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Be Current Smart: Educating Swimmers about Dangerous Currents in the Great Lakes

By Mark Breederland and Ron Kinnunen, Michigan Sea Grant

With summer swimming season beckoning, partners at Great Lakes beaches are promoting swimming safety and dangerous current alertness. These communication efforts are all about public outreach and education — reaching visitors and local residents — to prevent unnecessary tragedies. 

The Be Current Smart regional campaign is a communications program with the goal of creating awareness of potentially deadly Great Lakes currents. The campaign includes a central website with animated messages and tips for parents, social media components, and video interviews with U.S. Coast Guard, county sheriffs and park officials. The water safety resources are free and available for media, beach communities, park staff, educators and others. Check out all six animations at  

The campaign is about communicating key threats to swimmers, including high waves, dangerous structures (e.g., piers), dangerous currents, and promoting the use of water safety and emergency rescue equipment. 

Here are some examples of Be Current Smart tips:

  • When the waves are high, stay dry and on the beach.
  • Parents: Take a pledge to be a water watcher and keep a close eye on children while they’re near the water’s edge and in the water.
  • Stay in designated swimming areas and away from structures.
  • Have children wear life jackets when near the shoreline or in the water.

Working groups from Great Lakes Sea Grant programs in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin carefully determined the equipment needs for each state. That water safety and emergency rescue equipment is now being distributed to hundreds of beaches in the Great Lakes region, and include life jackets, rescue equipment, and safety alert whistles.  

Additionally, the Northwest Michigan Water Safety Network’s Play It Safe in the Water community alliance has deployed 39 rescue stations which include a life ring, throw rope and instructional signage to beaches in Michigan’s Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie counties.

More information on dangerous currents and water safety is available at Also, visit Great Lakes Beach Hazards for real-time advisories from the National Weather Service.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Coastal Storms Program is supporting the Be Current Smart water safety campaign, an effort of the Implementing Dangerous Currents Best Practices project, led by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network. Partners include state Coastal Management Programs, the NOAA National Weather Service and others.

Learn More:

Be Current Smart: Are You Current Smart?

Rip Current Preparedness Week: To Catch a Current

Rip Current Preparedness Week: Spotlight on Minnesota Sea Grant Coastal Storms Outreach Coordinator Brent Schleck

Rip Current Preparedness Week: Spotlight on IL-IN Sea Grant Aquatic Ecology Specialist Leslie Dorworth

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