Deployment of water safety equipment in the Great Lakes has saved lives

Multi-year project has placed rescue and safety kits at more than 50 Great Lakes beaches.

Water Rescue Station is shown at Northern Lake Michigan. Photo: Ron Kinnunen – Michigan Sea Grant
Water Rescue Station is shown at Northern Lake Michigan. Photo: Ron Kinnunen – Michigan Sea Grant

Recently, the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium brought together water safety organizations and advocates committed to ending drowning in the Great Lakes through education, collaboration, and action at their annual conference in Sheboygan, Wis. Michigan Sea Grant presented on beach safety equipment distribution and use on high risk beaches in the Great Lakes region. The beach safety equipment was secured through a NOAA Coastal Storms Program grant.

In 2014 Michigan Sea Grant working with the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network conducted a beach equipment needs assessment, chose equipment to go in beach safety kits, and developed an equipment survey. In 2015 beach safety equipment was distributed throughout the Great Lakes region, a follow-up survey was completed, a social media messaging campaign was implemented, and assistance was provided with the formation of the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium. Additional beach safety equipment was distributed in 2016 and emergency instructional placards were developed and distributed for use on rescue stations.

Water safety equipment provided to these high risk dangerous currents Great Lakes coastal communities included youth and adult life vests, rescue throw-ring buoys and throw bags, and rescue boards and tubes. These products were specified based on safety ratings, recommendations by the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Life Saving
Association,
and first responders in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Deployment of this water safety equipment occurred at over 50 Great Lakes beaches.

Some of the 2015 Beach Safety Equipment Survey responses included:

“Michigan Sea Grant supported the City of Evanston's, Illinois efforts to save 26 swimmers during the 2015 beach season."

"Life-ring and throw bag were instrumental in saving the life of a 30 year old male. He jumped into Lake Michigan from the big pier in Whiting Park, Illinois. He became distressed and went into an active drowning phase. Had first responders not been armed with the life-ring and throw bag, we more than likely would have had a submerged recovery.”

The survey results showed the ranked importance of different types of water safety equipment with the rescue throw rings and bags being the most important, followed by youth and adult life jackets. There was overwhelming satisfaction with most of the equipment distributed to these high risk coastal communities. The majority of the survey respondents indicated the water safety equipment has made their beaches safer.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.


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