Ann Arbor, Mich. – Before you head out to the water this summer you might want to download a new tool to ensure the time spent at the beach, hitting the waves and cruising the waters, is safe and fun.
To help protect swimmers from dangerous currents, the Great Lakes myBeachCast smartphone application (app) now features beach hazard statements issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). To download myBeachCast, go to beachcast.glin.net.
Beach hazard statements are issued for Great Lakes beaches by the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) when the potential for strong and dangerous rip currents and waves is medium or high. The currents generally do not pull a person under the water, but can pull a swimmer away from the shore.
Drownings in the Great Lakes are on the rise, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Since 2010, 274 people have drowned in Great Lakes waters (74 in 2010; 87 in 2011; and 113 in 2012). So far in 2013, 12 people have reportedly lost their lives in drowning accidents. NWS incident reports indicate that on Lake Michigan alone, there have been more than 300 current-related incidents since 2002 and over 60 percent of the rescue attempts have occurred near piers and other permanent structures where dangerous currents are often present.
Swimmers should look for green, yellow and red flags at beaches, which indicate the presence of dangerous currents. In addition, beachgoers can follow these tips to stay safe:
- Ask children to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket
- In an emergency, call 911 and communicate your exact location
- Bring something that floats if going in the water
- If caught in a dangerous current, float (don’t panic), alert someone that you’re in trouble by shouting or waving your arms, and then try to swim out of the current to shore
- Avoid swimming near piers, breakwalls and other structures
- If there are high winds or waves, stay on shore. When in doubt, don’t go out!