Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Lake Erie water safety classes offered this weekend

Painesville, Ohio — The Ohio DNR is sponsoring 10 classes intended to teach people recreating along Ohio’s coast how to do so more safely. 

The Lake Erie Surf Water Safety Classes are being held in cooperation with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Inc. (GLSRP) from April 25-27 in Lake and Ashtabula counties.

“Safe and enjoyable recreation on Lake Erie is a priority for Ohio,” said Scudder Mackey, chief of the ODNR Office of Coastal Management. “Swimming in the Great Lakes is not like swimming in a pool. Currents formed by natural forces can create unpredictable conditions.”

The Lake Erie Surf Water Safety Classes will teach people how to:

• Understand how, where, and why dangerous currents occur in the Great Lakes and what to do if they get caught in a current.
• Recognize and avoid recreational swimming hazards and conditions.
• Recognize the signs of drowning and identify a person in trouble.
• Understand the “Flip, Float and Follow” survival strategy.
• Safely rescue a swimmer using various flotation devices and why a person should never attempt a water rescue without something that floats.

Rip currents, outlet currents, and structural currents that form on Lake Erie can carry people away from shore out to open water. Many people exhaust themselves trying to fight the current by swimming into the current toward shore. People caught in a current should let the current pull them out to open water, while trying to swim or float away from the current parallel to the shore.

“Through this training, people begin to appreciate the power of water and understand the factors of safety for enjoyable Great Lake recreation,” said Dave Benjamin, GLSRP co-founder.

Because Lake Erie’s water temperature is only 36 degrees right now, the classes with in-water training sessions are being held at local YMCAs. Participants who attend a weekend class at a YMCA with an indoor pool will have the opportunity to practice rescue techniques in water and are asked to wear appropriate attire and bring towels if they wish to enter the water.

The classes being held April 27 are for students in Ashtabula City School’s Huron, Michigan, and Ontario primary schools, as well as Erie and Michigan intermediate schools.  

“Schools practice fire drills, tornado drills, active shooter drills, and even earthquake drills, but water safety drowning prevention is missing,” said Melissa Zirkle, mother of Jermaine, 13, who drowned in 2013 after being pulled offshore by a current. 

Zirkle has been a catalyst in organizing the surf safety events in hopes of preventing future drownings.

According to the Center for Disease Control, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages 1–14. Since 2010, 384 people have drowned in the Great Lakes with 20 percent of those (79) occurring in Lake Erie.

The weekend classes are free for attendees and are recommended for first responders, coastal residents, people who regularly go to the beach, lifeguards, and people who frequently work along the shore and may be called upon to help during an emergency. Children are encouraged to attend the classes with an adult. Attendees do not have to enter the water and can observe the rescue portions of the training from poolside. The public classes are as follows:

Saturday, April 25 – each class is 50 minutes
• 1:20 p.m. at the Ashtabula YMCA, 263 West Prospect, Ashtabula
• 2:15 p.m. at the Ashtabula YMCA, 263 West Prospect, Ashtabula

Sunday April 26 – each class is 75 minutes
• Noon at the Lake County West End YMCA, 37100 Euclid Ave., Willoughby
• 2:30 p.m. at the Lake County Central YMCA, 933 Mentor Ave., Painesville
• 5 p.m. at the Lake County YMCA Outdoor Family Center, 4540 River Road, Perry

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