Realtors association partners with marine law enforcement to protect children on the water

West Michigan has an abundance of lakes and rivers just waiting for fun and recreation.

The West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors is again partnering with law enforcement agencies for the “Save-A-Life” program to ensure people are safe while enjoying that water this summer.

“Accidents occur daily and without notice,” says Sgt. (ret.) Todd Wagner, marine administrator with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office. “When someone is unexpectedly thrown into the water, they’re taken by complete surprise and thrust into a completely different environment from the position of comfort and safety they were just in.”

Panic can set in instantly, Wagner says, especially if the person is injured. Even the strongest swimmers can succumb to panic.

“By having a PFD (personal floatation device), panic is replaced by a sense of security that despite what just happened, you will remain afloat and live,” Wagner says.

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office began its partnership with the Realtors association in 2021. The “Save-A-Life” program, which focuses on children, was created after a record number of drownings were reported in Lake Michigan in 2020, totaling 57. Drowning also happens to be one of leading causes of death in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hundreds of donations

Over the past three years, the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors have gathered donations of life jackets from multiple businesses, clubs, and individuals, which they then provided to marine law enforcement agencies in Muskegon, Ottawa, and Allegan counties. The agencies hand out the life jackets to people who either didn’t have one or the means to afford it. The program continues to grow.
This year, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Marine Division received more than 150 new life jackets to distribute throughout the summer. Marine deputies who patrol the waters in Allegan County routinely focus on water safety and education and look for those who are boating without life jackets, Wagner says.

When a boater is found to be without the required personal flotation devices, especially for children, deputies educate the operator of the vessel of the legal responsibility to have life jackets on board and the consequences that could happen in case of an emergency. Deputies then take this opportunity to provide life jackets to those people who may be without, especially children. Marine deputies also focus on kids while swimming in the water and also encourage lake associations to participate in “loaner programs” where life jackets can be borrowed while they are on a lake or in the water at a swimming access.
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Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.