May 19, 2015
With summer just around the corner, millions of swimmers will enjoy Wisconsin’s Great Lakes beaches and cool water on a hot summer day, but waves and currents can be deadly. Since 2005, at least 26 people have died at Wisconsin beaches, according to Wisconsin Sea Grant.
To address this threat to swimmers, partners in Wisconsin and throughout the Great Lakes are hitting the beaches at the end of May with new water safety and emergency rescue equipment like ring buoys and life jackets as part of a water safety campaign: Be Current Smart. In addition to the equipment, the campaign includes water safety tips tailored to Wisconsin and other states in the region.
“Beach-goers can take simple steps to ensure a fun, safe day in the water,” said Todd Breiby, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. “Parents have an important role in keeping a close watch on young children and making sure they wear life jackets.”
Rip currents are dangerous and can flow very fast away from shore. If caught in a rip current, the best means of escape is to swim to the side, out of the current and then back to shore. In addition to parents keeping a close eye on children while they are in the water or near the water’s edge, experts advise swimmers to “steer clear of piers,” and avoid getting trapped in danger zones near structures.
New water safety and emergency rescue equipment will be distributed and deployed by Be Current Smart partners throughout the Great Lakes and to 41 beaches in Wisconsin today and during May 27-28. Another six beaches in Door County, Wis., will receive safety equipment through funding by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. First responders note it’s critical to quickly help someone in trouble by tossing a ring buoy or anything that floats.
The Be Current Smart campaign includes animations targeted for children and video news release footage with interviews from the U.S. Coast Guard, county sheriffs and park officials. Safety campaign partners supported the production of new beach sign templates, publications, curriculum, diagrams and descriptions of the types of dangerous currents. All materials are free and available for news media, beach communities, park staff, educators and others.
Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program have been working on this campaign in Wisconsin with a group comprised of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service, UW-Oshkosh and local government representatives. Regionally, they’ve been working with the National Weather Service and NOAA Coastal Storms Program, as well as several Great Lakes Sea Grant programs.