Safety enhancements to Racine’s North Beach after drowning

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RACINE -- Summer is here, and that means sunny skies, warm temperatures and people seeking fun in the sun at area beaches. After a drowning in Lake Michigan last year at Racine's North Beach, this year means new safety enhancements, aimed at preventing future drownings and keep beach-goers safe.

Mike Erb brought his children to North Beach on Sunday, June 10th -- a mostly sunny day with temperatures ranging between 70s and 90, depending upon the distance from Lake Michigan.

"They are liking it a lot. The little guy doesn't even think the water is 65 degrees," Erb said.

Racine Mayor John Dickert says the city has implemented new safety measures for this year's beach season, after 10-year-old Willie Bogan drowned last year.

"What we decided was we were going to get our team together and try to determine how we can prevent it from happening again in the future.  One of the first things that we did was at the end of the protected area, we put a buoy line.  It's called a grab line, so that it demonstrates where people and where the lifeguards end, but also where the unprotected area is," Dickert said. 

Officials bought a jet ski for lifeguards to use, hoping that will give them a quicker response time. Officials say they're also creating a course to explain beach rules to the public, and discuss hidden dangers of open water.

Additional safety implementations for the 2012 beach season include:

  • Providing signs which are more visible to visitors indicating protected areas, areas closed to swimming, dangerous breakwater, water quality and rip currents.
  • Stringing buoys from the water to shore in order to better identify the protected areas. Flags will be used at the shore line to mark these areas.
  • Lifeguards will patrol the unprotected area near the pier and if he/she encounters anyone, the lifeguard will point out the prevention signs and explain the dangers of entering the water in an unprotected area.
  • A Jet Ski was purchased to provide lifeguard staff a quicker response time to an incident.
  • A second Head Lifeguard will be hired to ensure that a head lifeguard is available seven days a week.
  • Junior Lifeguards will be recruited and trained to provide on shore duties like educating visitors on how to have a safe day at the beach.
  • A course is being created that would invite people to North Beach to explain the rules of the beach, the hidden dangers of open water and how to enjoy a safe day at the beach.

Officials say these measures are meant to help keep people safe on the beach, but parents must still do their part, and keep an eye on their children.

"Everybody just needs to make sure they watch their kids too, that's the thing," Erb said.

Racine officials estimate nearly 200,000 people will visit North Beach this summer.

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