Two young boys hold hands on the shore of Lake Leelanau

Water Safety Update: Drowning Prevention

You can enjoy the “dog days” of summer while not letting your water safety guard down on Lake Leelanau and Lake Michigan! As the autumn winds begin to blow in, the Lake Leelanau Lake Association would like to share tips and guidance about drowning prevention to ensure you do not get caught in a sticky situation on the water. Although it is not the most uplifting topic, we ask that you please look through this week’s water safety update to stay informed on ways to keep safe on the water.

Facts About Drowning

Below you will find facts about drowning to help you understand the severity and real threat that it presents.

  • More children ages one through four die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects.
  • For children ages one through fourteen, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death after motor vehicle crashes.
  • Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.

Many factors might contribute to higher rates of drowning among males, including increased exposure to water, risk-taking behaviors, and alcohol use.

  • Drowning kills nearly 4,000 people each year in the United States.
  • According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP), there have been 1,120 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010.
  • In 2022, sadly, there have been over 33 drownings in Lake Michigan.

To review more drowning facts, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDCP) Drowning Prevention page.

Drowning Prevention Tips

Now that you see that the topic of drowning is serious business, here are some ways in which you can prevent it.

  • Know how to recognize someone drowning. Oftentimes, drowning does not look like drowning as you might see in the movies and on TV. It is often silent since the person might be in a passive state of panic. Here are some telltale signs someone is drowning:
    • Head facing shore, looking for a way to safety;
    • Mouth at the water level to ensure breathing is possible;
    • Head tilted back to keep the mouth out of the water;
    • Body vertical, again, to keep the head as high as possible, and;
    • The body moves in a climbing ladder motion to raise the head.
Infographic showing what drowning looks like
  • If you are drowning, or see someone performing the signs of drowning mentioned above, follow the rule of “Flip, Float, and Follow.”
    • Flip onto your back so you can float and keep your head away from the water.
    • Float on your back to keep your head above water, calm down and prevent panic, and conserve your energy so you can swim if you have to.
    • Follow the current, do not fight it! Allow the current to take you briefly, so you know which way it is moving. Once you have figured out the direction of the current, you should swim perpendicular to its flow. If you grow tired from swimming, float, and signal for help. This is a stressful situation, but try to remain calm until help arrives.
Infographic about drowning prevention using the flip, float, and follow method
  • Drownings often occur with parents and other adults nearby watching the kids—do not mistake drowning for playing and take all in-water behavior seriously. Whenever children are in the water, an adult capable of making a rescue needs to be attentively watching them.
    • Always have a designated "water watcher" that understands what drowning looks like and can prevent most drownings. 
    • Be a water watcher! Learn CPR with rescue breaths—this is the most effective way to save lives in water-related accidents.
    • As an extra preventative measure, you should always wear a life jacket while on a boat, paddleboard, or kayak.

By understanding the real risks associated with any water-related activities and the ways in which to prevent accidents, you can help save lives. It is important to take water safety seriously and know how you can prevent drownings from happening.

If you have found the drowning prevention guidance helpful, we ask that you share this with your friends and family so they can familiarize themselves with tips to stay safe while enjoying the water.

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