Stearns County tests new lifesaving device

Published 11:17 am Monday, April 15, 2013

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — A simple device that looks a bit like a Frisbee could be saving the lives of potential drowning victims in Stearns County this summer.

The county recently outfitted its sheriff’s deputies with 60 ResQ disks. They are attached to a rope with a Velcro strap that attaches to the person throwing the disk.

The St. Cloud Times reported that the idea is to fling the disk like a Frisbee into the water toward a person in trouble. The person can use the disk to help float while their rescuer reels them to safety.

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“Last year alone we had several instances when we had people in the river from canoes and whatnot, and this would have come in handy to help people get tied on to something until we can get a boat to them,” chief deputy Bruce Bechtold said.

The county used about $3,000 of boat and water grant money to buy the disks, which replace aging nylon bags that they used for the same purpose. The ResQ works better because it maintains its weight as it flies through the air. The nylon bags were stuffed with rope that left the bag as it traveled, and it lost momentum quickly.

The hard plastic disk provides some buoyancy for the person to use as a flotation device. They can either hold on to the disk or put it between their legs and straddle it while holding the rope.

The sheriff’s office has had the disks for a couple of weeks but hasn’t had any emergencies yet where deputies have needed to use them.

They also could be used for people who have fallen through thin ice, Bechtold said.

“It could be used on any lakeshore, thin ice, any type of situation where someone is struggling in the water,” Bechtold said. “It’s really a simple concept.”