Chicago's OEMC hosts water rescue demonstration on Lake Michigan

First responders showed off their rescue equipment and skills on Lake Michigan to encourage water safety Thursday morning. 

Weather conditions were perfect, but in a real emergency, a lot can go wrong.

Authorities simulated a swimmer in distress off of North Avenue Beach. From the air, on the water and on land, the Chicago Fire Department, police, U.S. Coast Guard, and Department of Natural Resources all take part in water emergencies. They urge the public to take care to avoid having to make a 911 call. 

Lake Michigan boat traffic is busier than ever, with less experienced boaters on the lake. Illegal charters have become a danger to the public, officials say.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Rachel Ault says illegal charters are the focus this summer because if a boat is being operated illegally, there’s a good chance that other hazards exist. 


Recently, a federal court sentenced an operator of an illegal charter to a year and a day in prison, the longest sentence ever given. Lt. Ault says if a charter operator coaches a boater to give false information, the boater could be charged.

Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Jason Lach, of the Marine and Dive Operation, says today’s conditions were ideal, but divers can go into water with 5 foot waves.  

"We have lots of issues to worry about that are wind driven, including rip currents. The lifeguards at beaches do a great job protecting the public," Lach said.

Beverly Carrington, of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) says anyone calling 911 can look up to see green and white location signs on the lakefront, on every light pole. She says it helps if the caller can observe other details, such as boat numbers, colors or descriptions of people on board, in an emergency.