Welcome to the Berrien County Water Rescue home page. This page will provide you with some very important information including background history, the purpose of the program, mission statement and program needs.
Over the past 25 years, twenty two people have drowned off Lake Michigan beaches and piers in the greater St. Joseph - Benton Harbor area. Local agencies have responded with a variety of public safety measures to include lifeguards, rip current warning signs, a water safety flag system, increased public education and until recently, life rings and 911 emergency call boxes. Due to liability issues, the life rings and call boxes have both been removed from the piers.
The USCG is responsible for a 900 square mile area and the Berrien County Marine Div must allocate it's resources to patrol 43 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the St. Joseph, Paw Paw and Galien Rivers as well as several inland lakes. With limited resources and geographic responsibilities of USCG and Marine Div, there is a need for improving response time to a water emergency in the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor area.
Other than the seasonal lifeguard service provided at Silver Beach, there are no other water rescue units or water rescue vessels dedicated and equipped for water rescue in the St. Joseph - Benton Harbor area. WRT vessels will be solely dedicated and equipped for "water rescue".
The purpose of the Berrien County Water Rescue Team (WRT) is to augment related efforts provided by the USCG in St. Joseph and the Berrien County Sheriff's Department Marine Division. The WRT will be a separate unit with in the Marine Division and will focus it's resources in the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor area, but will be able to respond to water emergencies throughout Berrien County.
The Berrien County Water Rescue Team would operate under the jurisdiction, direction and supervision of the Berrien County Sheriff's Department.
At this time, the WRT would be staffed by volunteer "fulltime" police, fire and emergency services personnel from area agencies.
The Berrien County "Water Rescue Team" (WRT) is a non law-enforcement reserve unit within the BCSO Marine Division. WRT's primary mission is water rescue and will operate under the direction, supervision and policies as set forth by the Marine Division. Members will be limited to "fulltime" police, fire and emergency services personal or as otherwise approved by the Sheriff.
WRT members will volunteer their time and receive specialized training in marine safety and water rescue techniques. It should be noted that WRT volunteers have already received numerous hours of training in their respective fields and will bring their experiences and expertise to the WRT.
If you wish to make a tax deductible donation to the WRT, contact the Berrien County Marine Division at 983-7141, x4922.