Coast Guard closes seasonal air facilities on Great Lakes

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND — The Coast Guard’s Great Lakes air stations closed their seasonal air facilities in Muskegon, Mich., and Waukegan, Ill., Tuesday following their annual assignment to support Coast Guard operations in southern Lake Michigan and the surrounding areas.

The air facilities are open during the traditional boating season, which runs from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend, to provide enhanced search and rescue services due to the high volume of summer boaters off Chicago, Milwaukee and other southern Lake Michigan areas.

Both air facilities were operational on May 27, 2011, in advance of Memorial Day.

Air Facility Muskegon, which falls under the command of Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, is located at Muskegon County Airport, while Air Facility Waukegan, falling under Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Mich., is located at Waukegan Regional Airport.  Both air facilities are staffed by aircrews deployed from their parent air station and maintain two aircrews and one MH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter to provide search and rescue services 24 hours a day during the summer months.

“Air Facility Waukegan is an integral part of our unit during the summer and enhances our ability to support the greater Chicago and Milwaukee areas,” said Cmdr. Joe Buzzella, commanding officer of Air Station Traverse City.  “Although the air facility has closed for the winter, the Air Station Traverse City crew stands ready to respond when needed throughout our area of responsibility — lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron.”

“Air Facility Muskegon’s seasonal closing may signify the end of peak boating and recreational activity on Lake Michigan, but it does not signify the end of the risks posed to those on the water,” said Cmdr. Michael Platt, commanding officer of Air Station Detroit.  “We look forward to supporting our Muskegon area of responsibility in 2012.”

For those who continue to recreate on the Great Lakes, the Coast Guard offers the following boating safety tips:

  • Take a boating safety course.  In 2010, 91% of recreational boating deaths occurred when the operator had not received formal boating safety instruction.  Click here to learn about resources for boating safety instruction from the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
  • Leave a float plan on shore.  A float plan is a lifesaving device on paper and can assist emergency responders with locating a distressed mariner.  Click here for more information about float plans, as well as a printable float plan and boating emergency guide.
  • Carry a portable VHF-FM marine radio.  While many boaters rely on cell phones for emergency communications on the water, VHF-FM radios are much more reliable in the marine environment and work in areas where cell phones sometimes don’t.  When a mayday is broadcast over channel FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, multiple response agencies and other nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance.
  • Always wear a lifejacket while underway.  The law states you must have a lifejacket for every person on board your vessel, but the Coast Guard suggests you go one step further and wear your lifejacket at all times when boating. It is much more difficult to locate, access, or don a lifejacket at the moment an accident occurs. Click here for more information on lifejackets.

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