Third Coast Ocean Force Aims to Prevent Great Lakes Drownings

While a coach in Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program, Dave Benjamin created a project titled ‘Third Coast Ocean Force’ to prevent drownings in America’s great lakes region. Here is his account of the project.

In the summer and fall of 2010 every day there was surf in the Great Lakes, someone was drowning, primarily due to rip currents. Approximately 74 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2010.

With the mantra, “without action there are no results”, I realized that lives are at stake and created the community project, “Third Coast Ocean Force”.

The title, “Third Coast Ocean Force” was created because the Great Lakes are sometimes referred to as the “Third Coast” of the United States and it can have “Ocean Force” rip currents during windy weather conditions.

The project currently has two tiers:

1. “Surfboard Rescue Techniques” classes for Great Lakes surfers and Great Lakes professional water rescue personnel on how to use surfboards as lifesaving devices. These classes will also encourage lake surfers to obtain CPR certificates, Life Guard Certificates, and publicize instances where lake surfers or water rescue personnel rescued swimmers from rip currents/drowning with surfboards.

2. Rip Current Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) A summer-long campaign via TV news Medias, newspaper Medias, social media networking, online forums, blogging, etc.

On Sunday, June 5, the project’s first rescue training event took place in St. Joseph (pictures shown here), with 20 participants taking part in a Surfboard rescue class that included in-water training.

We have another “Surfboard Rescue Techniques Class Scheduled for Sunday, July 17, 2011 in Frankfort, MI – there are also request for this class in Michigan City, IN; Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI; Sheboygan, WI; and Duluth, MN.

While researching for this project, I discovered that several organizations were already in action regarding these causes, so I created partnership with The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the National Weather Service.

About the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project
Created by Bob Pratt, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is made up of Great Lakes surfers dedicated to reducing drowning incidents on the Great Lakes. Surfers have a long history of rescues along our coasts. As surfers we are often in the water when conditions are most dangerous: high surf and cold water. By educating surfers to the dangers of RIP currents and hypothermia we can reduce the likelihood of them becoming victims but more importantly, by educating them to use their surfboard as a rescue tool, more lives can be saved. Check out the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Facebook page.

About the National Weather Service’s “Break the Grip of the Rip!”® National Rip Current Awareness Week, June 5 – 11, 2011.
In an effort to heighten public awareness of rip currents at surf beaches, each year NOAA designates the first full week of June as national Rip Current Awareness Week, coinciding with the traditional start of the summer vacation season. Rip currents are strong narrow currents moving away from shore. The strongest rip currents can attain speeds reaching 8 feet per second; this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! On average, more people die every year from rip currents in oceans than from shark attacks. In 2010, 38 people drowned in Lake Michigan (Overall in 2010, 74 people drowned in all of the Great Lakes, quite a few of them from the ocean force rip currents.)

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