Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office now has four life jacket launchers
Deputies in the marine and beach units of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office now have "life jacket launchers" to help swimmers and other water users in distress.
The OCSO recently purchased four of the launchers, each of which shoots out a life jacket that inflates when it makes contact with the water. After being launched, each life jacket can travel up to 400 feet.
One launcher is available for each of the three beach units patrolling Destin and Okaloosa Island beaches, and one is available for the marine unit.
"They have a multitude of utilizations, but ultimately the launchers will provide the deputies with another tool to secure public safety and ultimately help save lives on the water," Sgt. Brian Parkton from the Sheriff’s Office’s Special Operations Division said in an email Tuesday.
He added that deputies in the marine and beach units will increase their patrols during the next few weeks for spring break.
The launchers were manufactured by Rescue Solutions International, of Redmond, Oregon. County officials used county bed-tax money to pay for the $9,061 purchase from Kraken LLC doing business as Frogstrong, according to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Nicole Wagner.
Deputies in the marine and beach units completed training with the launchers at a local beach last Friday.
"The launchers are filled to 3,000 psi with compressed air from a scuba cylinder," Parkton said. "The amount of pressure provided to the projectile can be varied depending on the distance needed to travel."
County Beach Safety Division Chief Rich Huffnagle said while county lifeguards won’t be using the life-jacket launchers, the devices could offer help in situations where there is no lifeguard on hand.
"Any tool is better than no tool," he said Monday. "But for our purposes out there, a lifeguard is the best tool. A confident swimmer is much better at victim-retrieval than a life jacket."