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Demonstrating The Danger Of Dams

Posted: 10:18 AM, Jun 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-01 14:18:11Z

It doesn't matter how experienced you are the water around a dam is not safe. Back in February, a man drowned in the Grand River when his kayak flipped near the dam in old town.

A police diver even got tangled in debris while searching for his body. That's why police put on a demonstration today. They fed one to the Grand River dam behind me to show how easily the water here can take control. Emergency management chief Mike Tobin told me a person would have had a hard time getting away from the current.

"They, just like the canoe would be sucked down and rolled and rolled and rolled and pop up, sucked down and rolled and rolled," said Mike Tobin.

The sounds you hear of the canoe crashing against the concrete of the dam demonstrates what would be happening to the person that was on board as well

"They're being slammed up against that concrete structure also causes more trauma to the body, the hypothermia, it all just keeps on adding up," said Tobin.

Tobin says there are a few things to do if you are going to canoe or kayak on the Grand River. Make sure you wear a life jacket, know where the dams are, and always go out with another person. If you are thinking about swimming near a dam.

"Don't swim anywhere near a dam. Bottomline. Period. Don't even go anywhere near a dam," said Tobin.

As of right now, Lansing doesn't have the proper equipment to rescue people from low rising dams, like this one, but Russ Hicks of the Association of State Dam Safety Organizations says help could be on its way.

"At this very same dam we had a company from Colorado, they make the Creature Craft it's the only thing that firefighters can safely get in and get out of a dam," said Hicks.

Although Tobin says dam deaths aren't common around here, the training is necessary as is the demonstration to show people the danger.

"More people by the river, more people using the river, and more chance of actually people falling in the river, that possibility is there, and it's all being addressed," said Tobin.

The Lansing Fire Department and Capital Area Dive team are looking into equipment that would be used for water rescues. Cost and upkeep could be a problem. The Creature Craft they're looking at is $25,000.

It's not against the law to swim, kayak, or canoe near a dam. There are laws against fishing near them, but that varies from dam to dam.