Gretchen Roufs' portraitJoe Davis is on call 24/7. And it’s not for work-related reasons. Joe, an account manager for Procter and Gamble Professional in Cincinnati, is a volunteer on the Boone County Water Rescue team, a regional volunteer organization that works in water rescue and patrolling activities on the rivers, lakes and ponds in northern Kentucky. Inspired by a friend on the rescue team, Joe has been serving as a water rescue volunteer for about 15 years.

Not including the time spent responding to emergencies, a typical week for Joe involves six to 10 hours in meetings and training. His team not only responds to emergencies that occur on the water, but they also patrol more than 70 miles of waterway on the Ohio River on weekends and during large events, such as concerts and fireworks displays, held on the waterfront.

“When there is a large number of watercraft on the river, it’s almost certain that something is going to happen,” says Joe. “A lot of the rescues we perform are a result of our patrolling.”

Since 1997, there have been 359 water rescues without a life lost — either saving people from potentially drowning or responding to boating accidents. There also have been 42 vehicle recoveries, 14 evidence (e.g. weapons) collections and four wildlife rescues.

Sadly, however, 61 cases were in response to a drowning. The work of a rescue team can have a grim outcome, but Joe says there is comfort in knowing when a drowning tragedy has occurred that they are able to help bring closure to the victim’s loved ones.

“Each of us has something we can contribute to the communities we belong to,” Joe says. “Being involved in the water rescue team is something that I can contribute. I have a strong desire to help others.”

Members of the rescue team have to be aggressive swimmers. So far, Joe has served in a leadership position on the team and has been more of a crew person than a diver, but he’s now a diver-in-training.

“It’s a long process. We follow a public safety diving curriculum sponsored by Dive Rescue International,” says Joe. “In addition to the class and pool sessions, we will also have five days of search-and-rescue diving exercises in black water environments. In black water, there is zero visibility, which is the environment in which most of the search-and-rescue operations take place.”

Joe and the rest of his team feel the reward of their hard work when lives are saved. In 1997, during a major flood in Falmouth, Ky., Joe assisted in rescuing an entire family. The water was moving so fast it would have capsized a boat instantly.

“We went in with a heavy piece of equipment that was completely submerged, and were able to rescue a family of five from the top of a vehicle,” says Joe. “It’s meaningful to know that our efforts really make a difference.”