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Safety Programs Implemented at Evanston, Ill., Beaches

Red flags mean swimming is prohibited while yellow indicates an advisory is in place for reasons such as E. coli levels, potential rip currents or high surf. If the flag is green, swimmers are good to go.

(TNS) - A new flag warning system and life jacket loaner program are being made available to beachgoers in Evanston this summer.

Evanston’s Lakefront and Athletics Division Manager Tim Carter said Chicago public beachgoers will recognize the flagging system, which follows the same method in Evanston for consistency.

A flag of either red, yellow or green will be visible at all swimming beaches in the city to indicate daily water conditions. Red flags mean swimming is prohibited while yellow indicates an advisory is in place for reasons such as E. coli levels, potential rip currents or high surf. If the flag is green, swimmers are good to go.

If a red flag is flying, there will be no lifeguard on duty as swimming is prohibited.

Using the flag system helps answer concerns beachgoers may have without the need to ask any lifeguards on duty.

“It keeps the lifeguard focused on the water, scanning, protecting swimmers,” Carter said.

This can be particularly important in light of reports Monday of a lost swimmer at Lee Street Beach. After several hours of searching by numerous dive rescue and search teams, no lost swimmer was found and all swimmers had been accounted for. A news release by the Evanston Fire Department stated the swimmer was seen about 25 yards outside the designated swimming area at the beach with initial reports stating they had gone under and not resurfaced.

Following the incident, Carter urged swimmers to remain in the designated swimming zones, only swim when lifeguards are present and routinely check swimming flags as conditions may shift throughout the day.

“Lifeguards are present to enforce rules and respond to emergencies, with the goal of educating the public on the reasons behind beach rules,” he said. “It is important to follow the instructions of the lakefront staff, as they are there to ensure everyone’s safety, allowing all visitors and staff to return home to their families after a fun day at the beach.”

Carter also stated how extremely proud he is of the city’s sailing, aquatic camp staff and lifeguards for their response.

“Our dedicated young team members are often the first to initiate rescue operations in the water,” he said. “A missing person report on the beach or in the water is a critical situation.”

Beachgoers are encouraged to check the beach status and closings page one the city’s website for up to date beach information.

Life jackets are now available for use at each of the city’s swimming beaches through a loaner program with sizes ranging from infant to adult XL. Each swimming beach will have 10 life jackets available if requested. Beachgoers can ask staff for the equipment and return it before leaving.

No waivers or collateral are necessary with Carter hoping to encourage those who need one to not hesitate to ask.

“The whole point of it is to keep someone safe, keep them floating and their head above water,” he said. “If someone wants a life jacket, ask for a life jacket.”

The park board was initially concerned about theft of life jackets but Carter argued it’s worth it to have them on hand.

“If someone steals a life jacket and they bring it home with them and they use it on their family vacation or their backyard pool, mission accomplished,” he said. “If a $20 life jacket prevents a tragic accident, it was worth every penny.”

Beach wheelchairs with oversized tires to allow for traction in the sand are also available to those who require them. Three chairs are available and can be picked up at Lee Street Beach, Dempster Beach and Greenwood Beach. Blue mobi-mats to assist in getting to the water have also been placed at each of the beaches starting last summer.

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