grand Traverse Emergency Management, Parks & Recreation, Sheriff’s Office Marine Division; Grand Traverse Metro Fire, Grand Traverse Bay Sail & Power Squadron, Leelanau Township, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, National Weather Service, Safe Kids North Shore, Traverse City Area Public Schools, TV 7&4, US Coast Guard – Air Station Traverse City, Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, Village of Lake Ann, and WTCM.

The NOAA funded Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program, housed inside the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes, supported the development of the Be Current Smart program’s new set of resources for Great Lakes water safety, including sign templates, publications, lessons, diagrams and more.  In addition the NOAA Coastal Storms Program is supporting these efforts as part of implementing the Dangerous Currents Best Practices project.

Please safely enjoy our Pure Michigan beaches this summer season by practicing steering clear of the pier, being an active water watcher, and heeding warning flags. 

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