Water safety precautions urged amid season without lifeguards at Milwaukee County beaches

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- An 8-year-old's drowning death over the weekend is putting a spotlight on water safety.

There are shortages of lifeguards across the area, including down at Bradford Beach.

Five groups have launched a new safety program.

The Milwaukee Community Sailing Center and the Milwaukee Riverkeeper are two of the groups.

They'll have people dressed in blue shirts providing information about safety issues to be aware of in the lake.

However, they say they're not a replacement for lifeguards.

"You are swimming at your own risk, so if you are coming to Bradford Beach and you want to enjoy our beaches, it's important that we all lean on one another for safety," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

Four people drowned off Bradford Beach last year. Eight-year-old Isac Ramos drowned in the West Bend swimming pond Saturday.

"Most of the drownings are not going to be that flailing around and calling for help," said Geneva Lake Water Safety Patrol Director Ted Pankau.

He said drownings do not look like what people expect.

"They just kind of go into a panic, their eyes might get big, they're looking at shore, they're looking for someone to help, but they can't vocalize it," said Pankau.

He said that's why it's so critical to watch children who are swimming and stay in reach of them. The Coast Guard said its also critical to have a plan.

"I know it's just Lake Michigan, but it's the fifth biggest lake in the world for a reason, it gets pretty rough out there," said Boatswains Mate 3rd Class Cody Wasden.

He said swimmers should learn the area they're swimming in and pay attention to the weather.

"The wind, where it's blowing, if it's going to be blowing you off, because even though we're in June and it's 90 degrees, the water temperature is still only in the 50s," said Wasden.

Pankau urges parents to get their children swim lessons. He said the first lesson may save their life.

"How to float, they learn that before they learn any of the strokes through the water, it's how do you float," said Pankau.

The beach ambassadors will be on the beaches Thursday through Sundays.

They hope to prevent drownings through education.

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