Coast Guard gives advice on water safety for 4th of July weekend

NOW: Coast Guard gives advice on water safety for 4th of July weekend

By: Alejandra Palacios Perez

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- On this warm 4th of July weekend a lot of people are swarming the beach to cool off. With more people out on the water, the U.S. Coast Guard has extra measures and enforcement in place this weekend for 'Operation Dry Water' to reduce alcohol and drug related incidents and deaths on the water.

The Coast Guard's message is simple. They say it's crucial to be prepared for the unexpected, wear a life jacket, and obey the laws that come with operating a boat on a great big lake like Lake Michigan.

"Make sure that you're reading the weather, make sure that you're doing a little research on what the beach is like. If there's an area where there's rip currents or if there's 'no swimming' zones. Also check if there is going to be a lifeguard there at all times and if not, what time will they be there. Really making sure that you're prepared and knowing the area," said Lt. J.g. Phillip Gurtler, a response officer for the U.S. Coast Guard for Lake Michigan.

Many tourists and community members like Antonio Conners of Milwaukee went to Bradford Beach Saturday afternoon to cool off and enjoy the 4th of July weekend.

"My kids wanted to get out and come out to the beach. Today was going to be a 90 degree day so they wanted to come get in the fresh water," said Conners.

The Coast Guard is aware more people will be out on the lake and have additional hands on deck to help and respond to emergencies. They say when people are out on the water, safety is something to always have in the back of your mind.

"If you're not a very strong swimmer, wear a life jacket. If you're on a vessel, you have to have one within arm's reach of you. If you're under the age of 13 you actually have to be wearing it at all times, said Gurtler.

According to a spokesperson from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 2021 is already considered a deadly year for drownings, with 32 drownings so far in the great lakes. Last year around this time of the year, there were 23. There have been 15 drownings in Lake Michigan this year so far, with three people drowning in just this last month.

"I stay out the water and really keep a close eye on my kids, that’s it. That's the most safety I have right now," said Conners.

"You're not really going to see a rip current as much on the smaller bodies of water whereas Lake Michigan, it's kind of common in certain areas. Always be reminded to not fear the water but treat it with the respect it deserves," said Gurtler.

The Coast Guard also say a key thing with water safety is never going alone if you are going in the water.

"Make sure to never be alone. If you're out there and you find yourself in a situation that you may not be prepared for always having somebody else there available to contact rescue," said Gurtler.

Alcohol is a big concern this time of the year too with more people out on their boats for the holiday.

"The federal limit for boating under the influence is a .08 blood alcohol content. We're really trying to enforce those boating under the influence laws over this weekend to make sure that everybody on the water is being safe," said Gurtler.

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