'National Boat Safety Week' kicks off in Chicago
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - What better way is there to celebrate the arrival of warm weather than to head to the beach or out on a boat in Lake Michigan?
But as welcoming as the water can be, it's also a danger.
Monday was a gorgeous sunny afternoon on Lake Michigan as Chicago’s busy boating season got underway.
But don't let the pretty pictures fool you.
"This lake can turn on you pretty quick,” one man said.
That lesson was driven home for a group of Chicago teens from some of the city's toughest neighborhoods as they rode along Monday with the Chicago Police Marine Unit.
"When you go on someone else's boat, you want to make sure there's a life jacket for you,” Commander Allison Schloss told the teens.
They’re taking part in ‘National Boat Safety Week,’ which is when the Coast Guard, Police and Fire Marine Units remind boaters and swimmers of some basic but important rules, like don't drink and drive on the water.
"For one person to be a designated operator or driver of that boat and let everybody else have fun that day. That's a really smart move,” said Deputy Chief Ron Dorneker.
What looks calm here today can quickly turn to trouble. In fact, there were 250 water response calls by the Chicago Fire Department last year with 77 people pulled out of the water.
Some of those rescues were made using the Chicago Fire Department's helicopter.
On Monday, divers performed a show and tell rescue mission, pulling a mannequin out of the water and hoisting it to safety.
The US Coast Guard is also showing off a new app that can be downloaded for free that allows boaters to file a float plan when they head out on the lake.
"So if you become overdue we can pull that float plan, and it helps us with our search and rescue planning if we have to search for you,” said Matthew James of the US Coast Guard.
The teens taking part Monday were part of a program called "STOMP,” which means ‘Starting To Own My Progress.’
Many of the teens had never been on a boat before.
"It's not all just what's in the 'hood, the shooting and everything that's going on. This is something different and they loved it. They had fun,” said Englewood resident Kileasha Sutton.
Both the Chicago Police Marine Unit and the Coast Guard will be stopping boats on Lake Michigan this year to make sure they're properly equipped, and to conduct sobriety checks.