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A Record We Don’t Want to Beat – Respect the Red Flag

Along with the global epidemic, 2020 also gave way to another serious situation with a more localized impact; a new record for Lake Michigan drownings. More than 50 people lost their lives to the pull of this powerful lake last year.

“Lake Michigan is one of our most beautiful assets, but it also carries the potential for deadly danger,” says Shelleye Yaklin, CEO of NOCHS. “My heart breaks every time our EMS crew gets called to a potential drowning. It’s so agonizing…and so preventable.”

One of the reasons people lose their lives to the big lake is the irresistible lure of the waves. “It’s fun to play in rough water,” says NOCHS EMS manager Tom Stanley. “On a hot day when the waves are crashing on the beach, it’s a huge temptation to ignore that red flag and jump in. It looks like fun. It looks harmless.”

But those flags are there for a reason. The red flag is the most serious of all beach warnings. It means that it is unsafe for swimmers to be in the water, due to either high surf or dangerous currents. “Many tourists simply don’t understand the hidden power of the water,” continues Yaklin. “Rip currents are invisible but deadly. When the red flag is out on the beach, that means you should stay out of the water.”

That risk is compounded when beachgoers or rescuers attempt to save a life. “It’s not safe for anyone to be out there,” notes Tom Stanley. “The water doesn’t respect the life of a rescuer any more than it does the victim. Even a well-trained person can fall prey to the currents.”

This summer you may see some videos from our paramedics on our Facebook page, warning all of us to stay out of the water when the red flag is flying. “We don’t want to find another lifeless body,” Tom says. “We don’t want another family to be crushed by a preventable tragedy. So please…help keep our visitors and residents safe. Remind each other to respect the warning flags. Let’s all live to enjoy many summers to come.”

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