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Walton County dispatchers use new technology to save man who fell overboard in Choctawhatchee Bay.

By Daeshen Smith

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    WALTON COUNTY, Florida (WALA) — Dispatchers at the Walton County Sheriff’s Office have a new program that gives them a first hand look at an emergency.

“It definitely helps our responders to be able to see what they see,” said Communication Training Officer Heather Mayo.

It’s called RapidDeploy. Communications Training Officer Heather Mayo says the sheriff’s office has had it for about a year. She says when someone calls 911 a dispatcher can send them a text asking for permission to use the phone’s camera. Once a caller agrees the dispatcher can see exactly what they see and use that information to help them.

The RapidDeploy system was put to the test last week when mayo received a frantic 911 call from a woman who said her husband fell off their boat in the Choctawhatchee Bay. The boat wasn’t running, and she didn’t know how to start it.

“With her being in the boat, it being so big. The wind was really pushing her further away and then she lost sight,” said Mayo. “After a while she lost sight of her husband.”

Not only did RapidDeploy allow Mayo to see what the caller was seeing. She says the system marked exactly where she originally called from as well as how far she was drifting away from her husband.

“She started going a little towards Panama City I’ll be honest, and he was more towards Destin but without that marker you are kind of just blind,” added Mayo.

Mayo says her and her team were able to see what kind of boat the caller had and walk her through how to restart it before finally guiding her back to her husband and getting him back on the boat to safety.

“Time is of the essence. The faster we got that boat started, the faster she got back to her husband,” said Mayo. “Everyone helped save her and her husband and got her back to her husband.”

Mayo says RapidDeploy can be used in a lot of other situations as well. She also adds that if a caller gives them access to their phone during an emergency it will only last for the duration of that call.

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