Beach Safety Operations

OCBS's primary area of responsibility are the beaches of Okaloosa Island on the Emerald Coast. Okaloosa Island is a seven-mile-long barrier island that stretches between and connects Fort Walton Beach to Destin. The beautiful emerald colored water and white sandy beaches of Okaloosa Island draws an estimated 1.8 million visitors annually from all over the world. The number of tourists visiting Okaloosa Island is on the rise, steadily increasing year after year.

Seasonal operations begin on the second Saturday in March and end October 31st each year.
Hours of operation:
    *March-May: 9am-6pm, 
    *May (Memorial day) - September (Labor Day): 9am-8pm
    *September - October 31st: 9am-6pm
    *November - February (Limited patrols & response): 10am-4pm 

OCBS’s is comprised of 27 employees:

  • The Beach Safety Chief is responsible for administration and oversees operations.
  • The Beach Safety Captain manages all operations.    
  • The Training/Quality Assurance Officer oversees and reviews all training for the department, as well as conducts quality assurance assessments for the Chief.
  • 2 Senior Lifeguards supervise daily operations in absence of the Training Officer or Captain. Each Senior Lifeguard is also responsible for a specialized duty, either public education or technical rescue.
  • 23 seasonal lifeguards are assigned to zones from March to November.

The 3 mile, undeveloped, federally protected stretch of beach on the east side of the Island is known as Gulf Island National Seashore. We offer response and conduct limited patrols to this area of beach. 

The remaining 4 mile stretch of Okaloosa Island is heavily developed and populated. This area we divided into 4 zones, in order to best manage operationally.

"Ocean West" is the name for our “Command” tower. This tower is a fixed structure on the Okaloosa Island Pier. The pier divides zone 1 and zone 2 which historically are our most populated areas. From here, lifeguard supervisors effectively manage all beach safety operations. Inside the command tower are high powered binoculars that watch over our entire guarded area, a computer that logs all daily activity and 2 portable radios; 1 for lifeguard communications and the other for EMS communications.

Each zone has a patrolling rescue unit assigned, as well as tower lifeguards. A rescue unit is comprised of: a 4-wheeler modified with an aluminum rack designed to carry our standard rescue and medical equipment. A backboard and surf rescue board is secured to the top. A portable radio holder (and radio) is located up front, a rescue can and fins secure on one side of the rack, and the soft tube slides in a front slot. Contained in waterproof bag are agency forms, binos and a code x bag (emergency kit in the event a swimmer goes missing). All med boxes are standard, containing an AED, oxygen tank, bag-valve-mask, non-re-breathers, airway adjuncts, trauma/bleed kit, spinal collar/head bed, first responder ppe, ace wraps, band aids, saline flush, and lidocaine jelly for jellyfish stings.