GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A local nonprofit is hoping to receive funding through the Michigan legislature to prevent drownings. In the meantime, they want to remind swimmers of the critical steps if they start to struggle to swim.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project works to prevent drownings, especially on Lake Michigan, as it is the most deadly. Deaths on Lake Michigan typically account for roughly half of the drownings of all of the Great Lakes.
If you plan to visit the Big Lake this weekend, make sure to remind yourself and your children of the steps you need to keep in mind if you are struggling to stay above water. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reminds you to "flip, float and follow." It's a phrase used in the community, similar to the "stop, drop and roll" phrase most people are taught to do if they catch fire.
In this technique, you are asked to flip on your back and float so that your head is above water while giving you the chance to calm down. Then once you have composed yourself and are no longer panicking, follow a safe path out of the water. The steps are outlined in this video here, along with steps to take if you find yourself in a dangerous rip current.
"Our mission is to eradicate drownings in the Great Lakes. We believe that every drowning is almost 99 percent or 100 percent preventable. It's going to take several layers of protection to do that," said Co-Founder and Executive Director Dave Benjamin.
The gold standard for protection is lifeguards on duty. However, many Michigan beaches do not have lifeguards—a change the nonprofit is hoping to make across the lakeshore.
A bill recently passed the Senate that would also provide $25,000 to fund the nonprofit and its members to go into Michigan classrooms and teach water safety classes. The bill is expected to be heard and potentially pass in the fall.