It is very important for all persons to be mindful of water safety. Over the past several years the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety has been taking an aggressive stand in educating all persons visiting our community about the importance of water, ice and pier safety.
GHDPS responds to numerous water rescue complaints each year. We have been very successful in rescuing persons from the dangerous undertows and unsuspecting rip currents that sweep victims into deeper waters.
Monies raised from the Pier Safety Project allowed for the purchase of equipment and training to prepare our agency for water rescue emergencies.
Lieutenant Clint Holt and Officer Dave Scott were sent to a 40 hour training course to become water rescue instructors. Both Sergeant Holt and Officer Scott instructed GHDPS officers in the proper use and deployment of the water rescue equipment. Officers are trained to a technician level and are now more prepared for rapid, safe and effective response in the event of a water rescue/emergency.
Ice Safety is equally as important as Water and Pier Safety. It is imperative for all persons to stay off the pier and ice formations on Lake Michigan. Icy waters present many extremely dangerous conditions and often times fatal accidents occur when people are unaware or ignore such conditions.
GHDPS has participated in a number of ice rescues over the years. Our agency trains annually in ice rescue exercises in order to stay proficient in the skills necessary to execute a successful rescue.
In February of 2008, Lieutenant Holt and Officer Hudson graduated from Lifesaving Resources Inc., “Ice Rescue Train-The-Trainer Academy”. The Academy was held in Hancock, New Hampshire and consisted of forty hours of lecture and hands on training. As graduates from this academy Sergeant Holt and Officer Hudson are now authorized to conduct Ice Rescue Awareness, Operations, and Technician level courses to personnel within the department.
Pier Safety Project
Since 1993, 25 people have been victims of water accidents off and around the South Pier in the City of Grand Haven, Michigan. Of those, 19 were rescued by bystanders and Public Safety Personnel while the remaining 6 drowned. Three of those drownings occurred in the fall of 2003 off the South Pier, and were witnessed by several bystanders who had no immediate ability or equipment to effect a rescue. The 20 years prior to 1993 yield similar statistics.
In 2004, we responded to this long standing problem. Members of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety partnered with public and private entities to raise funds to properly train and equip first responders. This training provided personnel with the tools necessary to safely enter the water and effect the rescue of a water accident victim, when possible. Not only were funds used to train and equip first responders, but to provide the general public with a large, dramatic informational sign at the face of the South Pier that explains pier safety and dangers. Life rings have also been attached at 100 foot intervals along the pier to provide the general public with an ability to effect a rescue of a water accident victim.
This creative approach to a local problem was the result of a cooperative effort between representatives from local, state and federal agencies as well as participation from community groups and individuals. It has provided an improvement in first responder services to the community and its visitors and has strengthened the relationships between the community and the agencies represented.
Efforts were made about a year or so later to alarm each life ring and place cameras to monitor the pier. The alarm goes directly to Ottawa County Dispatch and is used in combination with a new camera system so Dispatch will be able to get a first hand view of what is going on in the water and relay the information back to the Public Safety Officer en route.
A special thanks to the Great Lakes Beach and Pier Safety Task Force, the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 925, the Ottawa County Sheriffs Office, The Army Corp of Engineers, Active Mfg., Sgt. Keith Koeman, Tom O’Bryan, Dave Fritz, Cindy Crane, Ashley Crane, Vicki Cech, Sue Taylor, Jack Olthof Jr., Dean Nash, Arline Nash, Vince Deur, Mike Grillo, Mark Reiss, Rita Green, Sandy Rezny, Kathy Hazard, and Joyce Clegg.
These signs have been erected at the base of the Grand Haven pier. They serve as a tribute to those who have lost their lives as a result of the powerful waters. The signs also remind all persons to respect the pier, water, ice and inclement weather conditions. Finally, they provide instructions in the event of an emergency.
Water Safety is
Learn how to swim
Follow all posted rules
Always be mindful of the cautionary flags flying at the State park
Be vigilant with children near the water
Understand the power of the water, especially undertows and rip currents