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US Coast Guard aims to prevent drownings on Lake Erie with educational open house

Coast Guard open house
Posted at 8:06 PM, May 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-21 20:06:40-04

CLEVELAND — The United States Coast Guard held an open house Saturday morning, inviting the community to the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Cleveland to take tours, view demonstrations and learn safety tips to prevent drownings and boating accidents.

During the event, members of the Coast Guard showcased how they train and execute their rescue operations in an effort to let the community know that they intend to be ready whenever they are needed.

“So the Coast Guard is available 24/7, 365. We’re only just a phone call away," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Greg Schell. “Our units are training all year to prepare for those distress situations."

Schell said that there are several things those thinking of heading out on the water can do in order to remain as safe as possible.

“That includes making sure you have your life jackets and that people are wearing them," Schell said. “That includes filing a float plan with a loved one onshore, making sure they know where you’re going when you're expected."

In 2020, 108 people drowned in the Great Lakes, with 19 of those drownings occurring on Lake Erie. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, so far this year one person has drowned on Lake Erie, two deaths of unknown cause have been reported on the lake and the condition of one individual who was found in the water is unknown.

Another tip the Coast Guard offered was particularly topical right now—making sure to check the weather before heading out on the lake or any body of water.

“It’s really, really warm today but that water temperature is not, it’s dangerously cold," Schell said.

Warm temperatures can be deceiving and create a false sense of security for those on the water. "Cold shock" can cause dramatic changes in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, causing those entering the water to gasp and increase the risk of drowning.

Additionally, cold water can cause hypothermia in unsuspecting boaters and swimmers.

"Hypothermia can set in as little as an hour with water temperatures like this and you only have about 10 minutes of functional movement if you became suddenly immersed," Schell said.

Saturday's event aimed to teach those in attendance water safety while also showcasing the Coast Guard's efforts to be there when the community needs them most.

“We depend on the community and the community depends on us. We want to have that relationship, we want folks to see what we’re doing and how we can help you," Schell said.

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