Over the next several weeks, the lakes, ponds and streams of West Michigan, currently covered in ice, will begin to thaw, creating some potentially hazardous conditions. According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 3,500 people die from drowning and 1 in 5 of those deaths are children 14 and under. Many of those deaths are actually caused by the fatal effects of cold water and not the fatal effects of water filled lungs, which is why it is important for kids to know what to do if they fall through the ice.
Zachary Winzer, the grandson of Richard and Mary Winzer, of Cedar Springs, and a senior at Muskegon Catholic Central High School, is a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, and recently developed a “Water Safety” course that emphasizes ice safety and the steps to take to survive falling through the ice.
“What many people don’t realize is that when you plunge into the freezing water, your body experiences ‘Cold Shock,’ a condition characterized by uncontrolled rapid breathing and gasping, which leads to water inhalation,” explained Winzer. “If I can teach kids how to control their breathing and not panic until the cold shock dissipates, it will increase their chances of survival.”
At the end of the presentation, participants know exactly what to do if they fall through the ice and what to do if they see someone else fall through the ice. In addition, the course teaches water safety tips for surviving the rip currents that occur every day on the shores of Lake Michigan as well as important boating safety tips for kids. The presentation takes about 45 minutes and includes a fun game at the end that tests the newly acquired knowledge of the participants.
On Friday, February 6th, Winzer presented the course to the 3rd & 4th grade classes at Muskegon Catholic Central elementary school, and the 3rd & 4th grades of St. Mary’s elementary in Spring Lake. The students had fun while learning the water safety tips and really enjoyed the Water Safety Challenge, a game Winzer developed, that tested their knowledge. They all were rewarded with life preserver cookies by Goobers Bakery, and the USCG Auxiliary also provided water safety coloring books to each of the students to reinforce the lessons taught in the presentation.
Winzer joined the USCG Auxiliary in the spring of his junior year and has been working toward earning his certified Boating Safety Instructor credentials as part of his senior year community service project. This has required countless hours of study and several steps of accreditation. Winzer balanced the time demands of college prep coursework and working toward his USCG Auxiliary credentials with being the starting safety and slot receiver for the back to back football State Champion Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders, where he received 1st Team All Area honors as a defensive back. He is also an All State center fielder for the Crusaders and training hard to help his team make a run at a baseball state title. Winzer is being recruited to play baseball for the United States Merchant Marine Academy, one of the five national service academies, and just received the honor of a congressional nomination from both Senator Stabenow and Congressman Huizenga.
“This has been a very demanding senior year, but I am very proud to have had the chance to serve both my community and country with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. This presentation can help save lives so the time developing it was well worth it,” said Winzer.
Winzer is hopeful that other schools and organizations will request the presentation and is eager to continue to serve his community. If your school or civic organization is interested in having the presentation conducted for your students, please contact the USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 31-5 at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Station.
The USCG Aux is a volunteer branch of the Coast Guard that was founded in 1939 and is known as America’s Volunteer Lifesavers. The members of the Auxiliary conduct Safe Boating Courses, Vessel Safety Checks, Harbor Patrols, Search and Rescue Missions as well as Marine Environmental Protection.