John Proos: Take caution in the waterPublished 7:38pm Thursday, August 8, 2013
By Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph
Swimming is a fun, healthy activity, and our state has an abundance of swimming opportunities with more than 11,000 inland lakes, more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and a countless number of pools.
As summer heat has come, many Southwest Michigan families are heading to the lake or to the local swimming pool to cool down.
Unfortunately, going out on the lake comes with a certain amount of risk. There were 101 drownings on the Great Lakes last year, nearly half of them on Lake Michigan, and already this year 44 people have drowned in the Great Lakes.
As a former lifeguard, I strongly encourage everyone planning time on the water to take the necessary precautions to make it a safe trip, including taking swimming lessons, following safety guidelines and looking out for powerful rip currents.
The Great Lakes are some of our greatest treasures, but they also pose one of our greatest dangers. The lakes are not known for rip currents, but their currents can be deadly. Rip currents are often cited as the main cause of more than 25 percent of drownings in the Great Lakes.
The danger was recently made tragically clear in Southwest Michigan when a 15-year-old boy from the Chicago area died last weekend after he was rescued from Lake Michigan in New Buffalo. The young man was healthy, playing both basketball and football, yet died as a result of the lake’s dangerous rip currents.
These currents can defeat the strongest of swimmers, especially if you try to fight against the current. A good piece of advice is to know the survival strategy of “Flip, Float and Follow.” If you find yourself in danger of drowning or exhausted from a rip current, flip onto your back; float to keep your head above water; and follow the current to determine where it is flowing. Then, swim perpendicular to the flow.
Before heading out onto the lake or to a local pool, please remember that taking swimming lessons, using proper safety precautions and checking beach and water conditions for rip currents will help ensure a fun time and may even save your life.
Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien and Cass counties and most of Van Buren County.