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Frankfort Beach Installs Pilot Program Warning System Lights For Beachgoers

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As the summer season approaches, the City of Frankfort is adopting a new pilot program to keep their beach visitors safe.

It’s called the Swimsmart Warning System, and was developed by Michigan Tech graduate Jacob Soter and his professor, Dr. Andrew Barnard.

Soter was inspired to create SwimSmart by the flag system beaches have to warn of conditions of the water. Those flags have to be changed by a beach manager or lifeguard.

“We said, why can’t this be automated in some way,” said Soter. “We just started working on it as a student project and three years later I graduated, and the pandemic gave us an opportunity to work on it.”

The light system, that looks like a traffic sign, connects with the National Weather Service’s Swim Risk Advisory.

“We take that data and we use our own custom servers, and whenever it changes, we take that information and we send it to all of our devices over a cellular interface,” said Soter.

Frankfort beach has two of these lights, one at the beginning of the pier, and one at the entrance of the beach.

“That’ll allow local law enforcement and emergency services to have a better observation of what’s going on,” said Joshua Mills, Frankfort City Superintendent. “That’ll give beachgoers at our entrance point to the beach their first opportunity to look at the lights and what they mean.”

Soter says he wanted the system to be as easy to decipher as possible

“The goal is so that even children can understand it,” he said. “Unfortunately when it comes to drowning, a lot of the time, its younger kids because they can’t fight the current, and they’re not as informed about the dangers on the Great Lakes.”

And the city hopes this program will be expanded, not just at their own beach, but across the state.

“We just hope that this is perceived as a wonderful opportunity to enhance safety and communicating with our beachgoer,” said Mills. “Hopefully it’s something that will be on our Great Lakes beaches up and down the shoreline.”

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