Task Force Urges More Lifeguards, Other Safety Improvements

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More lifeguards and better training and equipment are among the recommendations from a task force formed after the fatal drowning last year of a Rogers Park girl.

The Lakefront Safety Task Force Initial Report is the “culmination of months of conversation and research,” said Ald. Joe Moore in an introduction to the 12-page document.

“Our mission was to identify ways the City of Chicago, its sister agencies, regional partners, and residents can work together to make enjoyment of the Lake Michigan waterfront safer for all Chicagoans and visitors,” Moore said.

Among other recommendations are a requirement to fly red flags during threatening weather conditions, installing location systems at all beaches, improved training for all all Chicago police and fire personnel, and partnerships with community organizations to keep life jacket loaner stations at all beaches.

“Hopefully, this document is just the beginning of the conversation and decision-makers will take up this important cause, creating water safety policies that best serve Chicagoans.” Moore said.

You can read the entire report here.

Here are the recommendations:

  1. Chicago Park District should expand lifeguarding capacity at Chicago beaches by restoring the lifeguard hours and increasing the budget for lifeguard staffing, training, and recruitment; lifeguard feeder programs, and water quality testing.
  2. Municipalities and park districts throughout the Chicago area should use consistent language and visuals for water safety signs and educational materials including but not limited to information about dangerous currents, appropriate response for bystanders during a drowning emergency and off-season risks like cold water shock and staying off the ice.
  3. The City of Chicago and other government entities with jurisdiction over lakefront access points should bar entry into the water outside of lifeguard hours and at high-risk locations and post warnings with effective messages to deter risky behavior. High risk locations include areas where structural currents are present and areas inaccessible to patrol and response.
  4. The Office of Emergency Management and Communication should update rescue and response procedures, including call taker protocols, to collect and communicate information to first-responders enroute to the scene of an emergency.
  5. The Chicago Park District should install a numbering location system at all beaches, clearly visible from water looking towards land, for callers to give accurate position.
  6. The City of Chicago should equip all police vehicles rescue equipment for water emergencies and rescues in addition to the standard personal protective equipment (PPE).
  7. The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communication, Fire Department and Police Department should train all police and fire personnel to consistently manage the scene of drownings and non-fatal drownings.
  8. The City of Chicago and water safety advocates should train Chicago residents in water safety, with an emphasis on youth and communities most at risk of drowning. Chicago Public Schools should provide water safety information, similar to fire, tornado, and active shooter response and the Chicago Fire and Police Departments and the Chicago Park District should conduct annual water safety demonstrations and outreach events.
  9. The State of Illinois should mandate and fund water safety education for all Illinois students, teachers, and all education staff.
  10. Chicago area governments and injury prevention organizations should use consistent standards for drowning and non-fatal drowning data collection, compiled by one central source. Date should be used in the creation and evaluation of policies and prevention programs.
  11. Water safety advocates and professionals should create a Chicago region prevention-centered water safety plan to reduce the incidence of drownings and non-fatal drownings.
  12. Chicago Park District should continue to work  with communities to offer culturally responsive access to swim lessons with an emphasis on water safety competence and skills.
  13. The Chicago Park District should partner with community organizations to have life jacket loaner stations at all beaches.
  14. We, as a community of water safety advocates, should affirm the water safety rules of the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools and the various governments of the Chicago region.

 

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