Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden unveiled a new initiative, brainstormed by a Minnesota snowbird, which he hopes will save lives on the waters of Choctawhatchee Bay and the shores of Okaloosa Island and Destin.
The idea, named ‘Aqua Alert,’ is the brainchild of Judy Schink. The desire to make it a program in Okaloosa County manifested for Judy after her husband, Dave, disappeared while kayaking in the Gulf on February 13th, 2021. Dave’s kayak was found 20 miles off Destin, but his body was never found.
When someone reports a boater missing – the sheriff’s office orders an investigation to determine if the disappearance poses a credible threat to the missing person’s wellbeing. Should the Sheriff’s deputy serving as shift supervisor decide the boater is missing and endangered and a good enough description of the person and vessel is available, and the direction of travel is known, the supervisor will approve an aqua alert.
After the alert is green-lit, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit, the Coast Guard Station in Destin and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission get notified. At that point, if conditions are deemed safe enough, a search and rescue mission launches.
In addition to the search teams, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Public Infomation will distribute information about the Aqua Alert via the Sheriff’s Office App and on social media.
“Okaloosa County is home to some of the most popular boating areas in the U.S.,” said sheriff Eric Aden. “Having a rapid way to get out detailed information when a life is in danger will mean potentially thousands of additional eyes on the water to help.”
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