U.S. Coast Guard in St. Petersburg making a difference and saving many lives

An inside look at the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Petersburg.
An inside look at the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Petersburg.(WWSB)
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 6:47 PM EST

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WWSB) - For any search and rescue the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Petersburg is involved with, it all starts in their command center. It’s where they receive a distress call or 911 call.

“Processing the cases that are happening throughout the day, prioritizing the mission that we do have,” said Petty Officer Mckenna Lewis with the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Petersburg. “And using our stations and agencies that we work with, to conduct the overall cases that we do have.”

And there are a lot of them. Officials say they could be taking the lead or assisting on at least six emergency situations on any given day. They are able to determine a precise location through electronic charts. Those charts also take into account winds and currents. That comes in very handy because they are covering a huge area.

“Pretty much the Gulf Coast, the West Coast of Florida, we’re in charge of everything,” said Chief Jean Latimer with the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Petersburg. “From the Panhandle all the way down to the Fort Myers and Naples area.”

Once it’s decided that it is an emergency situation, the command center then dispatches boat crews and possibly aerial crews as well. Depending on the situation, that determines the boat or boats they utilize or if their aerial unit needs to be used. On a ride-along on Thursday, crews showcasing how they rescue someone from the water.

Officials say whether it’s in the command center or out on the water, it is a team effort to help save lives.

“It’s very rewarding, extremely rewarding,” said Latimer. “We’re kind of behind the scenes so we never get to see a lot of the people that we get to save and people who are out there in distress. The small boats and rescue swimmers, they take the glory but we kind of put them there.”