Submitted by Liz Reimink. Mason County Emergency Management Coordinator.
Members of the Mason-Oceana Water Safety Coalition attended a training workshop in Muskegon on Tuesday June 4 to learn about the various dangerous currents that can occur in Lake Michigan. The training was sponsored by the Michigan Sea Grant program. The sea grant program is a research program that researches ways to detect and warn citizens about the hazards associated with dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. The training workshop brought together the researchers, National Weather Service, State Park officials, emergency responders, and other water safety outreach organizations. Everyone came together to learn and share ideas on how we can keep our Great Lakes safer.
Mason County has many dangerous currents possible along the Lake Michigan shoreline, given the right combination of conditions. Rip currents are typically the hazard that receives the most attention; however, long shore and structural currents can be just as dangerous and deadly. A rip current forms when waves are channeled away from the shore at surf beaches; rip currents pull swimmers away from the shore towards the lake. A long shore current runs along the shoreline and can sweep a swimmer up or down the beach. These currents are not necessarily dangerous, but they can pull a swimmer into a dangerous situation. Another dangerous current is a structural current, which is caused by waves being directed along a permanent structure or land jetty. Mason County can experience these currents along the Ludington Harbor break walls and Big Point Sauble. Even though it may be tough to distinguish between these currents, it’s important to remember all currents can be strong and hazardous.
In an effort to strengthen the preparedness and awareness, Mason County formed a Water Safety Coalition in 2011. This coalition then expanded to include Oceana County and other organizations to strengthen the collaboration amongst agencies. The coalition has members from several agencies that have a role in a water related emergency. The coalition promotes sharing information, joint training, and unified community outreach to make our communities safer.
One of the most important topics presented at the training was the need to educate and involve the public. The upcoming Water Safety Day on Saturday June 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. is a great opportunity to meet some of emergency response agencies and see their boats and other rescue equipment. In addition, any business or community organization that wants to be involved in sponsoring safety messages or posting brochures in their business can become coalition partner.
Visitors come from around the state to enjoy our “Pure Ludington” beaches, the coalition strives to make sure our citizens and guests enjoy our beaches safely. Knowing the types of hazards possible and being aware of the daily changes in conditions is important in maintaining you and your family’s safety. For more information, please contact the Mason County Emergency Management Office.