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'We need lifeguards': National Drowning Prevention Alliance preach importance of lifeguards this summer

Posted at 5:56 AM, Jun 04, 2024

(WXYZ) — To beat the summer heat, millions of Americans will look to water as a way to cool off. But where you choose to take a dip can place you and your family at risk.

"We always say swimming near a lifeguard is unequivocally the safest decision," Adam Katchmarchi told me.

Katchmarchi is the CEO of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. He says swimming at locations without lifeguards is considerably more dangerous. But how much more is difficult to quantify because of gaps in how data is collected.

In many cases, drowning reports don’t indicate whether drownings occur at lifeguarded or non-lifeguarded locations. And that missing data can make it difficult for those arguing that beaches, lakes and pools should be manned by lifeguards when budgets are tight.

"Without really hard data, it's really hard to make a case to policymakers to say, you know, we need lifeguards at our community pool or our community beach," Katchmarchi said. "Look at the data."

This comes in the wake of a deadly Memorial Day weekend with three drownings: An 11-year-old boy at the Holly recreation area where there are no lifeguards assigned to the beach, a 28-year-old on Galloway Lake, and a 23-year-old man on Belleville Lake.

I checked with Wayne. Oakland & Macomb Counties and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. And while I never heard back from Macomb County, none of the others have data comparing the risk of swimming at a guarded vs non-guarded beach. Katchmarchi says even the CDC doesn’t track that information.

The US Lifeguard Association comes closest and says the risk of drowning at an unguarded beach is more than 5 times higher. At a guarded beach the chances of drowning are 1 in 18 million.

But even that data from the US Lifeguard Associations comes with the warning it the info from the more than 125 agencies is not a comprehensive list and still subject to quote "individual agency consistency.”

No matter where you swim Katchmarchi says you should have access to lifesaving tools such as a life ring buoy, reaching pole, a quick access to emergency responders through a call box

I spoke to the folks at Oak Park public pool Friday, and they like so many other facilities are looking for lifeguards.

They say it's a great first job for teens for summer and throughout the year.