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

In the News

Compilation of GLSRP TV Interviews

Updated 07/14/2018 1:34 p.m.


07/12/2018 – ABC Channel 10/13 – Under Water: Searching for Air Pt.

07/12/2018 – NBC – More Lifeguards, Signage Called for After Drowning Traged

07/12/2018 – WGN – After girl drowns in Lake Michigan, petition seeks extended lifeguard hour

07/12/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Darihanne’s death and lifeguard hours: Dealing with a fickle Lake Michigan

07/12/2018 – Chicago Tribune – A nighttime drowning in Lake Michigan – and no city lifeguards on duty prompts calls for change

07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Advocates: More Great Lakes lifeguards are needed to prevent drownings – The Great Lakes State boasts the nation’s longest freshwater coastline. Each summer, tourists and locals in Michigan flock to beaches to cool off in the water.  But along with beautiful sunsets on the shoreline and family memories, the Great Lakes carry danger in their powerful waters.  Since 2010, 662 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, with nearly half of those drownings taking place on Lake Michigan. Yet despite of an average of 33 drownings per year, very few Lake Michigan beaches have lifeguards watching the waves.

“Lifeguards are the gold-standard when it comes to beach safety,” said Bob Pratt, education director at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit which aims to eradicate Great Lakes drownings through water safety advocacy. “It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution to hundreds of people dying every decade from drownings, yet the powers that be don’t do what’s right.”

07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Keep safe on the Great Lakes with these tips

07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Quick Hits: Four thoughts on this week’s news  2. Invest in lake safety for summer – With Lake Michigan temperatures reaching into the 70s, we’re happy to share Holland’s beaches with tourists who come to soak up the West Michigan sun.

What we’re not happy to share is the danger that comes with swimming in the Great Lakes. As Audra Gamble and Melissa Frick reported Thursday, July 12, over 660 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010. Almost half of those drownings take place in Lake Michigan. For those who aren’t from Michigan, the power of the big lake is often underestimated. This is especially true of teenage boys, who are some of the most likely populations to drown.

The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign has been wildly successful, making Michigan a hotspot for summer vacations. To make the Pure Michigan campaign so effective, the state piled money into TV ads, billboards and radio spots.  Perhaps it’s time the state also puts money into lifeguards that keep those families safe once they make their way to Michigan beaches.

The U.S. Coast Guard does a fine job of keeping Michigan’s waterways safe, but there’s clearly a need for more public education and eyes on the water to prevent us reporting on the 700th Great Lakes drowning later this year.

07/12/2018 – Kenosha News – Safety Around Water: Be aware of dangerous currents, winds and cold water

07/12/2018 – AP – US News & World Reports – Chicago Urged to Extend Lifeguard Hours After Drowning – The Chicago Park District is being urged to extend lifeguard patrols after the recent drowning of a 13-year-old girl.

07/10/2018 – WDIO – Thursday at Ten: Under Water: Searching for Air – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Program, there have been 660 Great Lakes drownings since 2010, and there have been 37 already this year.  Drowning was the reported cause of death in 80 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2016, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and 83 percent of who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.  There are ways to keep you and your family safe. How can you tell if there are dangerous rip currents and what should we do if we are ever caught in one?
07/08/2018 – WLNS – A look at safety on the water, following 4 drownings in Mid-Michigan this week

07/08/2018 – WBEZ 91.5 – Why Do Chicago Beaches Ban Flotation Devices? – Many people underestimate the dangers that come with the windy, unpredictable local conditions on the Great Lakes, says Dave Benjamin, a safety advocate who heads the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“We’ve had 660 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010,” he notes. “Half of those were in Lake Michigan,” and half of those happened in the south end of the lake, here in Chicago, and in Milwaukee and Northwest Indiana. Benjamin attributes these drownings, in part, to the shifting winds and dangerous water currents in the area. When you add flotation devices to that equation, he says, that combination can be surprisingly dangerous.

“These toys can actually pose some hazards that people are not aware of,” Benjamin says. “If there is a light offshore wind, it could blow the inflatable object into deeper water where the child or parent could go after it.”  And when they go after it, he says, swimmers can end up in currents or winds that make it impossible to return. Other beachgoers can be blown far into the lake while on a flotation device that they can’t control. This happened to an Indiana couple in 2012 and to Chicago kids in 1988.

Two cousins — a boy and a girl — took a raft out near Montrose Harbor on a warm April afternoon, after the wind pushed them far into the lake. Finally, they jumped off to try to swim back, the winds were strong and the water was cold. A windsurfer was able to save the 11-year-old boy, but the boy’s 10-year-old cousin drowned.  At the beaches in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, flotation devices are permitted but authorities “caution their use for safety reasons during strong winds, specifically south winds, as they can push swimmers far into Lake Michigan.”

And at the many completely unguarded beaches throughout Michigan’s Harbor Country on the other side of the lake, swimmers can use flotation devices freely — but at their own risk. For those folks, Benjamin has some advice: “Don’t go out in an inflatable raft with an offshore wind,” he says. “And if the wind blows an inflatable toy out, just let it go. It’s not worth it.” Finally, if you have to choose just one flotation device for your next trip to the beach, he says, “make it a U.S. Coast Guard-approved, properly fitting life jacket.”

06/07/2018 – Detroit News – Near-tragedy inspires [Jamie Racklyeft’s] Great Lakes anti-drowning effort

07/06/2018 – ABC 7 – dangerous waves, rip currents make local beaches hazardous

07/05/2018 – Pioneer Press – Water recreation can be fun, but also dangerous — FRANKFORT — While people turn to the water to get relief from the summer heat, it can also be dangerous, especially on Lake Michigan.

According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, more people drown in Lake Michigan each year than any of the other Great Lakes. In 2017, 40 people drown in Lake Michigan. This year, seven have drown so far.

In any water emergency, the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project advocates a flip, float, follow strategy.  If people think they are starting to drown, they need to remain calm and flip onto their backs and float. Just keep your head above water and keep your chest at the water level. Floating can calm people down. When people panic, they exhale more, and they deflate their lungs and lower their natural buoyancy. Floating also conserves energy. Once you are floating and calm, find the safest route out of the water.

07/05/2018 – Kenosha News – Another tragedy too easily avoided – It’s happened again — someone has drowned in Lake Michigan. In this most recent drowning, a 10-year-old girl was swimming near the area where the Pike River meets the lake Saturday evening when she began having trouble in the water. Her father, a 28-year-old Kenosha man who didn’t know how to swim, entered the water to save her.  However, he soon got into trouble as well. When first responders arrived, he was “floating and being pushed by waves.” He was revived, but died two days later at a Kenosha hospital.

In 2015, Dave Benjamin, a spokesman for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, an organization that seeks to prevent drownings in the Great Lakes, said Michigan enacted legislation that shields municipalities from lawsuits related to safety equipment near the water.

And those life-saving devices work.  “First off, life rings really do save lives. It’s irresponsible to have that access to water without having lifesaving devices there,” Benjamin said. “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.”  More signs and the addition of life rings and ropes may not prevent another drowning, but if just one person is saved, isn’t it worth it?

07/01/2019 – Chicago Tribune – DNR hosts free events for public to explore Lake Michigan Water Trail — Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project was in attendance and set up a tented booth next to the lakeshore to teach children and adults about safety when in the water. Bob Pratt, director of education, said he teaches people to flip, float and follow when encountering an emergency in the water.  Most folks know to stop, drop and roll when they catch on fire, he said, but many don’t realize what to do when faced with a potential drowning situation in the water.

06/30/2018 – ABC 7 – GLSRP at IL DNR Lake Michigan Water Trail Event at Winthrop Harbor.

06/30/2018-2 – ABC 7 – GLSRP at IL DNR Lake Michigan Water Trail Event at Winthrop Harbor — Chicago Weather: Excessive Heat Warning in effect for area as heat wave continues Saturday

06/30/2018 – Daily Herald – Excessive heat warning extended to 7 p.m. Sunday – – “We call this a lake, but it’s really like an inland sea. But when you come and use the lakes, you need to remember it’s not like a backyard pool,” said Bob Pratt, of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

06/21/2018 – MLIVE – 99% of Great Lakes drowning victims weren’t wearing a life jacket — Since 2010, 643 people have drowned in the Great Lakes and all but six of those victims weren’t wearing a personal flotation device.

With summer’s arrival on Thursday, June 21, comes plenty of fun on the water, spurring officials, advocacy groups and loved ones of drowning victims to remind those recreating on a boat or kayak to always wear a life jacket.

To date this year, there have been 20 drownings on the Great Lakes, according to data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy group that tracks drownings. David Benjamin, a spokesman for the organization, said his team is working to confirm four additional drownings that may have taken place over the past few weeks.Seven of the 20 drownings this year occurred in Lake Michigan, which has been the deadliest of the Great Lakes over the past eight years.

There were 298 drownings on Lake Michigan since 2010 — making up about 46 percent of total drownings on the Great Lakes in the past eight years.


Benjamin said the number of drownings have fluctuated, but the dips in 2014 and 2015 were likely due to cooler-than-normal temperatures during the summer months. The organization doesn’t track inner-water drownings, like on rivers.

Benjamin got involved with the organization in 2010 after he nearly died from a drowning while surfing on the Great Lakes. Since then, he’s advocated for people to always wear properly fitted life jackets and take as many safety classes as possible, and then bigger tasks, like requiring retailers to sell life jackets with recreational watercraft, like paddle boards and kayaks.

People can find themselves in potential drowning situations after going overboard on a boat, simply jumping into the water to cool off or becoming detached from a towing activity, like water skiing or tubing.

But the No. 1 reason those people ultimately drown is because they weren’t wearing a life jacket. None of the Great Lakes drowning victims in 2017, for instance, were wearing a life jacket.

06/18/2018 – WNDU – Lifeguards get summer training for beach season

06/17/2018 – WSBT 22 – Lake Michigan beaches work to reduce drownings

06/15/2018 – WNDU – Officials prepare for busy Father’s Day weekend at Lake Michigan beaches

06/09/2018 – Video – GLSRP Open Water Surf Lifeguarding In-service…

06/08/2018 – NBC 5 – Authorities Warn of Dangers to Lake Michigan Swimmers

06/07/2018 – Post-Tribune – Lifeguards train to save lives at Indiana Dunes – On a windy day that caused the waves on Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park to be even more unpredictable than usual, Bob Pratt, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project director of education, told the group of lifeguards that stood before him that they are going to train until they get it right.

“Most people’s experiences with lifeguards are at swimming pools, but a beach like Lake Michigan is far more challenging and requires a completely different skill set,” Pratt said. “We train harder than professional athletes in many cases. If (LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers star forward) has a bad day, he might not win the game. If a lifeguard has a bad day, someone might lose their life.”

Pratt and Dave Benjamin, GLSRP executive director, were tasked with leading over a dozen lifeguards, mostly teenagers, in an open water surf lifeguard training session Tuesday afternoon. Benjamin said, according to the Centers for Disease Control, that drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the U.S. as well as worldwide, and that it is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4.

“We take the research, statistics and data and break it down, so beachgoers know it’s one of the leading causes of accidental deaths, which most people don’t know,” Benjamin said. “This summer with this grant (through the Indiana Department of National Resources), we can provide 24 hours of lifeguard in-service training for each Lake Michigan lifeguard.”

Benjamin said with the drowning of 16-year old boy, Angel Sedano of Gurnee, Ill., on Sunday, the number of Great Lakes drownings since 2010 is now 643, almost half of which occur in Lake Michigan. Benjamin said part of the training process is explaining the signs of a potential drowning victim and how to identify a potential victim.

“People assume drowning is a lot of waving, yelling and splashing as a long traumatic even at the surface of the water, but when someone is drowning it often appears as if they’re treading water,” Benjamin said. “If you don’t know what drowning looks like, you’ll miss it. We believe drowning is preventable and survivable.”

06/07/2018 – Western Michigan University – WSW: The Rare Lifeguard On A Great Lakes Beach In Michigan — Finding statistics on drownings in the Great Lakes is difficult. Malewitz says there is not a government source for those numbers. But the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project attempts to compile numbers by monitoring media and police reports. Bob Pratt, one of the two people who runs the project says there have been at least 640 drownings on the Great Lakes since 2010. But Pratt says it’s possible the number is higher.

Despite what is called a “vastly neglected area of public health,” it’s rare to find a lifeguard on a Great Lakes beach in Michigan. New Buffalo is an exception, there was a backlash when the city budget did not include money for lifeguards. Malewitz says after a very heated public meeting, the city council decided to stay the course for now, and keep lifeguards on New Buffalo beaches.

06/06/2018 – CBS – News of the Day – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project; Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation in Ogden Dunes June 16th.

06/06/2018 – CBS 2 – Mobile Weather Lab: Drowning Prevention — CBS 2’s Ed Curran is live with the Mobile Weather Lab to discuss drowning prevention. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 20 people have already drowned so far this year.

05/21/2018 – Chicago Tribune – From one end of the region’s Lake Michigan shoreline to the other, officials who oversee beaches are making similar plans to line up lifeguards before Memorial Day weekend, the official kickoff of beach season.

The lifeguards, officials said, are in place for a reason: Lake Michigan can be dangerous and unpredictable. According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy organization, Lake Michigan claimed 291 lives between 2010 and 2017.

The year 2012 was the deadliest of those years, with 50 drownings; 2016 followed with 46. The lake claimed 40 lives last year, according to the project’s statistics.

At the Hammond Marina, Kruszynski said lifeguards would be on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week starting Memorial Day weekend.At Whihala Beach in Whiting, lifeguards have been a part of the seasonal mix as long as Mike Nastav, recreation director for Whiting Parks and Recreation, can remember.

“We feel it’s for the best for the safety. It’s obvious how dangerous Lake Michigan can be. The weather can change at the flick of a switch with the wind and the waves. We’re pretty cautious,” he said.

Indiana Dunes State Park, which has a large swath of beach in front of the pavilion, expanded its lifeguard corps last year to cover more territory, said property manager Brandt Baughman.

Previously, the beach east of Dunes Creek did not have lifeguards during the week but as that section of the beach got busier, the park could justify adding lifeguards there seven days a week, he said, adding the beach west of the creek had lifeguards seven days a week.

Last year was the first season the park had lifeguards on both sides of the creek for the entire week.

“I think that was something that made the park run a lot smoother,” Baughman said, adding people didn’t understand why that section of the beach was closed.

The park will have 20 lifeguard positions this year, comparable to last year, he said.

05/11/2017 – LaPorte County Life – City of Michigan City Shares Swimming Safety – “Swimming is a fun and enjoyable activity for children and adults alike, and it’s an easy way to stay physically active and improve strength, flexibility and stamina,” said Park Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz. “The City of Michigan City is committed to providing as many opportunities as possible for everyone to swim and learn water safety practices.”

As part of National Water Safety Month in May, the City of Michigan City and Michigan City Area Schools have collated together in an effort to prevent “water emergencies.” Beginning May 15, 2017, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) will be educating our youth on the necessity of Lakefront Safety.

During this time students will learn the following safety tips to practice when in and around the water:

Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.

Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.

Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Parents or guardians of young children should be within an arm’s reach.

Children and adults should not engage in breath holding activities.

The Michigan City Fire Department is always concerned about the safety of our personnel and the safety of the public,” stated Fire Chief Randy Novak. “Drownings are 100% preventable, and we are committed to preventing all drowning’s in the City of Michigan City and adjacent communities. GLSRP is one of those water safety programs that we feel will assist us with reaching our goal of zero drownings.”

05/10/2018 – WNDU – Flip, Float, and Follow – U.S. Coast Guard stresses water safety as summer approaches – “Even the best of swimmers can get caught in something,” said BM2 Casey Johnson of Station St. Joseph. “For 2016, we had almost the highest number of fatalities and a lot of those came from paddle boarders or kayakers.”

05/04/2018 – Holland Sentinel – 3. Take proper precautions near the waterThere were 88 drownings in the Great Lakes last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. There have been six in 2018 already. Don’t be another statistic. Pay attention to red flag days, where it is not safe to enter the water; bring along flotation devices in case you tire while in the water; and, most importantly, watch out for one another. Be safe this season.

04/30/2018 – – Why you should wear your lifejacket if you paddle this spring: safety tips for chilly Lake Erie

First, put on your personal flotation device — and dress for the water temperature, which in Lake Erie Monday was about 38 degrees. Since 2010, 631 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, said Bob Pratt, director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. About 85 percent of them are men. And most drownings happen during this most dangerous time of the year, when frigid water incapacitates people who accidentally fall in. The U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday suspended the search for a man who reportedly fell off a boat in Sandusky Bay Friday night. “If you fall into 40-degree water without a life jacket on, your survival is measured in seconds — even if you’re a really good swimmer,” Pratt said. That’s because the body’s instant response to cold water is to gasp.

“This isn’t just a little gasp, like the kind you’d experience if somebody jumped out of a closet and scared you,” says the National Center for Cold Water Safety. It’s a huge gasp that totally fills your lungs… If your head is underwater when you gasp, you will immediately drown, and without the support of a PFD, you will head straight for the bottom.”

Men are less likely to take safety precautions, Pratt said. Hence, more drownings.

He urges kayakers, boaters and paddlers to wear their lifejackets, rather than just have them aboard. He compares lifejackets to seatbelts; you don’t put them on after you’re in a crash.

04/29/2018 – WSBT – Conference discusses ways to prevent drowning

04/24/2018 – Southend Tribune – New Buffalo votes to keep lifeguards this summer — “If you remove lifeguards, when seconds count help is going to be minutes away,’’ Benjamin said.

04/23/2018 – ABC 57 – New Buffalo votes to keep lifeguards this summer — The New Buffalo city council voted Monday to keep lifeguards on duty at least for one more summer.  Although the council voted to keep the lifeguards this summer, it will revisit the discussion in the fall to determine if the program will continue in the future.

04/23/2018 – WNDU – New Buffalo beach will keep lifeguards – Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV who said he thought the city was rushed into the idea of going guard less, and that the city should “step back and look at this more carefully.” After another summer of the status quo, the mayor said the subject should be revisited in the fall.

04/23/2018 – WSBT – New Buffalo leaders have decided to keep lifeguard program for the summer

04/19/2018 – Record Eagle – Free YMCA class encourages adults to test the waters

04/18/2018 – Water Safety in Racine – The City of Racine, Wisconsin is using the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project project’s illustrations, the Signs of Drowning and Flip Float and Follow. Pretty sweet

04/18/2018 – Harbor County News – Don’t balance budget on backs of swimmers

04/14/2018 – Southbend Tribune – New Buffalo considers eliminating lifeguards Official: Understaffing creates ‘false sense of safety

04/12/2018 – Dave Benjamin speaks out at New Buffalo City Council Meeting – Lifeguards save lives, are an asset, are first responders.

04/12/2018 – Nora Howe speaks out at New Buffalo City Council Meeting – Don’t balance the budget on the backs of swimmers.

04/12/2018 – Peter Carey Speaks out at New Buffalo at City Council Meeting – to oppose the termination of the beach lifeguards

04/12/2018 – ABC 57 – Open forum held to discuss the future of New Buffalo lifeguards — “We were given three minutes today to talk about the importance of lifeguards, only three minutes. We want people to understand that for a drowning victim three minutes is the world,” says David Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.  A final decision on whether to keep the lifeguards on New Buffalo beaches will be made at a public hearing at the end of May.

04/12/2018 – ABC 57 – Open forum to discuss future of New Buffalo lifeguards to be held Thursday


04/12/2018 – WZZM – Michigan beach town of New Buffalo axing its lifeguards, despite drownings — Last year, 40 people drowned in Lake Michigan, down slightly from 46 a year earlier, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a safety group that tracks drownings.


04/12/2018 – WNDU – New Buffalo City Council debates removal of lifeguards from budget — City leaders say they are simply not equipped to have well-trained lifeguards on duty at the New Buffalo beach. “I can’t get enough qualified lifeguards to apply,” said Richards. “I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards, and we are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service; which I don’t think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”

04/12/2018 – WSBT – No lifeguards this summer? Future of New Buffalo lifeguard program in doubt — New Buffalo leaders are still debating the future of the city’s lifeguard program. They didn’t set any money aside in the budget for this summer or next. Some people are pretty unhappy about that.

Even on a beautiful day like today, they say the Great Lakes can be dangerous. Swimmers need to be protected from those dangers. But leaders with the city say that protection isn’t real, and is a liability. I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards,” said David Richards, city manager. “We are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service, which I don’t think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”

Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says he’s seen lifeguards save lives in New Buffalo. He says the average beach-goer doesn’t know enough about water safety.

04/11/2018 – Detroit Free Press – Michigan beach town of New Buffalo axing its lifeguards, despite drownings — The city of New Buffalo wants to eliminate its dozen life guards due to liability, said city manager David Richards.

“It’s at the suggestion of our insurer, we’re eliminating life guards – at least proposing to eliminate life guards,” Richards said. Instead of lifeguards, he said, the beach would use existing flags and signs noting  that visitors are swimming at their own risk.

[SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK is a Fallacy!]  “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ people will die from this fatal decision but ‘when,'” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Rescue Project. Since 2010, the Great Lakes Rescue Project has recorded 631 drownings in the Great Lakes.

“It’s risky to have lifeguards on duty. They give the impression that they are able to protect people when they go into the water and that’s not the case,” said David Richards, city manager.

Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue project couldn’t disagree more.

04/11/2018 – WSBT – New Buffalo leaders consider cutting lifeguard program – “Having no lifeguards at the beach makes it a lot less safe. On a long enough time line, I don’t believe it’s if we’ll have a drowning, it’s when will we have a drowning,” said Benjamin.

He says New Buffalo beach is unique because of the jetties and the boat channel. Benjamin says frequent winds from the north cause currents along the shore line.

“When they hit that pier, they go out and around that pier and one of the duties of lifeguards at that beach is to keep people from swimming in the water around that pier,” said Benjamin.


The city hasn’t made a final decision about the lifeguard program.  Richards says the council has special meetings Thursday and Friday.

“They will decide if they want to move forward with lifeguards, and if they do then we will schedule public meetings for the residents to come in and express their opinions,” said Richards.

04/04/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Water safety group to debut public safety announcement via Facebook Live — The public service announcement has a focus on the Great Lakes, but is applicable to all bodies of water. It’s being presented by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project in partnership with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium and the Matthew Kocher Foundation.

The announcement will include comments from National Drowning Prevention Alliance Lifesaver of the Year award winners Bob Pratt, of East Lansing, Michigan; Melissa Zirkle, of Ashtabula, Ohio; and John and Kathy Kocher, of Tinley Park. The film also features NDPA Community Lifesaver Award winner Dave Benjamin, of Homewood, and drowning survivors Evelyn Hernandez, of Chicago, and Jamie Racklyeft, of Ann Arbor.

04/04/2018 – Journal Review – Water safety group to debut public safety announcement today via Facebook Live

03/30/2018 – The Herald Argus – Flip, float and follow — Surf Rescue educator gives advice for surviving in rough water

03/29/2018 – The News Dispatch – Bob Pratt, executive director of education at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, spent the past week providing water safety education to Michigan City Area Schools students, and opened each of their 16 different presentations with the quiz [which ended with, “What do you do if you are drowning?”. Less than 5% of the students can answer it. ]

“We do such a great job teaching kids about fire safety, tornado drills, earthquakes, school shooters; but the fact of the matter is that drowning kills more people than all of those things combined,” Pratt said. “Yet there’s so little education regarding water safety, and we live on the shores of one of the most beautiful lakes in the country.”

Erin Breen, a kindergarten teacher at Marsh Elementary School, said, “Living in a beach community, our kids need this training. ‘Flip, float and follow’ should be second nature to them the way ‘stop, drop and roll’ is. I appreciate the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project for coming to MCAS, because the more kids who are exposed to this information, the fewer water-related accidents we’ll have.”


Since 2010, 631 people have drowned in the five Great Lakes; and 295 of those drowned in Lake Michigan.

03/29/2018 – Herald Palladium – Silver Beach seeks lifeguards, offers safety info — Lifeguards at Silver Beach must be at least 16 years old and have current American Red Cross (or equivalent) lifeguard certification and CPR certification for adults, children, and infants.

Pay is $10.40 an hour. Applicants will have to pass a lifesaving test at a local indoor pool before being hired.

Silver Beach lifeguards receive additional training throughout the summer season from U.S. Coast Guard, local law enforcement, and Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, among others.

03/14/2018 – MSU – Great Lakes Water Safety 2018 – Conference to address dangerous currents that continue to take lives April 26-27, Evanston, IL

03/13/2018 – NWI Times – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project educators stress water safety to kids, say specific techniques should be learned  LAKE STATION — Officials with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said schools today will conduct fire drills, tornado drills and active shooter drills, but there are no schools that conduct water safety education.  Yet, more school-age children may die from drowning each year in the United States than die in fires, tornadoes or even school shootings, they said.  Edison sixth-grader Dakota Sullivan said he can swim a little but not very well. He said the most important aspect of what he learned was that “floating is the key to survival.”

02/19/2018 – NWI Times – UPDATE: Flood warnings issued for Little Cal at Munster, Kankakee River — Despite the warm-up, shelf ice remained along the Lake Michigan shoreline, prompting a warning Monday from the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.  The nonprofit issued a warning that walking on shelf ice is extremely dangerous after it received reports of two groups of people walking on shelf ice near Gary’s shoreline last weekend. A person easily can fall into hidden holes in shelf ice, with little chance of climbing out.

02/19/2018 – WLS 7 – Dangerous shelf ice forms along Lake Michigan

02/17/2018 – MDJ Online – Teaching others to swim safely — Benjamin’s life changed forever Dec. 26, 2010, when he had a nonfatal drowning accident.

He had a bad wipe out, fell on his back and had the wind knocked out of him. Waves pushed him to the bottom [and he struggled] for about two minutes, before he could get back to the surface and cough up the water. It took him another 38 minutes to float and backstroke back to the shore.

Benjamin decided he wanted to teach others about water safety and drowning prevention, and [organized] a surfboard rescue class in June 2011 [led by Bob Pratt]. A wide audience of police officers, firefighters, everyday people and surfers showed up, and the project grew.

He now serves as a [co-founder] and executive director at the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, which has given 487 presentations since 2011. About 300 more presentations are scheduled this year, with 100 of those in Northwest Indiana, he said.

“Unfortunately, water safety and drowning survival is not common sense,” he said. “It’s a silent epidemic that gets very little proactive funding or attention.”

02/09/2018 – Petosky News – Water safety education important at any age

02/05/2018 – WWMT – Lake Michigan Winter Surfing

01/28/2018 – Lake Michigan Surfing – Mike Killion’s Monday Recap for the boyz

01/28/2018 – Lake Michigan Surfing – Gerri Matras Lanter Video

01/02/2018 – CTV News – ‘We must do better’: Group tracks 88 drownings on Great Lakes in 2017

01/01/2018 – PR – 88 Great Lakes Drownings in 2017; 625 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010 – Mom of drowning victim speaks out and helping schedule Water Safety Presentations for 2018

12/13/2017 – Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant – Great Lakes waves can make lake viewing dangerous — Don’t get swept away this winter while sightseeing near the Great Lakes.

Drownings occur in the Great Lakes every year. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, at least 99 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016; 622 since 2010. Many of these deaths happen when people swimming end up in dangerous currents such as rip or structural-caused currents. Other drownings happen because of boating or kayaking accidents. And several deaths each year occur when people are blown or washed off breakwaters, docks, cliffs and other similar nearshore structures.

Preventing these drownings in the Great Lakes can be as easy as checking the weather report. Any month of the year there is the potential for high waves in the Great Lakes. If you are headed to a Great Lakes shoreline to walk out on a breakwater, climb some nearshore rocks, or jog along a lakeshore path, it’s important to know what the predicted wave and wind patterns will be for the day. If the waves and winds will be high, then stay away from these types of areas. Be aware that icy buildups can increase your risk of falling in even on relatively calm days. It’s better to watch waves and the water from a safe distance, than to risk losing it all.

11/24/2017 – Petoskey News – Preventing people from jumping from the pierheads on Lake Michigan is the best action to take.

Officials from Michigan State University Michigan Sea Grant Extension, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium also were in attendance. Each of them took time to express the importance of water safety and education.

Leland Township Supervisor Susan Och also spoke about a young person who drowned on Aug. 30, 2012, at Vans Beach after jumping from a pier similar to Charlevoix’s.  “I wish I wasn’t here. I wish that I didn’t know anything about structural currents, about rip currents,” Och said. “I was on the town board at the time (of the drowning) and that was the worst town board meeting ever … all of these seats are filled with people who want to know why you didn’t do something. There is a lot of regret.”

11/10/2017 – Green Bay Press Gazette – Blaming drowning victims is stupid, cruel

11/08/2017 – WBAY ABC 2 – State of Lake Michigan conference highlights importance of water safety education – One man says water safety education in schools could help stop what he calls a drowning epidemic in the Midwest. Since 2010, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project statistics show there have been 622 drownings in the Great Lakes, 292 of them in Lake Michigan, with 41 Lake Michigan fatalities so far this year.

10/27/2017 – Petoskey News – Officials: Pier-jumping illegal, dangerous activity – About 1/3 of drownings are current-related – “People should be aware of the dangers in the Great Lakes,” Benjamin said. “Our goal is to prevent Great Lakes drownings through training, public preparedness, and public awareness.”

Since 2010, 267 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, nearly half of all 564 Great Lakes drowning deaths. The only year with more than 100 deaths on all Great Lakes was in 2012, with 101 drowning deaths.  “On average almost half — 47 percent — of all Great Lakes drownings happen on Lake Michigan,” Benjamin said.

Experts said the distinctive shape of the lake, which is 307 miles long with parallel, uninterrupted shores running north to south, makes it susceptible to dangerous currents. Lake Michigan is also the Great Lake with the sandiest shores, drawing more visitors and creating tides along sandbars that are deceptively strong and prone to risky currents.

“On all of the Great Lakes, Winds equals Waves and Waves equals Dangerous Currents,” Benjamin said. “The configuration of Lake Michigan as well as its residential population density and tourism population density creates a higher probability for accidents; i.e. simply said, the more people in and around the water, the more possibility for an accident to happen.”

Men, especially, are susceptible to drowning. Benjamin said 80 percent of drowning victims are male. “The psychology of men is that they’re more likely to take risks, to succumb to peer pressure and overestimate their abilities,” he said. “Boys don’t know that, moms don’t know that. Water safety is not common sense.”

Benjamin said, in his opinion, that’s where lifeguards are critical.  “Lifeguards are first responders and just as important as police and firefighters,” he said “We’re a huge advocate for lifeguards. One of the biggest objections to having lifeguards, is that there’s no funding,” Benjamin added. “But if Pure Michigan can spend more than $30 million a year to bring people to water, which has billions of dollars in return through tourism, there’s money out there.”

He said that according to the World Health Organization, drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue. “This isn’t just Michigan. Every state has a tourism budget to bring people to water. In our opinion, drowning should be treated like a public health issue,” he said.

09/26/2017 – Manistee News Advocate – Fall and winter season pose new hazards to fishermen – The danger of drowning doesn’t disappear with the summer season.  While some news outlets are claiming Lake Michigan saw fewer drowning deaths this past summer season than in 2016, Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, says people need to look at the big picture, not just during peak swimming months.

“We still have four more months to go,” Benjamin said. “Now what happens is, people may not see any more swimming drownings, but people might be washed off the pier, fall out of a boat or, as we get into December, fall through the ice while ice fishing. It could be kayakers, people on paddleboards or other recreational activities.” (Full Story here)

09/24/2017 – Holland Sentinel – ‘A much better summer:’ Drownings down from 2016 — Five people died in Ottawa County waters last year. This year, two drowned.

09/21/2017 – The News Dispatch – Surfing documentary to be held at Fire & Water – MICHIGAN CITY — A showing of “Southend: The Place Where I Go Surfing,” will be held at Fire & Water, 6 on the Lake, Michigan City (in Washington Park), on Friday at 6 p.m. A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m., and a question and answer session will be held at 7:10 p.m.

09/20/2017 – On Milwaukee – Our dear Lake Michigan is the deadliest of the Great Lakes [NOTE: The drowning stats listed in this article are outdated at 537 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010. The updated stats are 612 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010.]

09/10/2017 – The Cutoff News – Surfing the Region: Filmmaker brings documentary to NWI.  “Southend: The Place Where I Go Surfing” was screened Sept. 14 at The Towle Theater in Hammond and will be screened again Sept. 22 at Fire and Water At Washington Park in Michigan City.

09/08/2017 – Post-Tribune – Sand, surf season ends with no drownings at lakefront parks. Note: There was a mix-up of some of the statistical information in the story.
“46” was the 2016 Lake Michigan Drownings yearend total.
If we we’re comparing Labor Day 2016 with Labor Day 2017…
By Labor Day 2016 there were 36 Lake Michigan Drownings.
By Labor Day 2017 there were 33 Lake Michigan Drownings.

09/05/2017 – Associated Press – Water Safety Group Finds Fewer Lake Michigan Drownings

A water safety nonprofit group has found that the number of drownings decreased this swim season on Lake Michigan compared with last year.

09/04/2017 – Chicago Sun-Times – 33 Lake Michigan drownings so far this year; down from 36 last year – Thirty-three people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year, compared with 36 in the same period last year. Three bodies found in the lake this year are not yet confirmed as drownings, said David Benjamin, executive director of the safety group.

A man was pulled from Lake Michigan on Friday morning near the 31st Street beach, but his cause of death hasn’t yet been confirmed nor has he been identified.

09/02/2017 – WZZM – 68 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2017

09/02/2017 – WISN ABC – Surfer helps save man from rough Lake Michigan At Bradford Beach

09/01/2017 – WNEM – Report: 68 drownings reported in Great Lakes this year

09/01/2017 – WLNS – Great Lakes drownings prompt warning for holiday swimmers

08/31/2017 – ABC 10 & 13 – August Was Deadliest Month So Far on Lake Superior in 2017 – Five people drowned in Lake Superior in August, with four drownings in a 2-week span.

08/30/2017 – Harbor County News – Summer of Saving Swimmers: New Buffalo lifeguards reflect on busy season NEW BUFFALO — The lifeguard crew at New Buffalo’s public beach has been very busy this summer. “My sister and I have rescued 17 people,” said 21-year-old Emily Richards while setting up for another day of guarding the beach on Friday, Aug. 25.

Emily Richards said the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project organization (including Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin) has worked with the New Buffalo lifeguards on water safety issues such as board rescue techniques (which she has since used in actual rescues).  “It’s fun to learn from people that have the same passion for lifeguarding that we do,” she said.

08/18/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Great Lakes drownings reach 600 since 2010 – While many folks in Michigan are turning their thoughts from summer days at the beach to backpacks and school supplies, there are still several weeks of warm weather for families to enjoy at the lake.

But that comes with a special warning as the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project releases the latest drowning statistics for the Great Lakes.

Since 2010 there have 600 drownings in the five Great Lakes. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, on average almost half of all Great Lakes drownings happen in Lake Michigan. They released their latest report Thursday.

The good news is that drownings are down this year over last year at about this time. By Sept. 2, of 2016, 73 drowning deaths had occurred. We are two weeks away from that date and so far this year the number stands at 63. While that is a step in the right direction, one life lost to drowning is too many. Just last week a father and daughter died after being rescued from dangerous currents in Lake Superior.  Experts say too often swimmers overestimate their abilities and underestimate dangerous conditions.

08/13/2017 – WBBM’s At Issue: Drowning & Water Safety – Every year dozens of people will drown while swimming in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes preventable deaths in most cases. WBBM’s Mike Krauser talks with Dave Benjamin, Executive Director at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the risk of drowning and water safety.

08/11/2017 – My Sheboygan – Sheboygan resident and surfer Larry Williams talks about water safety.

08/08/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Illinois boy, 4, dies days after being pulled from Lake Michigan – In 2016, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes – ranging in age from about 9 to 75, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks incidents and spreads awareness. The number nearly doubled the previous year, and was the worst for drownings since 2012.
08/05/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – 7 ways to avoid drowning in Northwest Indiana

08/05/2017 – CBS 2 Chicago – Hammond Woman, Kaitlynn Boswinkle, 24,  Found Dead in Gary’s Marquette Beach

08/01/2017 – Harbor County News – Matthew Ramirez, M-4 – a 4-year-old boy ‘fighting for his life’ after being pulled from Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park on Tuesday afternoon. The preliminary investigation revealed several children were playing in the water and family members believed he had exited the water and returned to the beach with other family members.

07/31/2017 – WBEZ Public Radio – The GLSRP’s Dave Benjamin was be on WBEZ’s Morning Shift, 91.5 FM, Monday to discuss the current Great Lakes drowning statistics and Great Lakes Water Safety with host, Jenn White.

07/31/2017 – The Journal Times – Drowned teen’s life goal ‘was to help people’ — Water Safety Tips: Only one third of drownings that occur are due to dangerous currents, according to Dave Benjamin Executive Director of Public Relations for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a non-profit based in Illinois that educates school children about the dangers of water. “Something happens in the water that causes panic. When you are struggling in water over your head we recommend you flip over on your back, float and then follow the safest path out of the water,” Benjamin said. “When you are on your back try to cough to get the water out and calm yourself down.” Benjamin said flotation is the key — only five out of 589 reported Great Lakes drowning victims wore life jackets. “You have a better chance of survival in the Great Lakes if you have a life jacket. People don’t use them because they’re not fashionable, and restrictive or because they overestimate their true swimming ability,” Benjamin said.

07/29/2017 – NBC 5 – Brandt Miller, Flip, Float, and Follow & Weather App

07/28/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Lifeguards are the first reponders on the beach!

07/28/2017 – Detroit Free Press – 5 teens rescued from Lake Michigan, 3 hospitalized — This year, 49 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, at least 22 of them in Lake Michigan, where hidden rip currents are known to pull people away from beach areas, causing them to panic. In 2016, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes – ranging in age from about 9 to 75, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks incidents and spreads awareness. The number nearly doubled the previous year, and was the worst for drownings since 2012.

07/28/2017 – WLS 7 – Life threatening waves, rip currents lead to swim bans – The latest statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project report 49 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year.

07/28/2017 – NBC 5 – ‘Stay Out of the Water’: Warning to Chicago-Area Beachgoers Extended

07/25/2017 – Ozaukee Press – Port Washington helps prepare beachgoers for possible emergencies with water safety cards

07/19/2017 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – The Great Lakes are on track to see over 100 drownings this year, with half of those in Lake Michigan, said Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit group that collects data on drowning incidents.  For the first time in five years, lifeguards are not on duty at Atwater Park beach due to a shortage of lifeguard applications received by the Milwaukee County Parks Department. Signs at the park advise visitors to swim at their own risk.  But it is unclear if a lifeguard would have made a difference in Sareyi’s drowning. In the past, summer shifts for Atwater Park lifeguards were from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. And a lifeguard for the public beach would not have been able to see the break wall on private property from which Sareyi jumped, Tyke said.

07/19/2017 – South Bend Tribune – Paddle in awe of Great Lakes — in Michiana and up north – The nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 45 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year. None of the victims wore life jackets. Granted, some fell from shore rather than a boat. But, out of the 582 drownings since 2010, only five wore life jackets — all of whom died because they were in really cold water for a prolonged time, says Bob Pratt, the project’s director of education.  It doesn’t do you any good if your life jacket just sits in the boat. When you need it, Pratt says, it would be like trying to fasten your seatbelt during an accident. And on a stand-up paddle board, he says, attach the leash to your ankle, which helps you to retrieve the board after you fall off.

07/12/2017 – WCMU Public Radio – 2017 may be deadliest year on Great Lakes – – “It’s important to understand what drowning looks like for two reasons, one so you can spot someone who’s in dire need of flotation, and two if you ever find yourself struggling in water and doing the signs of frowning you stop doing the signs of drowning and flip, float and follow.”

07/09/2017 – WTMJ 4 — 414Ward – How to prevent drownings

07/03/2017 – UpNorthLive – Your Health Matters: Increase drowning awareness

07/03/2017 – NBC 5 – Man Dies Trying to Rescue His Nephew in Water Near 63rd Street Beach

06/30/2017 – MLIVE – East Grand Rapids working to prevent drowning with SwimEGR

06/30/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – NWI surfers featured in film ‘Southend’

06/30/2017 – The Detroit News – Michigan Rescue: Reduce Drownings

06/28/2017 – WJR News Talk 760 a.m. – Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Project talks to Paul W. Smith about the dangers of Lake Michigan rip [currents] tides. 6-28-17

06/25/2017 – Detroit Free Press – How even good swimmers are drowning in Lake Michigan

06/22/2017 – The Star Beacon – Conneaut Township Park offers life-saving gear at its popular beach

06/21/2017 – ABC 7 – Floating water park set to open on Lake Michigan in Whiting, Indiana — The $300,000 floating playground is a result of a joint venture between the city and the private company.  The beach also plans to have kayak and paddleboard rentals.  With the new attraction set to open this weekend, Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project spent the day teaching summer campers and kids about proper water safety.

06/21/2017 – NBC 5 Chicago – New Floating Water Park Emphasizes Safety in Indiana – Lake Michigan’s first floating water park will open in Whiting, IN this weekend, but there’s more than just fun to be had at the attraction, as educating the public about water safety is at the top of the agenda. NBC 5’s Regina Waldroup has the remarkable story.

06/19/2017 – WSBT 22 – Berrien County holding water rescue and emergency drill at Silver Beach – ST. JOSEPH, Mi. — It’s the time of year when thousands of you head to the beach. According to the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, 2017 has been the deadliest year for the start to drowning season.

Lifeguards there are working hard to keep swimmers safe. Lifeguards say they need practice to make sure they can get you out of trouble.

They teamed up with the sheriff’s department, the Coast Guard, and EMS, all ready to save lives.

06/19/2017 – WZZM – VERIFY: Is Lake Michigan the deadliest Great Lake?  Is Lake Michigan the deadliest Great Lake or just the most frequented?

We verified what is true using information from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks drowning statistics and trains people in water safety, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Thirty people have drowned in the Great Lakes during 2017 and 16 of those incidents happened in Lake Michigan. Dave Benjamin from Great Lakes Rescue Project explained that their organization is confident in labeling Lake Michigan as the deadliest.

He said they attribute this to the accessibility (beach access), population density in surrounding cities and the lake’s configuration (strong currents). Lake Michigan is only the third largest Great Lake but it is surrounded by densely populated cities, like Chicago.

Don Olson from the DNR said that the most visited parks are along Lake Michigan, and that state parks surrounding other Great Lakes have less visitors.  We can verify that Lake Michigan is the most frequented of the Great Lakes and because of that it is also the deadliest.

06/18/2017 – ABC 57 – Michigan Lake named deadliest Great Lake – Over half of the drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year have occurred in Lake Michigan. This is Michigan Lake’s highest death count this time of year since 2012.

06/17/2017 – UpNorthLive – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosts first water safety expo It’s important to know the basics of water safety when out on the beaches this summer.

To help educate the public, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosted the first Water Adventure Expo on Saturday.

The expo event was inspired by, Tyler Spink. In September 2016, Tyler, 21, went kayaking without a life jacket in Lake Michigan and never returned.

06/11/2017 – WLNS 6 – Staying safe around water as summer approaches — “It’s shaping up to be a very hot summer and unfortunately that means that we’ll have an increase in the number of drownings,” says Bob Pratt, Director of Education at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Pratt says, more than 20 people in Michigan have died after drowning this year alone. Those numbers are being updated almost daily.

“The cold water plays a part, the wind and waves cause a part, so unfortunately it turns out to be a tragic situation,” says Pratt.

Pratt says, drowning is the leading cause of accidental deaths in children ranging in age from 1 to 4. And although it’s portrayed on television as a dramatic, long lasting incident, Pratt says, drowning can happen in the blink of an eye.

“While there may be a little bit of splashing, lifeguards call it climbing the ladder, it will be this vertical motion of just trying to keep their head above the surface of the water, and especially with children it may only last a matter of second,” says Pratt.

He says, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself and those around, while still having fun in the sun.

For example, you can designate a “water watcher,” who will keep an eye on children at all times while in the water. Also making sure everyone is wearing a life vest.

“Of the 562 fatal drownings that we’ve reported since 2010, only 5 of them were wearing life jackets… That’s less than 1%,” says Pratt.

It’s called a life jacket, for a reason. Pratt says, wearing one can decrease your risk of drowning. He says it all boils down to this, respect the water and understand you need to be prepared for it.

06/11/2017 – Lansing State Journal – Bob Pratt, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s director, told the State Journal the Lansing man was 27 years old. The man’s death, Pratt said, marks the 560th fatal drowning on the Great Lakes since 2010.

Pratt said nearly half of all drowning deaths take place on Lake Michigan, a powerful body of water that’s often underestimated.

“It’s really more of an inland sea than just a lake,” Pratt said. “It has currents; it has waves; it has wind.”

06/11/2017 – CBS  Chicago – At least three people drowned in Lake Michigan this weekend, including a woman pulled from the water near Loyola Beach on Saturday, prompting a warning about the dangers of swimming when the water is still dangerously cold.

While the weather hasn’t been really warm until recently, that hasn’t stopped people from going into the lake, oftentimes unprepared.

Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said at least 16 people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year, more than all the other Great Lakes combined.

Benjamin said 46 people drowned in Lake Michigan last year, one of the worst years for the lake since the group started tracking drownings in 2010. With swimming season just getting started, this year could match that total.

“Right now, we are on a record pace to match last year,” he said.

06/11/2017 – PR – Drownings continue to rise — Lake Michigan leading the statistics — Hot weekend, strong south winds can cause hazards — Especially with beach toys — GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces its current drowning statistics. In 2017, the GLSRP is tracking 25 Great Lakes drownings.

06/08/2017 – Michigan Radio NPR – Holland tries new approach to warn people about dangerous lake conditions — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports that 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes last year, the most since 2012. Currents caused by wind or structures like piers can make swimming in the lakes dangerous.

06/07/2017 – UpNorthLive – Benzie County nurse, Barbara Smith, recognized as hometown health hero — She was awarded for her water safety advocacy efforts at the State Capitol during public health week in April.

06/05/2017 – Fox News Chicago – Whiting Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-service Training.

06/06/2017 – ABC 57 – Training session for Lake Michigan lifeguards – Lake Michigan lifeguards participated in an “open water surf lifeguard” training session Tuesday, June 6th in Michigan City. The training focused on the dangerous currents in the Great Lakes, rescue techniques, and CPR.

“Water safety is really important, since 2010 there’s been 559 fatal drownings on the five Great Lakes, typically almost half, 47%, happened on Lake Michigan and about half of those happen here at the south end of Lake Michigan so this is one of the most dangerous waters in the country,” said Director of Education for Great Lakes surf rescue project, Bob Pratt.

The training was led by the Great Lakes surf rescue project and the purpose of the training was to prevent deaths on the lake this summer. 2016 was the deadliest year on the lake.

06/07/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Training to combat drowning in the Region – Here in Northwest Indiana, drowning is always top of mind for lifeguards, especially those who trained on Tuesday morning at Washington Park beach in Michigan City, and on Monday at Whihala Beach in Whiting, as part of the Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-Service Training Program. The training was conducted by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“There is a huge difference between pool and open water training. In a pool you have 100 percent visibility, warm water, consistent water depths and [the pool is a contained area]. In open water surf there are winds, waves, dangerous currents, drop-offs and holes, temperature fluctuations of 10 to 20 degrees in pockets, and thousands of people coming and going,” he said.

Using rescue boards, rescue cans, and rescue tubes, some 36 area lifeguards participated in [Monday and] Tuesday’s training.

Mo Hakim, one of the head lifeguards at Washington Park, realized the dangers of Lake Michigan firsthand last summer when he rescued a victim who dived off of the pier, even though this is forbidden.  “Many deaths in the Great Lakes happen off of these structures,” he said, pointing to the pier, “and last summer was probably one of the roughest in a few years. I pulled a kid out who was under for 10 minutes. I dove down and got him off of the bottom of the lake, got him on a Coast Guard boat, and we transported him, and he’s alive today.” He said he hopes that this summer will be safer as people become educated to the dangers of Lake Michigan and Tuesday’s training helps lifeguard teams to properly respond.

Jacob Breault, a rookie lifeguard with Indiana Dunes State Park, says the training will no doubt help him this summer.  “This is a lot different than a pool. You get the experience of a real rescue on wavy days,” he said.

06/07/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Gallery: Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project lifeguard training

06/06/2017 – MLIVE – 5 Lake Michigan beaches could have dangerous conditions today — There have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes already this year, including 12 deaths in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project tracker.

06/06/2017 – ABC 7 – Lake Michigan beach hazard warning, swim advisory in effect Tuesday — “With a possibility of a closure on Wednesday, or maybe yellow flags on Wednesday, which means people allowed in the water up to a certain depth,” said Nick Kalwinski, Whihala Beach supervisor.  There have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year. Ten of those were in Lake Michigan.

06/05/2017 – ABC 7 – Weather service warns of high waves at Chicago beaches — It was training day for lifeguards at Whihala Beach in Whiting, Ind., where the strong winds and choppy waters actually created the ideal conditions for water safety education.

In addition to getting in the water, the lifeguards-in-training learned about the risk of drowning.  David Benjamin with the Great Lakes Rescue Project, said drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

Already in 2017 there have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes, and 10 of those were in Lake Michigan.”On average, half of all Great Lakes drownings happen in Lake Michigan, and then half of Lake Michigan drownings happen in the south end of Lake Michigan,” Benjamin said.

Keeping in mind three simple steps if you find yourself in dangerous water can be a life saver. Just remember: Flip, float and follow.

“You flip on your back and you float – float to keep your head above water, float to conserve your energy, and float to calm yourself down from the fear and panic of drowning – and then follow the safest path out of the water.  According to Benjamin, 66 percent of all drowning victims are good swimmers.

06/05/2017 – Lakeshore Public Radio – Don’t become another drowning statistic

06/03/2017 – The News Dispatch – In brief – Lake Michigan lifeguards to participate in MC training — Indiana Lake Michigan Lifeguards will be participating in one of these two Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-Service training sessions, Monday in Whiting, Indiana, or Tuesday in Michigan City.

The in-service training will focus on the worldwide drowning epidemic, how it relates to the Great Lakes region, Great Lakes dangerous currents, open water surf rescue techniques, and the latest water resuscitation CPR techniques (i.e. it will explain why Compression Only CPR is inappropriate for drowning victims).

The project is being headed by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, with Lifeguards out of Whiting, Chesterton, and Michigan City. It is sponsored by ArcelorMittal.

The Michigan City training will be held 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at North Point Pavilion, 6 On the Lake, Michigan City.

06/02/2017 – Holland Sentinel – City of Holland warns against swimming on red flag days at state beaches – Lake Michigan is the deadliest of the Great Lakes, causing nearly half of all Great Lakes fatalities in 2016. Forty-six people died on Lake Michigan last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

06/01/2017 – Wood TV – Holland groups create red flag video aimed at curbing drownings – A record number of drownings were recorded in the Great Lakes last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The group says this year, there have been 20 possible drownings so far.

05/30/2017 – My North – Splash into Summer at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Water Adventure Expo

05/29/2017 – Chicago Tribune – Lake Michigan brings both beauty and danger to summer season – Benjamin and Pratt partnered with city officials, lifeguards and sponsor ArcelorMittal to host the event, which offered lessons similar to those the pair present to audiences all around the Great Lakes region.

05/27/2017 – Pantagraph – Don’t blame Darwin, says anti-drowning project leader — A director of a group working to prevent drowning in the Great Lakes area says stigmatizing drowning hampers such efforts. “People blame the victim, blame the parent or caretaker or blame Darwinism,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. But doing that gives people a false sense of security that it wouldn’t happen to them or their loved ones, said Benjamin.

In fact, it can happen to anyone and it can happen quickly. Part of the problem, according to Benjamin, is that people don’t know what they don’t know. Few people know that swimming ability alone might not be enough in a water emergency, he said.

05/26/2017 – Marquette Mining Journal – Officials talk water safety ahead of summer season – – According to statistics gathered by the GLSRP, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016 — a 78 percent increase over the previous year.

“It’s going to continue to be a leading cause of accidental death until we start to look at the bigger picture,” said Benjamin. “There’s a huge disconnect. Information is not being delivered effectively or efficiently to the public.”

According to the American Red Cross, 54 percent of Americans do not have the basic swimming abilities to save their own lives in a water emergency.  That statistic is based on a controlled setting, such as a pool, said Benjamin. But when you add in wind, waves, dangerous currents and cold water temperatures, that percentage would likely be higher.

Like the widely known “stop, drop and roll” technique used when clothing catches fire, Benjamin said everyone should know “flip, float and follow.”  “If you want to live, you have to stay at the surface of the water and continue breathing,” he said. “If you can’t survive the initial drowning experience, you’re not going to make it out.”  If in a water emergency, swimmers should flip over onto their back, float to keep their head above water, calm themselves down and conserve energy, and then follow the current to assess which way it’s flowing.  Then, either swim perpendicular to the flow until reaching safety, or continue floating and try to signal for help if too tired to swim.

Benjamin and Bob Pratt, GLSRP’s executive director of education, are currently traveling throughout the Midwest to provide in-school presentations on water safety.  They believe it’s the best approach to spreading information quickly, having completed more than 450 presentations in seven of the eight Great Lakes states.  “They have fire drills, tornado drills, shooting drills and even earthquake drills in school,” said Benjamin. “But it’s more likely school-aged children will die from drowning. Why is there not water safety curriculum?”

With these presentations, as well as additional outreach, training, public awareness and preparedness efforts, GLSRP hopes to reduce the number of Great Lakes drownings.  “It’s really simple. It’s not rocket science. It’s just bullet-pointed information that is not being delivered,” he said. “If people knew, they would be much safer and it would cause a huge decrease in drowning deaths.”

The stigma surrounding drowning, as well as the lack of industry-backing and scarce funding, also contribute to the epidemic, said Benjamin.  “One of the main contributors is the stigma — when a drowning happens, from a public point of view, people blame the victim, blame the parents or blame it on Darwinism,” he said. “It gives the public a false sense of security that drowning wouldn’t happen to them, that it only happens to stupid people. It’s false. People think drowning happens to other people, until they become the other people.

05/26/2017 – Pantagraph – Experts urge safety on, near water – One problem is people don’t know what drowning looks like, says Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.  It’s not like the movies, with a lot of splashing and yelling, he said. Instead, a person’s mouth might be barely above water level, with their head tilted back and body vertical, making ladder-climbing motions as they try to stay above water, explained Benjamin.

Benjamin said, “Learning how to swim isn’t enough.”  Learning survival skills in a water emergency should start with children in school, he said.  “’Flip-float-follow’ is the ‘stop-drop-and-roll’ of water safety,” said Benjamin, with the emphasis on float. He said people should flip to face up and float to control breathing, calm themselves and find an escape route to follow.

05/24/2017 – Tinley Junction – Tinley Park couple spreads water safety message in memory of son – Tinley Park residents John and Kathy Kocher, teaching water safety and giving back to their community is more than just a passion for them; it is their mission.  The Kochers’ only child, Matt, drowned in Lake Michigan while at camp in 2013 at the age of 15, pulled from the shore by a rip current. That defining moment in the Kochers’ lives was the moment they knew they had to do something about water safety and drowning prevention, Kathy said.

05/17/2017 – Chicago Sun-Times – Balmy temps and frigid Lake Michigan a lethal mix — Tianna Hollinside, 13, and Juan Cornelio, 23, may have never known what hit them before they joined the ranks of Chicagoans who died too young.

But it wasn’t a bullet that killed them. It was cold water.  Hollinside and Cornelio both drowned Tuesday in separate swimming accidents on Chicago’s north lakefront, lured to their deaths by balmy 80-degree-plus air temperatures that belied a fatally frigid Lake Michigan.  Swimming may not even be the right word for what happened…

05/17/2017 – The News Dispatch – Staying safe in the Great Lakes – MICHIGAN CITY — “Ten people per day in the United States drown. Drowning is a huge, huge problem.”  That was the sobering message Barker Middle School students received at the beach this week via Bob Pratt, the executive director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

The Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentations were a collaboration between the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project the city of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Department and the Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards.

05/17/2017 – PR – Memorial Water Safety Presentation or 2015 Lake Michigan Drowning Victim as Lake Michigan drownings are up 57% over 2016

05/16/2017 – PR – CRITICAL UPDATE: Great Lakes Drownings Increase; Water Safety Presentation Wednesday on the beach in Michigan City, Indiana.

05/15/2017 – ABC 57 – As summer nears, experts warn about dangers of Lake Michigan — Life-saving lessons along the lake shore. Last year there were 46 drownings in Lake Michigan plus 6 listed in Critical Condition. To date in 2017, there have been 9 drowning in Lake Michigan.
05/15/2017 – WSBT 22 – Students learn beach safety in Michigan City

05/14/2017 – PR – Michigan City Students Heading to the Beach this week for Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentations – The GLSRP is partnering with the City of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Department, and Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards to perform Lake Michigan water safety presentations for Barker Middle School students.

05/11/2017 – Laporte County Life – City of Michigan City Shares Swimming Safety Tips – making their beaches SAFER!

05/07/2017 – PR – Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation for Valparaiso Swim Club and the general public as Great Lakes drownings continue to rise in 2017

05/07/2017 – PR – National Lifesaver Award Winners Continue Efforts with Chicagoland Water Safety School Presentations this week – As Great Lakes drownings continue to rise in 2017

05/01/2017 – infoSuperior – Statistics Show Spike in Lake Superior Drownings — What if rescuers didn’t have to enter the water? Basically a remote controlled life ring, or drone, that could be kept at swimming beaches, on board vessels for man overboard situations or in emergancy response vehicles for cases involving potential drownings.

04/29/2017 – PR – Come on out today for a Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation at the Green Gary – Earth Day Celebration – Lake Michigan Drownings were up 84% last year over 2015; Tracking 14 Great Lakes drownings in 2017

04/26/2017 – Liquid Adventuring – Drowning – It’s Not Just for Stupid People

04/23/2017 – Journal Sentinel – With Great Lakes drownings spiking, rescuers look to education, technology

04/19/2017 – Tinley Park Patch – Kocher’s Receive National Life Saving Award

04/19/2014 – CBS 2 Chicago – Lake Michigan Drownings Spike In 2016 – The number of drownings in Lake Michigan spiked 84 percent in 2016, compared with the previous year, according to a water safety advocacy group.

04/18/2017 – PR – Lake Michigan Drownings up 84% in 2016 over 2015; GLSRP presenting at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium’s “Great Lakes Water Safety Conference” Thursday and Friday, April 20 and 21, at the Maywood Environmental Park, 3615 Mueller Rd. in Sheboygan, WI.

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 – Announces 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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