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Always keep safety first when out on Lake Superior

Lake Superior is there to be admired, enjoyed — and respected.

With the warm weather approaching, more people will take to the lake to swim, boat, fish and take part in other recreational activities.

However, these activities take on a different dimension when they’re on Lake Superior, not a local pond or inland lake. Waves and rip currents can make conditions much more hazardous.

Just this week, Alger County Rescue 21 rescued a family of four from Minneapolis at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore after waves overtook its canoe.

The family, which was stranded about a mile east of Miners Beach near Bridal Falls, consisted of two adults and two children who, fortunately, were wearing life jackets. However, they still had to swim about 150 yards to reach the beach.

The rescue team transported the family to Munising Marina, and from there were taken to Munising Memorial Hospital.

Although they were cold, family members did not suffer major injuries.

It could have been worse. For one thing, a nearby cruise boat spotted them. Personal flotation devices also were used.

They also could have been much farther out on the lake.

We’re not judging the family. Conditions might not have been bad when it ventured out onto Lake Superior. However, the weather can change and bring with it heavier waves.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, drowning is the cause of death in 76 percent of all boating-related fatalities.

It noted the top five contributing factors in boating accidents are operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure and alcohol use.

However, even when people are careful, accidents happen. So, wear a life jacket to keep yourself afloat; the DNR also reported the vast majority of people who drowned in a recreational boating accident weren’t wearing a life jacket.

Boaters — who should be sober — should have fire extinguishers, a first-aid kit and nautical charts on board, as well as an anchor.

Swimmers should practice good safety habits too. For instance, they should know how to get out of a dangerous rip current. This can be accomplished by swimming to the side, or parallel to the shore, out of the current, and then heading back to the shore.

They should be in designated swim areas only.

People hear these warnings and suggestions about this every year, so it would be easy to dismiss them. However, it’s also easy to forget safety measures when out on the lake having fun.

So, we stress: Take the proper precautions and be alert, for yourself and others. It might be a literal life-saver.