Visitors to Rick Seltzer Park may notice some new Bay County Sheriff's Office vehicles. Deputies are now using two Honda 4x4 ATVs to patrol the beach. This will give them another way to protect beachgoers from rough surf conditions.
Even though single red flags are flying Thursday, there's still plenty of people enjoying the beach.
Deputies assigned to the Sheriff's Office Beach Precinct are making sure those who venture into the Gulf, come out safely and now they have a couple of new tools to carry out their mission, two new Honda 4x4s.
Deputies say they're smaller, faster, and more efficient than the full-size trucks deputies currently drive.
The open passenger compartment gives them a better view of the beach. Residents believe the new vehicles will be an asset.
"They'll be able to see the people that's actually on the beach when they're laying out. The larger vehicles i don't believe they could see what was going on around them. I think this is a safer idea. It just seems it will work much better," said Bill Lang, a Panama City resident.
"I think it's more efficient to get to somebody quickly if they needed help and i'm sure it's more economical," said Susan Carr, another beachgoer.
The Hondas are equipped with a number of safety items like a defibrillator, first aid kit, and a rescue reel. They also have their own surf warning flag system.
"I think this July has been more active than previous years. Obviously we've had a lot of intense weather with the rain and the wind so maybe this July has been a little more intense as far as the number of red flag days here on the beach," said Major Tommy Ford with the Bay County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies say they've answered more than 30 swimmer in distress calls since April.
The new vehicles cost about 12-thousand dollars apiece. The Sheriff's Office bought them with money from a recent surplus property auction.