Baldwin County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase a robotic rescue device to be deployed in the Fort Morgan area.
The commission has been discussing since February various options involving messaging changes, placement of flags and the purchase of the robotic lifesaving buoy that could be used to rescue people.
The county purchased the rescue device called the EMILY, or Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard - a remote-controlled device which can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour and can carry a lifejacket and helmet to distressed swimmers.
“If you have a person drowning, the fire department can deploy it from the beach,” Commissioner Skip Gruber said at a recent work session. “It can get to the swimmer in a matter of a few seconds. It also has speakers on it so that they can talk to the person. It’s a pretty spectacular little thing.”
Gruber said both the Navy and Coast Guard are currently using the EMILY and they’ve had “really good responses” with them.
The EMILY costs around $14,000 per unit.
“I think this is one way we can help with hopefully saving someone’s life if they get in distress,” Gruber said. “It’s one way of trying to help. I know we have several things on the next work session agenda to consider, but I think this is a good first move.”
The other commissioners were supportive of the EMILY purchase, but have said at previous meetings that rescue equipment wasn’t the only issue the county needed to take action on.
“I think response times would be an issue here,” Commissioner Chris Elliott said. “We need to look at the bigger picture as far as a warning system and letting people know about dangerous conditions before they even reach the beach or the water.”
Baldwin County Acting EMA Director Jessie Peacock told commissioners getting information to people is a key issue.
“Getting information out and educating people on the rip current is where we’re going to tackle this problem,” Peacock said. “Giving them information is the key to success.”
Peacock said there are currently 31 access points to the beach in Fort Morgan, which could make putting up signage to warn visitors and residents about water conditions somewhat problematic.
The commissioners will take up the issue again at their work session next Tuesday.