LAKE MENDOTA (WKOW) -- This month alone, authorities are investigating four possible drownings in Dane County.
Things can turn dangerous quickly on the water, but a unique rescue agency that's been on patrol for more than 100 years is there when needed.
Hidden between buildings along the shores of Lake Mendota, the UW Lifesaving Station has been a safety net for boaters and swimmers for decades.
Crews there have been patrolling the lake since the rescue service was created back in 1909, to keep the UW Hoofers Sailing Club safe.
"There are a few days where we only do one or two rescues and days like last Tuesday where we rescued 33 people and had 17 runs," says supervisor Sean Geib.
Responders all over the state have been busy lately. This month alone, there have been at least 15 possible drownings on Wisconsin's lakes. The DNR reports seven people have died in boating-related accidents since March.
From the station's watchtower near James Madison Park, the UW crews can see about 80 percent of Lake Mendota, and they're ready to respond when boaters are in distress.
"They could go out sailing on a very nice calm day and the winds could pick up to where things get over their head," says Geib.
Geib says 90 percent of all drownings occur when people are drinking and when they're not wearing a life jacket. He says you shouldn't go out on the water alone and you should always look out for signs that a swimmer may be struggling.
UW rescue crews mostly respond to capsized sailboats or stranded power boats, but every once in a while they encounter a life-threatening situation. If a 911 call is made during operating hours, they are usually the emergency crews who can respond the fastest, because the station is on the waterfront.
The station's duties also include alerting boaters when it's time to head to shore in bad weather or at sundown. You can hear the loud horns blaring at the Memorial Union.
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