Lifesaving Stations fell into three categories: lifesaving, lifeboat, and houses of refuge.
Lifesaving stations were manned by full-time crews during the period when wrecks were most likely.
In general, lifeboat stations were on the Great Lakes, but some lifesaving stations were in the more isolated areas of the lakes. The active season on the Great Lakes stretched from April to December. Nearly all lifeboat stations were located at or near port cities. Here, deep water, combined with piers and other waterfront structures, allowed launching heavy lifeboats directly into the water by marine railways on inclined ramps.
Houses of refuge made up the third category of Life Saving Service units. These stations were on the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. A paid keeper and a small boat were assigned to each house, but the houses of refuge did not include active manning and/or rescue attempts. It was felt that along this stretch of coastline, shipwrecked sailors would not die of exposure to the cold in the winter as in the north. Therefore, only shelters would be needed.