A bucket sits at Scotch Lake Residents Beach in West Bloomfield during a past summer. A local group is taking water safety education into the classroom this year.

A bucket sits at Scotch Lake Residents Beach in West Bloomfield during a past summer. A local group is taking water safety education into the classroom this year.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Group teaches students about water safety

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 1, 2018

 Bob Pratt, from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, speaks to fifth-grade students at West Hills Middle School Feb. 26. Pratt and the GLSRP champion water safety and teach people what to do in a water emergency.

Bob Pratt, from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, speaks to fifth-grade students at West Hills Middle School Feb. 26. Pratt and the GLSRP champion water safety and teach people what to do in a water emergency.

Photo provided by Jen Teal

WEST BLOOMFIELD/BLOOMFIELD HILLS — With the abundance of lakes allowing for fun days at the beach for kids and families, it’s important to know the basics: how to swim, what to wear and what to bring to the beach. 

What many kids don’t know is what to do if they or someone else is drowning. 

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project teaches kids exactly what to do during water emergencies. 

The GLSRP visited fifth-grade students at West Hills Middle School Feb. 26 to teach students about water safety. The group was established in 2010 in hopes of raising awareness and spreading knowledge about water safety and drowning. 

Jen Teal, a teacher leader at West Hills, said that this is the first instance of West Hills students getting water safety training through a school program. 

“I hope to expand the program throughout the year,” she said. “It really is a huge issue.”

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4, and it is the second-leading cause of accidental death in children under 14. 

“We talk a lot about gun violence, we do tornado drills in schools, we do lockdown drills, we do fire drills in schools,” said Bob Pratt, executive director of education for the GLSRP. “Drowning will kill more kids than fire, lightning, tornadoes, school shooters and earthquakes combined.” 

In 2018 alone, there have been six drownings just in the Great Lakes. In 2017, there were 88 drownings in the Great Lakes, according to the GLSRP. 

Since 2010, when the GLSRP was established, the group has counted 632 drownings on the Great Lakes — only six of those drownings tracked by the GLSRP were in people using life jackets.  

The GLSRP travels school to school teaching kids safety tips on what to do if they start to drown and what to do if they think someone else is drowning. 

“It’s really a big problem that doesn’t get addressed,” said Pratt. “All kids know how to stop, drop and roll. All the kids know how to dial 911, but they really don’t have a plan for a water emergency. We advocate ‘flip, float and follow.’”

The flip-float-follow method teaches kids that when they are swimming and begin to have trouble to flip over onto their back, float on top of the water to breathe, calm down and regain control, and follow the safest path out of the water. 

Christine Forystek lost her son, Corey McFry, in 2012 in Lake Michigan in Portage, Indiana. 

McFry was swimming with friends when he either fell or was swept from a sandbar into water that was over his head. 

Her son was  a happy person who loved to play Xbox, guitar and drums; someday, he wanted to be in a band, she said in a press release.

“Everyone has to be more careful around water. They (kids) think they are invincible. You just don’t know,” she said in the release.

 “I hope that this education and awareness catches people’s attention. Maybe, (with Corey’s death), it will hit home with them,” she said in the release.

Lake Michigan sees the most drownings of all the Great Lakes.

Pratt encourages all people, especially kids, to take a flotation device with them anytime they are going into the water. Kids should be wearing the proper, well-fitting gear when swimming, and they should never go swimming alone. 

For more information on water safety, visit www.glsrp.org.