Winner of the NDPA's 2012
      "Lifesaver of the Year" Award
Slide 1

In the News

Compilation of GLSRP TV Interviews

04/14/2017 – PR – Tinley Park Parents Win National Drowning Prevention Alliance “Lifesaver of the Year” Award for water safety advocacy after son’s Lake Michigan drowning – Announce Illinois Water Safety School Presentations May 8 – 12.

04/04/2017 – Stand Up Paddle the World Radio – Bob Pratt is serious about drowning, very serious.  As an EMT and Lifeguard, he knows that drowning is preventable, especially in the sport of Stand Up Paddle Boarding.  In fact, Bob believes the stand up paddle industry has a golden opportunity to introduce life preserver and leash safety early on in this exploding sport.  Bob Pratt and The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project are both very serious about water safety and drowning and give many lifesaving tips in the interview.

04/01/2017 – News Dispatch – Staying Safe in the Water – MICHIGAN CITY — Flip. Float. Follow. Those three words were heard throughout Michigan City Area Schools this past week with hopes that they will be remembered by area students as well as “Stop, drop and roll” has. “If you ask anyone anywhere in the United States, ‘What do you do if your clothes catch on fire?’ they will tell you, ‘Stop, drop and roll.’ But ask them ‘What do you do if you are drowning?’ and you’ll most often get silence and blank stares,” explained Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (

03/28/2017 – WSBT – Lake Michigan drownings up 84% in 2016; 19 Great Lakes Water Safety presentations in 9 Michigan City schools this week

03/27/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Lake Michigan was deadliest Great Lake last year – Water Safety School Presentations this week in Michigan City

03/26/2017 – PR – Great Lakes Drownings up 78% Last Year over 2015; Water safety presentations this week for Michigan City

03/20/2017 – UpNorthLive – Increase in drownings brings high need for water safety education

03/19/2017 – PR – 2016 Great Lakes Drownings increased 78% over 2015; Water Safety School Presentations this week in Benzie County, MI

03/16/2017 – Record Eagle – Great Lakes Surf Rescue teaches safety to water-loving residents – If “stop, drop and roll” can be accepted parts of childhood education, why not “flip, float and follow?” asks the founder and executive director of Great Lakes Surf Rescue.

03/06/2017 – MSU & MI Sea Grant – How can we stop drownings in the Great Lakes? Water safety conference to address ways to improve safety, education and more – Learn why drownings in the Great Lakes were up 78 percent last year and what you can do about it. Join the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium for compelling presentations by and networking opportunities with experts in water safety, risk communication, lifeguarding, beach safety, and hazard mitigation. Speakers from the Great Lakes Sea Grant NetworkNational Weather ServiceGreat Lakes Surf Rescue Project, universities, and many others will share the latest science, techniques, and technologies. Upon completion of the conference, attendees will leave with new strategies, insights, and know-how to save lives in their communities and the best ways to respond in the event of a tragedy.

Register by March 20 for the early-bird rate of $49 ($59 after). Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

11/04/2016 – Holland Sentinel – Local law enforcement and rescue agencies will be collaborating on a beach safety video that will be filmed Monday, Nov. 7, at Holland State Park.  Sgt. Cal Keuning of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said the video will be shown at local schools to raise awareness of what a red flag means at the beach. There are plans to make more videos depicting dangers related to lake and piers. In an email, Keuning quoted statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. In 2016, there have been 87 drownings in the Great Lakes, 43 of which have been in Lake Michigan.

10/01/2016 – The News Dispatch – Keeping safe in the lake — Dave Benjamin and Bob Pratt, co-founders of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, visited Barker Middle School on Thursday, sharing safety advice and education with all 392 students.

Mrs. Hamann said this group offered to make these presentations in Michigan City at no cost because the school is under bereavement given this summer’s incidents.

“Unfortunately, your community has seen some tragedy and we are heartbroken about that,” Pratt said to the students Thursday. “It is our hope to prevent that from happening in the future.”

In an interview Thursday, Kazmierczak agreed that the city needs more education regarding beach, water and pier safety, saying education is the best deterrent from future accidents happening in Lake Michigan, swimming pools and other bodies of water.

“The program they put on really touches on all the bases we are looking for in an educational program because, unfortunately, our drownings that we see in this area are in this age group. So our major focus right now is in the middle schools,” he said.

But Kazmierczak also would like to see adult programs in the city so adults can learn to recognize a drowning victim and know what to do in that situation.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project  (GLSRP) is currently seeking a grant that would provide Great Lakes Water Safety education for schools, Lake Michigan open water surf lifeguards, and First Responders in the Northwest Indiana Lake Michigan Coast.

10/01/2016 – The News Dispatch – “Testing the Waters” – MICHIGAN CITY — When Kevin Jones took his seventh grade students to Washington Park Beach for a field trip Friday, he said the goal was for them to learn more about the natural resource that is Lake Michigan.

In addition to litter clean-up, students this semester also learned about water quality testing from the La Porte County Health Department and got a better understanding of water safety from Great Lakes Surf Rescue.

Dave Benjamin and Bob Pratt, co-founders of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, were on hand to talk beach safety to the students – having just visited Barker Middle School the previous day for a similar talk.

Benjamin and Pratt spent about 45 minutes showing the students how to recognize a drowning, how to rescue a person from the water, and demonstrated how to use life rings – allowing the students to practice throwing the rings.

09/29/2016 – WSBT 22 – Why one school is pushing to get water safety in its regular curriculum – “How many fire drills do we do in Indiana,” asked Bob Pratt to a class of Barker Middle School students. According to the fire marshal, the answer is once a month.

Pratt is the co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project; a non-profit 501c3 advocating for water safety in the Great Lakes. Hew was invited to teach water safety classes all day at Barker on Thursday.

“How many water safety drills you do in school,” he asked the class.  The young teens looked on with blank stares. That’s because they’ve never had a water safety drill at school.  “Nothing kills more children than drowning accidentally,” said Pratt, “Unfortunately, by the time the person is in the drowning scenario, It’s really too late.”

He’s hoping Thursday’s lesson shows teens how important it is to remember these words: “They need to Flip. Float. And Follow,” he said.

During Thursday’s lessons, ArcelorMittal, a local steel company, was at Barker Middle School. Hamann tells me the company is considering sponsoring the grant that would allow the school to add water safety to its curriculum.

09/21/2016 – WTMJ 4 – Lake Michigan drownings up this year — 2016 is on track to have most drownings in years – So far this year, 79 people have drowned and four people are reported missing in the Great Lakes. Approximately half of those drownings occurred in in Lake Michigan.

2016 is on track to be the worst year for Great Lakes drowning statistics since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) began tracking drownings in 2010,” said Dave Benjamin, the GLSRP Executive Director. Since 2010, there have been 245 drownings in Lake Michigan and 517 in all five of the Great Lakes. 2012 was the worst year on record for both Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes.

09/15/2016 – Holland Sentinel – 2016 has been deadliest year in the Great Lakes in 4 years

09/09/2016 – Duluth Tribune – New stations on Park Point aimed at aiding beach rescues — On Friday, Duluth Fire Chief Dennis Edwards unveiled four life ring stations that have been installed at Park Point beach fronts.

This is one more layer in a system designed to inform and keep the public safe from what some people call a silent danger on the Great Lakes, and that’s rip currents,” he said.  Edwards noted that 73 drowning deaths have been reported in the Great Lakes so far this year, and last year 55 people perished in the same waters.

09/04/2016 – WIN 98.5 Your Country – Death toll from Great Lakes drownings at 73– two Holland teens were the 72nd and 73rd to drown on one of the five Great Lakes this summer season, and two of ten to have died on West Michigan beaches.

73 is a high number for the Great Lakes but not the highest in the last few years. Last year there were 55 deaths on the five big lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The 2016 total could still rise. Four swimmers remain in critical condition at this point, and the swimming season isn’t over.

Lake Michigan has earned a reputation as the deadliest of the Great Lakes, primarily because it has the largest population surrounding it and large popular beaches, and the best and the worst beach weather.  Long stretches of beach that run north and south, perpendicular to the westerly winds can create [Dangerous Currents] [rip tides and under tows are inaccurate terms] that can drag uninformed or unsuspecting swimmers to their deaths.

09/03/2016 – WSBT 22 – Death toll on Lake Michigan in 2016 up to 35 — ST. JOSEPH — There have been 35 deaths from drowning this year in Lake Michigan according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Labor Day weekend is the last major beach weekend of the summer, which means time for fun and friends, but it is also a busy time with extra dangers to be on the lookout for.

09/03/2016 – WSBT TV 22 – Some water safety tips for your Labor Day weekend — In all, 73 people have drowned in the Great Lakes this [year] — 35 of those in Lake Michigan. We’re talking about what makes this year so different, and we have some tips to keep your family safe on the water this Labor Day weekend.

09/02/2016 – The London Free Press – Port Stanley: Lake Erie can be a killer, going from serene to sinister in a flash — Even a small breeze can sweep her good nature away into a frenzy of whitecaps that crash and smash with a toddler’s fury.

And as summer’s heat gives way to an autumn forecast to be unseasonably warm, water safety experts say swimmers need to know this lake can morph quickly from tame to terrible.The Great Lakes are always wilderness and “(not) a theme park, regulated to keep us safe,” said Mark Mattson, head of Lake Ontario Waterkeepers. “They surprise us with their beauty but they’re not controllable.”

His group advocates for making the Great Lakes safer for swimming, drinking and fishing. It’s also creator of SwimGuide, an app and online site that provides real-time summaries of water quality at thousands of beaches in North America and beyond.Flip, float and follow:

If you find yourself too exhausted to make it back to shore, experts advise:

FLIP: flip on your back
FLOAT: Keep your head above water, calm yourself down and conserve energy
FOLLOW: Follow the safest course back to shore. Sometimes it will mean floating along with the current back to shore, sometimes it will mean swimming perpendicular (at a 90-degree angle) to a current to reach the shore. Don’t fight against the current’s pull.

09/02/2016 – WFGR – Lake Michigan Drownings Up This Summer, Rip Currents To Blame — Warmer water temperatures, combined with tricky winds has led to a tragic summer along the coast of Lake Michigan. So far 35 people have drowned in the Lake this summer, almost half of the totals for all of the Great Lakes combined.  73 people have drowned in all the Great Lakes combined according to statistics compiled by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Dave Benjamin of the GLSRP agrees. He told the Chicago Tribune Lake Michigan is like a basin, kicking up waves and currents much faster than most people realize.  “When you’re caught in a dangerous current, it’s confusing which way you’re being pulled. You can be pulled into a rip current, then pulled into a longshore current, then a structural current,” he said. “The currents are usually working in concert together.”  He added that seven foot waves easily deter even brave swimmers, but 3 to 4 foot swells don’t, and a lot of times they are just as dangerous.

09/02/2016 – Grand Haven Tribune – A tragic summer – It’s been a tragic summer for families around Lake Michigan whose loved ones drowned in numbers much higher than in recent years.  The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports that [33] people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far in 2016. This number does not count the two boys who lost their lives in Holland Wednesday night.  A total of [73] people had lost their lives, prior to Wednesday, in all of the Great Lakes this year. Most of the people who drowned were not wearing life jackets, officials reported.

Police said that two Holland boys, ages 17 and 14, lost their lives when they became caught in a structural current near Holland’s north pier and could not get out of the water. Two other teenage boys struggled, but were able to make it to shore.Great Lakes drownings

Here are Great Lakes drowning statistics since 2010, provided by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project:
2016 — 73
2015 — 55
2014 — 54
2013 — 67
2012 — 101
2011 — 87
2010 — 74

09/02/2016 – MLIVE – It’s been a particularly deadly year for drownings on the Great Lakes — 73 to date; 511 since 2010 — There were 55 deaths last year, according to Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a meager nonprofit with the big task of educating people about the dangers inherent to doing something most love — going to the beach.

“Most people don’t know drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death,” said Benjamin, who characterized the problem as an epidemic.  At the beach, “people think they don’t have to worry because they can swim.”

Benjamin said more than half of Americans, about 54 percent, actually don’t have the basic swimming abilities necessary to save their life in an emergency — being able to surface, tread water for a minute or more, spin 360 degrees, swim at least 25 yards and exit the water unassisted. When you factor in water temperature, waves, fatigue and dangerous currents, “that 54 percent ends up more like 10 percent,” he said.

The lack of awareness is a particular problem when it comes to dangerous nearshore currents, which can form at almost all sandy Great Lakes beaches. Benjamin said the only way to make a real dent in the drowning numbers is to promote better education in classrooms. He questions why schools can’t add water safety eduction to the slate of fire, earthquake and tornado drills.

As a whole, water safety education is under-funded, he said.  “If tourism campaigns like Pure Michigan are going to drive people to the beach, there should be a tax, earmark or whatever you want to call it to fund safety education,” he said. “If we can spend $30 million to bring more people to the water, then there should be a statewide agenda to protect people in the water.”

09/01/2016 – Detroit Free Press – 34 deaths on Lake Michigan this year — This year is shaping up to be one of the deadliest years in recent memory on Lake Michigan, and the Great Lakes in general.

09/01/2016 – WZZM – Thirty four deaths on Lake Michigan this year — This year is shaping up to be one of the deadliest years in recent memory on Lake Michigan, and the Great Lakes in general.  Including the presumed deaths of the two teenagers near Holland that occurred Wednesday night, there have been at least 34 deaths on Lake Michigan, so far this year. For all of the Great Lakes, the number is 71 for 2016. This number already higher than the totals in both 2014, 54, and in 2015, 55.  That’s according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a group dedicated to preventing water deaths. The Surf Rescue Project says 2012 was the deadliest recent year for drowning deaths on the lakes — when 101 people were killed.

08/31/2016 – Loyola Phoenix – Wind, Risky Behavior Lead to More Lake Drownings — High winds over Lake Michigan have caused the most drownings in the lake since 2012, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP).  The project, designed to educate people on water safety, recorded 32 total deaths this year in Lake Michigan, with 14 in Chicago. Last year, the GLSRP recorded 25 deaths in Lake Michigan; in 2012, 50 people died.Severe wind and weather causes the Great Lakes to be especially dangerous for swimmers, according to Brian Ohsowski, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability. While the lakes are not affected by the moon’s gravitational pull like the oceans are, Ohsowski explained, wind creates wave action when it pushes east.

08/29/2016 – WSW: Understanding and Preventing Drownings In The Great Lakes  — In part one of the series, Miller introduces us to Melissa Zirkle whose son drowned in Lake Erie in 2013. Now Zirkle works to educate people about dangers such as structural currents that can develop along piers.

In the second story, Miller explains how deadly currents develop in the Great Lakes. Even a strong swimmer can be in danger if they don’t know how to swim in rip currents or an undertow.

For part three, Miller visited Silver Beach in Saint Joseph. She says that data shows that Berrien County is one of the most dangerous places in the Great Lakes. Silver Beach is rare in that there are life guards stationed there. But she says many of the drownings occur near the pier, which presents its own dangers.

In the final segment of the four-part series, Miller tells us about efforts to prevent drownings. Some advocates want lifeguards throughout the Great Lakes. That doesn’t seem likely. Others are focusing on education.

08/23/2016 – Great Lakes Echo – Can drownings be eliminated on the Great Lakes?  Bob Pratt has an idea for the perfect solution: “Lifeguards at all of our public beaches. Combine that with water safety curriculum in our school system, and I think we would see very dramatic decrease in number of drownings on the Great Lakes.”

“Obviously a lifeguard would be ideal, but I understand the cost and everything associated with that too,” says Ryan Sincroft of Indiana.

None of the Great Lakes is well represented in terms of having lifeguards trained for rescues in dangerous currents. The United States Lifesaving Association, which certifies open water lifeguard agencies around the country, only has 33 Great Lakes chapters.

The association’s Tom Gill says that’s not enough. “Any beach that is publicized as a tourist destination, where they’re collecting revenue from people that are coming there – we feel there’s a responsibility to protect the people that are going to those beaches,” Gill says.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project tries to increase the safety of beachgoers by holding water safety trainings for people of all ages – even 3 and 4 year olds.

“We show pictures of animals and we learn from the animals,” says Executive Director Bob Pratt. “In the springtime you’ll see ducklings, and you’ll see a whole family of ducklings always staying close to their mother when there might be danger around.

”The Surf Rescue Project says everyday objects that float – things like footballs and plastic coolers – can be used to help people struggling against a dangerous current.

For someone caught in a rip current, the worst thing to do is fight it. The key is to flip over onto your back, float , and follow the current until a rescue team arrives. Pratt says “Flip, Float, Follow” is easy to understand and similar to another safety slogan.

“You grab any one of the elementary aged kids from the beach and ask them what do to if their clothing catches on fire, they will yell out, “Stop, drop and roll.” Ask them what to do if they get in trouble in the water, and you will hear mumbling and silence,” Pratt says.

Despite the safety measures, Pratt says the number of drownings in the Great Lakes is up compared to last year.  And 2016 bears a similarity, weather wise, to 2012, when the Surf Rescue Project tallied 101 deaths – many of them due to dangerous currents.

08/27/2016 – WGN Radio, 97.9 a.m. – “Outside the Loop” show (OTL) #515: Back taxes for Chicago music venues?, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Visiting Studio Gang’s rooftop garden – the interview starts about 21:25 – Mike Stephen chats with Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project executive director Dave Benjamin about how his organization is working to prevent drownings in Lake Michigan through education.

08/27/2016 – Southland TV – Renee Tabor of Southland TV with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project

08/24/2016 – NPR – Great Lakes Waters Take A Savage Toll Of Swimmers – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 69 people have died in those waters so far this year, already surpassing the 55 total deaths from 2015.

There are no lifeguards at any of Michigan’s state parks — Warren Dunes and most other Great Lakes beaches rely on signs. Michigan is working to make those easier to read, but Bob Pratt, executive director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, says it’s difficult to know if the signs keep visitors any safer.

“The patrons that are going to stop and read a warning sign are the patrons that are likely to bring a life jacket to the beach, are likely to already understand about some of the dangers,” Pratt says. “It’s kind of like preaching to the choir.”

His group holds water safety courses all across the Great Lakes, showing kayakers and others how to use everyday objects that float — things like footballs and plastic coolers — to help people struggling against a current. The Coast Guard provides similar courses, sending teams to schools across the region.

And while advocating safe swimming on the Great Lakes remains a challenge, officials at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, United States Lifesaving Association and other organizations continue to push for lifeguards at every beach

08/19/2016 – WBEZ 91.5 FM – Lake Drownings Up: Heat To Blame? – the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, which estimates that 29 people have drowned so far this year in the Lake. Five more people are in critical condition. The peak was in 2012, when 50 people drowned in Lake Michigan.

08/18/2016 – DNA Info – Chicago’s Hot Summer Leads To Surge In Lake Michigan Drownings, Experts Say – So far this year, Lake Michigan has seen 29 recorded drownings, four more than in all of 2015, according to Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that collects drowning statistics and promotes water safety awareness. Of the 29 drownings, at least 13 happened in Chicago, according to the data.  This year’s tally is the highest number of drownings in Lake Michigan since 2012, which saw a total of 50. The lake saw 24 drownings in both 2013 and 2014, 44 in 2011 and 38 in 2010, according to the nonprofit.  Experts point to this summer’s dry, hot weather, the formation of the lake and its waves, hazardous beach conditions like rip tides and a lack of water safety education as reasons for the surge in drownings.

08/17/2016 – The Chicagoist – Man Dies After Jumping Into Lake Michigan At Diversey Harbor Tuesday – The death is the latest in a year when Lake Michigan has seen 28 drownings so far, according to non-profit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, and a number of bodies washing up on its shores. The lake is the deadliest of its fellow Great Lakes by far: The number of Lake Michigan drownings and water rescues is almost as much as the other four Great Lakes combined since 2010.

08/16/2016 – Idea Stream – Drowning Series Part 1: Ohio Mother Mourns Son Taken by Lake Erie Current in 2013 – “I set a new goal and that was to educate as many people as I could about water safety and rip currents and structural currents and Lake Erie in general,” Zirkle says. Now she’s a board member of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, which teaches water safety classes and trains lifeguards.  “There’s so many things that I wish I had known before Jermaine’s accident,” she says. “It could have been prevented.”

08/15/2016 – Petoskey News-Review – Lake Michigan drownings increase while certain recreation also increases – According to data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been 25 Lake Michigan drownings this year as of Aug. 8 compared to 25 total for the entire year in 2015.

08/11/2016 – PR – Drownings surge in Great Lakes – Approaching 500 since 2010; 56 to date in 2016 – What you don’t know about drowning!

08/11/2016 – South Bend Tribune – Michigan City drownings add to deadly year for Lake Michigan

08/10/2016 – NBC 5 Chicago – 2016 Deadly year on Lake Michigan

07/29/2016 – Northwest Indiana Times – NWS Forecasts Dangerous currents – prompts warning to stay out of Lake Michigan – The waves will be life-threatening, and beachgoers should stay out of the water, forecasters said. The nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project recommends people at risk of drowning should follow the “flip, float, follow” method. Swimmers should flip onto their backs; float to keep their head above water, avoid panic and conserve energy; and follow the current to assess which way it’s heading and swim perpendicular to the flow. Those who are too tired to swim while floating should signal for help.

07/26/2016 – Chicago Tribune – The playground at Tinley Park’s Pottawattomie Park was dedicated to Matthew Kocher – On Monday, dozens of friends, family members and other supporters gathered at the park, 9128 178th St., as the Tinley Park-Park District named the playground in Kocher’s memory.  John Kocher, Matt’s dad, said the playground dedication was the “happiest day in the past three years” for himself and his wife, Kathy. “May the spirit of Matt Kocher live always in all who gather here,” said Rev. William Gubbins, a retired priest at St. Elizabeth Seton in Orland Hills, where the Kocher family worships.

07/26/2016 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the group’s data point to Lake Michigan having had nearly as many drownings and water rescues as the four other Great Lakes combined since 2010.  Lake Michigan has had about 220 drownings since 2010. Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario and Lake Superior combined for about 250 drowning during the same time period.  The group bases its numbers on confirmed current-related drownings from reports from the U.S. Coast Guard, first responders and news outlets.

07/16/2016 – WOOD TV 8 – Nonprofit’s report finds increase in Lake Michigan drownings — CHICAGO (AP) — A water safety nonprofit group has found that the number of drownings has increased so far this year on Lake Michigan.  The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project report shows 20 recorded drownings on Lake Michigan so far in 2016. That’s compared to 23 for all of 2015.

07/15/2016 – Chicago Tribune – Drowning reports show Lake Michigan is the deadliest Great Lake – Drownings in Lake Michigan have surged so far this year with at least 20 recorded, compared with 23 for all of 2015, according to data compiled by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The nonprofit, which aims to promote water safety awareness, bases its drowning tabulations on reports from the U.S. Coast Guard, first responders and news outlets, and includes some unconfirmed drownings and another one.”

07/14/2016 – Post Tribune – Rutter: Lake Michigan reaffirms it’s a relentless, remorseless killer – Since 2010, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has educated, cajoled, and contributed in every way volunteers can. It even argues against stigmatizing victims and their relatives for fatal choices.  The Project has performed 292 safety presentations in seven states. For example, they teach groups how to designate “swim watchers” who are always observing members of their group in the water. They teach how to float and not fight rip tides. Surviving can be a skill.

07/14/2016 – Post Tribune – Drownings a reminder of lake safety lessons – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been at least 40 drownings in the Great Lakes through July 10 this year [plus 3 more and 2 in Critical Condition at last report].

The problem, said David Benjamin, the project’s executive director and co-founder, is a complete lack of education on how serious drowning is and what swimmers should do if they find themselves in dangerous conditions.  “Looking at the big picture of drowning, even the World Health Organization says drowning continues to be a neglected health issue,” he said. “There’s been a failure to address drowning in the same way we would fire safety or school shooter safety.”

And while many people know how to swim, Benjamin said, fewer know how to survive if something goes wrong. “It isn’t rocket science. It is bullet point safety information that isn’t being provided to the public. It’s knowing how to swim versus knowing how to survive,” he said

07/11/2016 – WHTC – Water Safety with Bob Pratt of GLSRP July 11 – Bob Pratt, Executive Director of Education with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, joined Gary Stevens & Mary Ellen Murphy to talk about safety on Lake Michigan in light of two recent drownings during a live conversation on “WHTC Morning News” on July 11, 2016.

07/11/2016 – New York Daily News – Two Indiana men drown while rescuing child in Lake Michigan – Twenty people have drowned in Lake Michigan this year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

07/10/2016 – ABC 7 Chicago – 2 Men drown near Gary Beach while saving child – “Sadly, it’s not unusual for rescuers to become drowning victims themselves. If you’re going to enter the water to make a rescue, take something with you that floats, because you may very well need it yourself,” Benjamin said.  So far this year, 20 people have drowned in Lake Michigan. In 2012, a teenager drowned in Lake Michigan during the Gary Air Show during similar water conditions.

07/10/2016 – CBS Chicago – Three Drown In Lake Michigan This Weekend – Lake Michigan saw its 20th drowning so far this year with two men in Gary and one man in Grand Haven dying in the water on Saturday.

07/10/2016 – MLIVE – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has ramped up its plea: If you are going out onto one of the Great Lakes, wear a life preserver.  “These things are so heartbreaking because they are so preventable,” said Bob Pratt, director of education for Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Of 478 drownings the group has tracked since 2010, only four were wearing life jackets, Pratt said.  “If you have a life jacket on, your chances of drowning in one of the Great Lakes is almost zero, it’s less than 1 percent,” Pratt said.

07/10/2016 – WHTC – Safety Group Bemoans Another Lake Michigan Drowning – Officials of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project say that there have been 40 drownings throughout the Great Lakes this year, and 478 have been tracked by the group since 2010. Half of the 40 in 2016 have been in Lake Michigan. The group, in a Saturday Facebook posting, said, “PLEASE put your kids in lifejackets. Stay within your ability. Respect the power of the Lakes!”

This group had made a presentation during the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium Conference at Grand Haven and Cleveland in April.

07/09/2016 – Chicago Tribune – Two people drowned and three others were injured Saturday while swimming in Lake Michigan at Wells Street Beach in Gary while area beaches were under a beach hazard warning, officials said.  The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project issued a “dangerous currents alert,” advising that the north to northwest winds could produce waves of two to six feet.

“Winds equal waves and waves equal dangerous currents on the Great Lakes,” project Executive Dave Benjamin said in an online message about the conditions in Lake Michigan. “We can expect to see a combination of rip currents, longshore currents, and structural currents at all beaches tomorrow.  The surf conditions that are forecasted for Saturday are eerily similar to the 2012 Gary Air Show surf forecast when 15-year-old Cory McFry drowned,” Benjamin said.

07/08/2016 – PR – ALERT: Dangerous Currents Forecasted for Saturday’s Gary Air Show – Similar conditions resulted in 2012 drowning – 475 Great Lakes drownings since 2010; 46% of them in Lake Michigan – “The surf conditions that are forecasted for Saturday are eerily similar to the 2012 Gary Air Show surf forecast when fifteen year old Cory McFry drowned,” Benjamin added.  McFry was playing in the waters of Lake Michigan with friends when he was swept from a sandbar into water over his head.

07/05/2016 – The Times Herald – Authorities urge caution after 2 drown in 2 days –

A 42-year-old Ann Arbor man died after his kayak took on water near Turnip Rock in Huron County Sunday. Christopher Peterson had been kayaking with his wife and two sons, ages 5 and 8. And a 6-year-old boy died after being found in a Kalamazoo County lake Sunday.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, which tracks drownings in the Great Lakes, said 473 people have drowned since 2010 in the Great Lakes.  Dave Benjamin, the organization’s executive director of public relations and project management, said people need to be aware of just how dangerous water can be.

“Most people do not know drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental deaths in the nation and the world,” he said, adding 80 percent of drowning victims are male. Benjamin said it is believed males are more susceptible to drowning because they overestimate their abilities, take risks and give in to peer pressure more readily than females.  “Those three factors are deadly around water,” he said.

Benjamin said people also need to know drowning does not look like how it is portrayed in movies.  “It’s silent and it’s swift,” he said.  The natural response people have when beginning to drown is to stay vertical in the water, facing shore, with their mouth barely above the water. Their head is tilted back, they’re hyperventilating, gasping for air or choking on water.  Benjamin said they can’t yell for help, and they don’t raise their hands above water to wave for assistance because then they’ll submerge.

The organization advocates drowning victims flip, float and follow — flip onto your back, float to conserve energy and catch your breath and calm down, and follow the safest path out of the water.

Benjamin said people should not try to rescue drowning victims, as they often become victims themselves. He said they should call 911 and throw any object that floats, even a football or volleyball, to the person struggling. “Your fun family day can turn tragic easily,” he said.

07/01/2016 – NBC 5 – Swim Warning In Effect Along Chicago Beaches Friday – Flip, Float, and Follow drowning survival technique.

07/01/2016 – WWMT TV – National Weather Service issues beach hazard statement wrapping Lake Michigan – “Even Michael Phelps would not be able to swim in these kind of conditions,” said Bob Pratt, Executive Director for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Pratt wants risk-takers to remember three words: Flip, float, and follow. “Flip over onto your back. Float to calm yourself down. Float to conserve your energy. Float to see whether you’re caught in a current. And if you are, then follow a path that is perpendicular to the current,” he said.

Pratt says the signs of a drowning are not always obvious. But he also encourages anyone on the sidelines of a potential drowning to have the right equipment before attempting a rescue. “You want to look for anything that’s going to float, like a volleyball or even a football,” he said. High waves and strong rip currents can tire even the strongest of swimmers

07/01/2016 – WZZM 13 – Dangerous currents warning issued for Fourth of July weekend, Flip, Float, and Follow Drowning Survival Strategy

06/30/2016Tower Magazine – How To Rescue A Drowning Swimmer (Signs of Drowning Illustration)

06/30/2016 – WSBT 22 –SPECIAL REPORT: In over your Head – Pool Safety

06/30/2016 – PR – Dangerous Currents Advisory – 473 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010.

06/29/2016 – WSBT Promo – In Over Your Head

06/17/2016 – ABC 7 – Great Lakes Could See Record Number of Drownings this Year – CHICAGO (WLS) – Summer begins Monday, but already this year, 25 people have drowned in the Great Lakes. Three bodies were pulled out of Lake Michigan last weekend alone.

06/16/2016 – The Weather Channel on Facebook Live – Drowning Survival Strategy: Flip, Float, and Follow; Drownings in the Great Lakes are ‘a neglected public health issue.’ One woman shares her story of loss and how quickly a drowning can happen. #GLSRP #watersafetyschoolcurriculum #becauseisaidiwould #StopDrowning #notonemore #drowning #WHOdrowning #CDCdrowning #NDPA

06/13/2016 UP Matters Storm – Team 3 – Staying safe on the lake with water safety tips – Many reported drowning cases occur when there isn’t a lifeguard on duty. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, since 2010, there has been a total of 448 reported drownings in the Great Lakes.

06/13/2016 – The Inquisitr – Lake Superior Drowning: Two Dead In Horrific Accident Off Little Presque Isle – Despite the appearance of tranquil waters in photographs of Great Lakes Beaches, the Great Lakes can be deadly. Since 2010, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 448 people had drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010 as of May 9 (that figure is now up to 450 due to the weekend Lake Superior drownings). Already in 2016, 14 people have drowned in the Great Lakes; this weekend’s Little Presque Isle drownings are the only drownings, so far, in Lake Superior. Six people have drowned this year in Lake Michigan, two in Lake Huron, two in Lake Erie, and two in Lake Ontario.

06/09/2016 – Cleveland 19 News – An Ashtabula mom, Melissa Zirkle, has made it her life mission to keep children safe on the lake after her son died in a Lake Erie drowning accident.

06/08/2016 – WSBT 22 – How do you prevent drowning? Knowing the signs; Michigan City, IN Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-service Training and First Responder Training

06/07/2016 – CBS 2 – With Swim Season Starting, Firefighters Demonstrate Lake Rescues and Deputy Fire Chief Ron Dorneker, advocates “FLIP, FLOAT, and FOLLOW” – For some wisdom about the dangers of rip currents… “You can’t swim against it. That current’s too strong. Flip, float, and follow,” Deputy Chief Ron Dorneker  said. “If you get caught in one of these rip currents, and you can’t swim in, flip on your back and float. Follow it for a little while, and then swim in to shore.”

06/06/2016 – Chicago Post-Tribune – Water safety training comes to Lake Michigan; Whiting, IN Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-service Training and First Responder Training

06/06/2016 – Northwest Indiana Times – Drowning: The killer most people don’t think about; Whiting, IN Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-service Training and First Responder Training

05/28/2016 – WSBT 22 – Stay safe on Lake Michigan this summer – The summer swim season is right around the corner, so we asked Dave Benjamin — executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project — to join us in the studio. It’s an organization committed to ending drowning on the Great Lakes. He has some tips to keep you safe.

05/26/2016 – Door County Pulse – Commentary: Be Cautious on Lake Michigan during Swimming Season – Flip, Float, and Follow

05/24/2016 – WZZM 13 – Water safety expert teaches state, local officials ‘drowning doesn’t look like drowning’ – “People don’t understand what drowning really looks like,” said Bob Pratt, director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “We can just get the word out that drowning doesn’t look like drowning; drowning is very different than the way Hollywood portrays it,” said Pratt.

“People think that there’s all kinds of waving and yelling and carrying on, when in fact the victim is pushing down on the water desperately attempting to keep their head above the water,” said Pratt.

Pratt says people drowning should flip, float, and follow. “Follow the safest course back,” said Pratt.

05/20/2016 – Chicago Parent Magazine – Summer safety tips for Chicago families – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reminds parents that drowning doesn’t look like it’s portrayed on TV or in the movies. There is no waving or yelling. Downing victims often look like they are bobbing in the water and they cannot yell because they are gasping for air.

In Lake Michigan, keep your eyes out for currents. Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says that whenever there are waves, there is a possibility of dangerous currents. It’s best to keep kids at arm’s length or put them in life jackets whenever there are waves. In addition, teach kids never to fight against the current.

In boats, everyone – including parents – should wear a lifejacket. Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says since 2010 there have been 447 fatal drownings on the Great Lakes and only four were wearing lifejackets.

05/20/2016 – WLNS 6 – Water Safety: Flip, float and follow – Do you know what to do if a current sweeps you out into the middle of a Great Lake?

05/17/2016 – WWMT – Flip, float, follow: surviving dangerous currents – FLIP over onto your back. FLOAT to keep your head above water, conserve your energy, and calm yourself down from fear and panic. FOLLOW the safest path out of the water. NOTE each drowning situation is going to be unique and Following the safest path out of the water may be hard to determine.  Continue Floating until Rescue Arrives.

05/17/2016 – WLNS 6 – Water Safety: What pool owners should know before taking a dip in their swimming pool – “Recent studies say that especially adolescent males are very poor at judging their swimming ability,” said Great Lakes Surf & Rescue Project Executive Director Bob Pratt.

But it’s not because of the reason you would think. “Males overestimate their ability, not just in swimming but in most things,” Pratt mentioned. Often times in pools especially when crowded, drowning is almost disguised and often not seen. “Once a victim goes underwater, in many cases they’re invisible,” said Pratt.

05/16/2016 – WLNS 6 – Water Safety Week – Kids learn to swim before they can walk.  Bob Pratt is the director of education for Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. He says drowning happens quicker than you think.”They portray drowning as this big, loud, long affair where there is waving and yelling. where there is three or four or five minutes where the person is in distress, when in actuality drowning happens almost suddenly, it happens very, very quickly…”

“What happens when you panic is your heart beats faster, you start breathing faster and as you’re hyperventilating you’re actually letting out more air then you’re taking in which makes you sink more. which is very unfortunate in a drowning situation because flotation is the key. if you relax and take a nice deep breath in, your chances of floating are much much greater.”

05/12/2016 – Oakland Press – The time for a Water Safety School Curriculum is NOW! – The coalition of groups working together to bring their mission to Oakland County include the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Oakland County Health Division, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Chapter of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and the Goldfish Swim School.

Members of the organizations said it is important to keep kids safe and prevent tragedies by helping parents to understand the importance of water safety education.  Moving forward, their mission is to bring the education to all school curriculum’s in the county.

05/05/2016 – Chicago Tribune – Tinley playground dedicated to Matt Kocher

05/02/2016Pacific Standard Magazine – A Brief History of Drowning – Drowning has been a common cause of death since the Middle Ages. How do we prevent it when humans were likely never meant to swim?

05/01/2016 – PR – Two Illinois nonprofits receive national awards – By working together advocating water safety in schools – the GLSRP and the Matthew Kocher Foundation both won the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s “NDPA Community Lifesaver” awards and ‘Because I said I would’ “Supporter of the Year” awards.  The two nonprofits have been working together since 2014 to advocate water safety in schools and to the public.

05/01/2016 – Star Beacon – Local mom raises awareness, wins award after son’s drowning

04/28/2016 – Backpacker Magazine – 5 Wilderness Myths you should not believe – Myth: Lakes do not have currents.

Reality: Large bodies of freshwater like the Great Lakes are like mini oceans, subject to many of the same flows and currents, some of which can send water—and any swimmers in it—rushing away from shore. A staggering 446 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Projects, and those large bodies of freshwater can experience rip currents, just like the ocean. But even smaller lakes experience currents sometimes.

Wind is the biggest factor in creating currents on lakes, pushing surface water around to create waves and seiches—standing waves within an enclosed body of water. (Picture water sloshing around in a bathtub, from one side to the other. That’s the basic idea of a seiche.)  Even without wind, however, the water within a lake is consistently flowing because of density changes caused by temperature. When the sun heats up the surface water in a shallow section of the lake, the water becomes less dense there than at deeper spots, since deep water distributes the energy over a wider area. The resulting change in pressure pushes water away from the shoreline, and colder, deeper stuff rises up to replace it.

04/22/2016 – Grand Haven Tribune – Expo promotes beach safety

04/22/2016 – WZZM 13 – GRAND HAVEN, MI – Water safety conference aims to prevent Great Lakes drownings

04/21/2016 – PR – Parents to speak about their sons drownings Friday at Water Safety Conference – John Kocher and his wife Kathy, and its fellow water safety advocate, Vicki Cech, will be attending and speaking at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium’s conference, Friday, April 22, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Grand Haven Community Center, 421 Columbus Avenue, Grand Haven, MI.

04/19/2016 – News Net 5 – Kayaker Pulled from Lake Erie – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, eight people have been rescued in Lake Erie since Saturday. Seven people were rescued Saturday when a distress call came in from a boat with two downed engines. The boat was taking on water about a mile northeast of Mouse Island. The Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium is hosting a Great Lakes Water Safety Conference Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, located at 28728 Wolf Road in Bay Village.

04/19/2016 – PR – 8 rescued in Lake Erie since Saturday – Great Lakes Water Safety Conference today to address water safety & survival- Eight people were rescued in Lake Erie since Saturday in two separate incidents.  One kayaker was rescued about 100 yards offshore near Lake Avenue at Douglas Drive in Bay Village.

04/18/2016 – PR – OHIO MOM TO SPEAK ABOUT SON’S DROWNING – Melissa Zirkle, will be making her first speaking engagement at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium’s Conference, Tuesday, April 19, at the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, 28728 Wolf Road, Bay Village, OH. Zirkle lost her son, Jermaine, 13, in a 2013 Lake Erie drowning accident.  Zirkle will recall the events of that unfortunate day – a story that every parent should hear.

04/07/2016 – PR – Aurora teen was the 443 Great Lakes drowning since 2010 (446 total) It’s time for America to addresses the big picture of drowning; this neglected public health issue

03/29/2016 – MLIVE – Hugh Jackman’s rescue of son, others from rip current a warning for Great Lakes swimmers – On the heels of actor Hugh Jackman’s heroic rescue of swimmers in Australia, one Michigan organization will highlight the dangers of waves and currents in the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium is hosting a water safety conference at the Grand Haven Community Center, 421 Columbus Ave., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. p.m. April 22.  The conference, which will feature research scientists, first responders and other field experts, will educate the public on how to avoid, escape and safely save others from rip currents.

01/14/2016 – PR – 2015 Great Lakes Drowning Statistics Released as Illinois Parents Nominated for Lifesaver of the Year for advocating water safety in schools

01/06/2015 – Tinley Park Patch – Tinley Park Couple Nominated for Lifesaver of the Year – For advocating water safety through Matthew Kocher Foundation, John and Kathy Kocher among those in running for national recognition.

01/06/2016 – Kathy & John Kocher advocating water safety – they have spoken to the media advocating water safety on at least 23 occasions,


12/19/2015 – PR – Tinley Park Couple Nominated for Lifesaver of the Year for advocating water safety through Matthew Kocher Foundation

10/04/2015 – DePaulia University Student Newspaper – Thriving Chicago surf culture skirts the law

08/31/2015 – Herald Palladium – Lifeguard skills tested – Competition aims to promote beach safety

08/19/2015 – Interlochen Public Radio – “When we look at safety measures in America in schools, they have fire drills, tornado drills, school shooter drills,” says Benjamin. “And unfortunately, more school age children are going to die drowning each year than in fires, tornadoes, school shooters, and earthquakes combined the United States. So why don’t we have a water safety school curriculum?”

Swim lessons alone won’t stop the problem.

“It greatly increases the possibility of a person surviving a drowning accident,” Benjamin says, “but … it doesn’t give them immunity from drowning. So the thing is causing a shift from not just knowing how to swim, but knowing how to survive a drowning situation.”

The GLSRP wants all schools to teach students how to behave in drowning situations and how to assess risks in the water. And Traverse City public schools are providing something like that now for their 9th graders at Easling Pool.

08/14/2015 – WBEZ 91.5 RADIO – Water safety tips to keep in mind as summer winds down

08/14/2015 – Grand Haven Tribune – Respecting the lake’s power & water safety tips.

08/07/2015 – WGN TV “Chicago’s Very Own” – Man Makes Water Safety Education His Life’s Passion

08/06/2015 – Tinley Park Patch – Golf Outing, Dinner to Honor Memory of Drowning Victim from Tinley Park.  Matthew Kocher died in July 2013. His parents have become advocates of water safety. The Aug. 7 event will raise funds in his honor.

08/06/2015 – PR – In memory of Lake Michigan drowning victim – Golf outing and dinner – Raising money for water safety, scholarship, and community service – 412 Great Lakes drownings since 2010

08/05/2015 – WGN 9 – Promo for GLSRP Executive Director featured for “Chicago’s Very Own Segment” this Friday evening, 9 p.m. newscast.

08/04/2015 – The Detroit News – Weekend drowning deaths are wake-up call – Heads up for lake lovers: even experienced swimmers risk drowning

08/04/2015 – WSBT 22 – Ed Russo – Drownings spike in Lake Michigan over past three weeks – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Lake Michigan saw 24 drownings in 2014. Many of them occurred in the late summer months. This year, Lake Michigan has seen 11 drownings — 8 of which have occurred since July 11th. Most of them in the Chicago area.

It’s very important to understand that drownings can happen to anyone, even to the strongest swimmers.

“The true question is what’s your swimming endurance? Because a drowning situation is like a marathon, I know how to run but I know I couldn’t run a marathon right now, and if you know how to swim, are you prepared to swim a marathon if you get in a drowning situation?  And unfortunately the drowning statistics for the great lakes as well as inland lakes is no.”

08/04/2015 – Chicago Tribune – Post Tribune – Warning issued for lake safety – Currents, waves present risk to lake swimmers

08/03/2015 – PR – Chase Froese is the 410th person to drown in Great Lakes as two more submerge; Petition for water safety school curriculum to break the Viscous Cycle of the Drowning Epidemic 

08/03/2015 – PR – TV talk show panelist ready to go for a water safety episode! To overcome drowning – the neglected public health issue; Over 412 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010

08/01/2015 – CBS Chicago – Coast Guard Searching For Suburban Woman Who Went Missing In Lake Michigan

08/01/2015 – PR – 409 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010 plus 1 missing “Swim at your own risk” But do you really know the risks? Petition for a National Water Safety School Curriculum

07/31/2015 – Natural Awakenings Magazine – Swimming in Nature – Splashing Safely in Lakes and Oceans

07/30/2015 – Kenosha News – LIFE RINGS SAVE LIVES – Circles of life — Group hopes to set up kiosk with water rescue rings on Kenosha’s North Pier – Water safety organizations always recommend lifesaving devices on piers and in other areas where large numbers of people congregate by the water.

“First off, life rings really do save lives. It’s irresponsible to have that [pier] access to water without having life-saving devices there. A life ring is one of the easiest ways to save a drowning victim, especially off a pier. We don’t advocate pier jumping, but we know people will do it. So having the equipment there is great.”

There have been communities that have avoided having safety equipment in public areas because of liability concerns. In Michigan, his [many] organization pushed for legislation that would shelter municipalities and organizations from increased liability related to rescue equipment on site.

07/25/2015 – ABC 7 Chicago – Family Mourning teen who drowned at 31st St. Beach – It was meant to be a fun family day out at the beach to celebrate a sibling’s birthday. Instead, a family is now mourning the loss of 17-year-old Eddie Horns, who drowned Friday night at 31st Street Beach.

07/25/2015 – Up North Live – More than 400 drowning incidents recorded in Great Lakes since 2010

07/25/2015 – PR – Great Lakes Drownings Surpass 400 since 2010 – Drowning = a nationwide epidemic.

07/16/2015 – 9 & 10 News – Jamie Racklyeft, GLSRP Board Member shares his drowning survival story. Thanks for all of your hard work!

07/15/2015 – Fox 21 – Great Lakes Rescue Class Held at Park Point – Students Learned How to Recognize Swimmer in Distress

07/08/2015 – WBEZ Radio – Just Another Bull Shark Story – Just in time for Shark Week!


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