WSW: Water Safety Becomes More Important As Great Lakes Drownings Increase

Jul 31, 2019

Credit WMUK

The Director of the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium says ideally there would be lifeguards on Great Lakes beaches, but he says in places where they aren’t on duty, people have to be extra vigilant to prevent drowning.

Jamie Racklyeft says many local governments don’t want to hire lifeguards because of liability. He says municipal leaders are afraid that they can be sued if they post lifeguards at a beach and something happens. But Racklyeft says a sign that says “no lifeguard on duty” doesn’t save anybody, and he says it's no guarantee to prevent legal action. “If you’re going to get sued, and anybody can get sued for anything, it’s a matter of whether you win or not. But wouldn’t you rather get sued for trying to help than for doing nothing?”

"Wouldn't you rather get sued for trying to help than for doing nothing?"

Racklyeft says after a tragedy communities react. He says his group is trying to get people to be proactive about drownings. The number of drownings in the Great Lakes is on pace to break last year’s record, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Racklyeft says it’s hard to know for why that is, and he says it hasn’t been a steady increase over the years. Racklyeft adds that he hopes the drownings make people realize that there is potential danger on the Great Lakes and take extra precautions.