Preventative Search and Rescue – PSAR

The Preventative Search and Rescue Team has been an important program to help increase visitor safety and reduce emergency calls. 

Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) plays a vital role in the safety of visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This team of volunteers educates visitors on trail and water conditions, hiking safety and keeps an eye out for visitors in need of assistance at the Dune Climb and the Lake Michigan Overlook stop on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The PSAR team helps to proactively assist visitors through education and awareness, helping to reduce the need for park and local first responders to be called to render aid.

In 2014 when the PSAR program was established, there were 31 search and rescues and 56 calls to 911 at the Dune Climb and Lake Michigan Overlook from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Through the work of Park staff and PSAR volunteers, the number of recuses and calls have diminished each year. In 2023, that number was reduced to 11 search and rescues and 7 calls to 911 in that same time period. 

In addition to volunteers, the Friends also creates, installs, and repairs critical safety and visitation signage through the Park. You can support these efforts by donating to the Friends

PSAR Volunteer Duties

Volunteers and Park staff will be stationed at the Dune Climb and Pierce Stocking Drive Lake Michigan Overlook during peak use times.

It is important to note, PSAR volunteers are not tasked with search and rescue work. PSAR volunteers are trained to educate visitors about the safety issues they may face at these two popular spots in the park. Volunteers and Park staff provide advice on appropriate planning, protective clothing, and more helpful information to park visitors.

We are looking for outgoing volunteers who have a love and knowledge of the Park. There is a role for everybody on the PSAR team. Please review the PSAR Job Description and contact Jesse Lewit  PSAR Coordinator

PSAR By The Numbers: 2023

  • For the second year in a row, PSAR volunteers made contact with more than 30,000 Park visitors. 
  • In 2023, there were 11 search and rescues and seven calls to 911 from the Dune Climb and Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive between Memorial Day and Labor Day, a significant reduction since the program was established in 2014. 
  • Of the calls to 911, four were initiated by PSAR volunteers who made early contact with those visitors, greatly reducing the amount of time between the incident and the arrival of first responders. 
  • For the very first time, PSAR volunteers were deployed to the Glen Haven area beaches during a dangerous water warning to warn visitors of the increased danger in the water due to wave and current conditions.
  • In 2023, PSAR volunteers participated in Dune Safety Day in partnership with Park rangers and the Glen Arbor Fire Department. The volunteers also had an info tent during National Trails Day and provided support for the M22 Challenge, Glen Arbor Fire Department Open House and the Glen Arbor Half Marathon.
  • Also for the first time, CPR/AED/First Aid certification was made available to PSAR volunteers with training conducted by the Park Service

To learn more about becoming a PSAR Volunteer: 

  1. Review the full Preventative Search and Rescue Volunteer Description
  2. complete a Volunteer Registration and one of our Volunteer Coordinators will get in touch with you to answer questions and get you into the program.

Volunteers must report their time and observations every day in the PSAR Patrol Log


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