MUSKEGON, Mich. (June 24, 2014) — In Muskegon County alone there have been four drowning incidents so far this year, the majority of them on Lake Michigan.
It’s a similar story for lakeshore communities all across West Michigan and it’s exactly why one group in Muskegon is taking action to educate the public on the risks and realties of the Great Lakes.
It’s called the Muskegon Community Water Safety Task Force. Holly Alway, co-chair of the task force and coordinator with Safe Kids West Michigan at Mercy Health, says over the years the group dissolved but after last year’s drownings they felt it was the right time to get back together and attack the issues.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue project, drowning’s are up 50 percent compared to this time last year and we have event reached the peak of summer.
“If we’re already 50 percent up in terms of drowning incidents this year what does the summer hold? So our group really wants to get in front of this and put that water safety message out, not just to the residents of the coastal communities but also to visitors,” said Always.
Just over the weekend the task force hosted a Great Lakes beach safety class where they trained 70 people on the hazards of the Great Lakes, encouraging those people to come out and act as beach ambassadors spreading the word about safety.
Alway says they also did a survey of the safety equipment on the beach, to make sure it’s working properly and is being maintained.
She says they are even hoping to expand the pool school program through the YMCA that’s been around for two decades and serves more than a thousand students every year.
“We’d love to see a booster class we reach them in third grade and come back to them in middle school and make sure we’re re-iterating the water safety lessons because we know high-schoolers are really at risk.”
Always says it’s not about deterring people away from the beaches but just encouraging them to be aware and have a plan in case something happens.
She says you can expect more from the task force in the future.