Saturday, July 14, 2012

An Open Letter - desensitized to drownings impact


It’s been a very tough week for me.  Since 2010 I’ve been updating the drowning statistics, sometimes on a daily basis and even multiple updates per day, and realized last Sunday that I had become desensitized even though I witnessed a dramatic rip current rescue in New Buffalo September 2009 and I, myself, had a  nonfatal drowning accident in December 2010.

Last Sunday I and two other surfers (Tim Driscoll and Burton Hathaway) initially responded to the rescue of Cory McFry as first responders were enroute and assembling on the beach.  We searched the surf for over 40 minutes knowing that after 10 minutes our rescue efforts had turned into a body recovery. (FaceBook pictures and story)

It really didn’t hit me until we were ordered out of the water, and I saw Cory’s four teenage friends sitting on the beach with a sad depressed look of shock, despair, and disbelief.  They looked how we were starting to feel.

And each drowning accident is like this, exponentially affecting all those personally involved – the friends, families, beach goers, first responders, village employees and on and on.  Now exponentially multiply this by 205 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010.

People go to the Great Lakes for a fun filled day of rest and relaxation from their daily lives creating lifelong memories of happiness.  The joy that the beach gives us can also create so much sorrow. 

I recently spoke with a woman who witnessed her father and his friend drown in a Lake Michigan rip current in 2010.  She hasn’t gone back to the beach since. 

How is that good for life and tourism?  How does that not justify ocean trained lifeguards at these beaches?  How much money does it cost to fuel two helicopters, three rescue boats, four jet-skis, and all of the man hours of first responders over a 48 hour period? Is it enough money to fund at least two lifeguards’ salaries for the summer at that beach?”

When I was in high school, I used to pack my parents station wagon with ten friends for a day at the beach.  I can’t imagine how it would have been for us if on one of those days we were driving home with one less passenger.

So much more can be done through public education, public participation, personal and public responsibility as a community if it’s done in concert; i.e.
·         Personal Responsibility” signs detailing respect for the power of the Lakes, hands-on adult supervision of children, parents are the first responders, no pier jumping, Obeying the flag warning system;
·         Throw rings, throw ropes, and call boxes;
·         Ocean trained lifeguards at all beaches;
·         Legalizing surfing at all beaches;
·         Memorial Signs at beaches with the picture, name, age, date, and water conditions of the life lost;
·         Dangerous Currents” signs detailing rip currents, long-shore currents, flash rips, jetty rips, seiches, upwelling, offshore winds, etc. etc.,
·         Rescue” signs detailing the “Signs of Drowning,” the “Flip, Float, Follow” rip current survival strategy, “Get them something/anything that floats”, beach mile marker signs, how to use throw rings, throw ropes, and call boxes (at the very few beaches that have them).

There’s so much that each individual to do on a Community Level…

So here it is… Another press release with another life lost.  “46 Great Lakes Drownings – Increase 100% on Lake Michigan".

Please un-desensitized yourself moving forward.  

Please support the efforts of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project by attending a “Water Safety Surf Rescue” class or by becoming a Member of the GLSRP.  We are currently an unfunded volunteer nonprofit organization donating our personal time and personal resources to educate and save your life and the lives of your loved ones at the beach.

Dave Benjamin,
Executive Director of Public Relations and Project Management

1 comment:

  1. Great Letter Dave...Sh***y circumstances
    numb is a good descriptor ...yet every time i am at the lake i instinctively go into lifeguard mode... yet... i have to Detach, to be able to enjoy the experience...sisyphean Greek tragedy :/