Dr. Brian I. Wells


NASBLA Lead Instructor/Ice Rescue Program Manager

My Name is Dr. Brian Wells, Retired Boatswain Mate Master Chief of the United States Coast Guard Reserve and a Lead Instructor/Ice Rescue Program Manager for The National Association State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

I have used and demonstrated the ARM-LOC device at several venues, NASBLA Boat Operators Search and Rescue Courses(BOSAR) and Air Boat Operators Courses (AOC).

As a tool for First Responders for a possible rescue for someone in the water in a fast water rescue scenario and especially an Ice Rescue scenario the ARM-LOC system could prove to be invaluable. We have done practicable scenario exercises, with both the BOSAR course and Ice Rescue with the AOC course. With direct deployment to the victim and assisted with a Rescuer assisted in an Ice Rescue scenario.

If one life could be saved with the ARM-LOC system, I would consider the application of the apparatus to be a positive approach to help facilitate a rescue.

Craig Hebert, Training Officer

Fergus Falls (MN) Fire Department

On May 13, 2019, we put the ARM-LOC into service. One month later, on June 12, 2019, we deployed it in a swift water rescue.

While floating the Otter Tail River, two victims had become trapped in the narrow gap of an early-1900s collapsed hydroelectric gravity dam. Their raft was punctured and both victims were forced against the dam – one having her leg trapped by a protruding post in the dam opening; the other holding the deflating raft and struggling to keep from being swept through the opening. Rescuers faced many challenges:

  • River flow was 40% above the seasonal average
  • Water depth was above the victims’ and swimmers’ heads
  • Victims were out of reach of throw devices and too fatigued to hold onto one if contact could have been made
  • Jagged concrete, protruding steel reinforcing bars and posts, boulders, wooden timbers, and other jetsam were present
  • Neither victim was wearing a PFD
  • Swimmers unable to safely grab and hold victims for a rope extraction

The ARM-LOC was the perfect solution to the situation. A swimmer entered the river upstream of the dam with the tethered ARM-LOC. Another swimmer who was in the water with the victims quickly explained what was about to occur: the ARM-LOC would be slid onto her arm and inflated, and she would be quickly pulled to safety. This is exactly what happened, and it all took place in seconds after the swimmer with the ARM-LOC made contact.

Removal of the first victim allowed the swimmers space and leverage to transfer the second victim to a Nebulus flotation device that was already in place. If that had not been available, the ARM-LOC would have been quickly recharged and deployed again.

In mid-July of 2020, we were called to assist a kayaker on the Otter Tail River that had become entangled in the branches of a large, partially-submerged oak tree. Recent heavy rains had caused water levels to rise, thus, resulting in increased bank erosion and toppled trees.

Separated from her kayak, the victim was held unable to disentangle herself from the branches. Moreover, she was unable to grasp a throw rope or device. A swimmer with an ARM-LOC entered the water upstream of the victim. The ARM-LOC was applied to the victim whereupon she was quickly pulled free of the tree and onto the riverbank by the shore-based rescuers.

In this case, the ARM-LOC worked extremely well because it did not tangle in the tree branches (which still had leaves on them) like another flotation device may have. Once retrieval began, it also put the victim in a streamlined position so she was able to move past the branches without snagging.

Our experiences with the ARM-LOC have given us even more confidence in the product. Its ease of use, robust construction, and proven capabilities make it an invaluable water and ice rescue tool.

Benjamin K. Shideler, Captain

New Jasper Township Fire Department

This incident occurred at Shawnee Hills Lake, a private 200-acre residentially inhabited lake which lies in rural Greene County, Ohio. On December 23, 2019 at 1324 hours a resident near the incident heard screams in his living room, looked outside and saw two victims struggling to get out of the ice and water and called 9-1-1. The New Jasper Township Fire Department was dispatched with reports of two children who fell through the ice at the lake. Once on scene, rescuers began to don the appropriate cold-water suits to perform the rescues. While dressing out, another rescuer utilized the ARM-LOC RESCUE KIT and was able to perform the rescue. The same device was utilized for a second rescue and completed the rescue within seconds. The two children were safely brought to shore before the second rescuer was donned in his cold suit. This device also allowed for a more successful shore operation by allowing a single rescuer to perform the rescues without having to enter the dangerous environment.

The Arm-Loc is an amazing tool used to rescue victims. The device is ready to go and can be deployed in seconds. This device allows rescuers to stay out of dangerous environments and offers more options before a rescuer operation is needed. We purchased these for all our frontline apparatus and command vehicles due to the fast and efficient deployment in rescue situations. I would highly recommend the purchase of this product. It has features and benefits not available with traditional rescue rope throw bags.

Bob Selfridge honored for saving lives with the ARM-LOC and received the Medal of Valor.
On New Jersey Coast, ARM-LOC Saves Four (And Counting!)

Stephané Rebeck

May 30, 2019

Barnegat Light, NJ – On Long Beach Island, a tiny but densely populated summertime bedroom community off the coast of New Jersey, lifeguards patrol 18 miles of beach from mid-June through Labor Day. After that, the crowds dissipate, leaving locals and a handful of off-season visitors tempted by the warm ocean water, most of it unsupervised. With no lifeguards on duty, struggling swimmers rely on volunteer first responders, or bystanders that happen to witness their distress.

Such was a day in late September 2018 when a 911 call for a multiple victim water rescue was dispatched to volunteer fire and EMS agencies. First on the scene was police officer Chris Oldham. He dropped his gun belt, kicked off his boots, and ran into the ocean headed toward the victims. In full uniform and unaided by any equipment, Officer Oldham ultimately sustained injuries as a result of his rescue attempt.

Next to arrive was Bob Selfridge, captain of the volunteer First Aid Squad, and training officer for the volunteer fire company. An experienced waterman, he brought fins, a rescue can, and the ARM-LOC, a new water rescue tool introduced to him by a friend after its CEO Connie Sylvester exhibited her invention at a US Lifesaving Association conference. Impressed by the device, Selfridge had been demonstrating the ARMLOC to friends and colleagues, but had not used it in a rescue. He slid the device onto the rope of the buoy can, entered the water, put on his fins, and started swimming to the furthest of the victims.

The two dispatched responders were joined in the water by bystanders Andrew Baxter, a teacher and summer ocean rescue lifeguard, and Jamie Whitesell, a real estate developer and local surfing champion. Baxter brought his rescue tube, and Whitesell his surfboard.

Captain Selfridge reached his victim, slid the ARM-LOC from the rope of the can onto the victim’s arm, and pulled the cord to inflate the device. Wearing the can’s shoulder strap, he began to swim in, his victim secured. A second victim was clinging to the surfboard, along with Oldham, assisted by Baxter and Whitesell. Selfridge and his victim joined them, everyone grabbing onto the float. They headed for shore until they hit sand, then walked into the beach.

A week later, again a call for water rescue, and again Selfridge responded. Following his earlier success, this time he had the ARM-LOC already attached to a shoulder strap. As he grabbed the wrist of his teenaged victim, he told her, “I’m going to slide this device from my arm to yours.” He did, then popped the CO2 cartridge. The ARM-LOC inflated and locked on. “I knew I had her.”

Exhausted, the victim just rested on it and floated. As a wave was about to crash over them, Selfridge told her to hold her breath. “We got hurled in two directions. I knew I had the end of the line, and she popped right back up. I was so impressed by how this thing held onto her.”

Of the island’s after-hours and post-season calls for emergency aid, approximately 40% are for water rescue. Nearly all are made by non-lifeguard responders. Selfridge feels certain the ARM-LOC made a difference in the outcome of his rescues. “You are not losing that person. I keep it in my truck at all times. I’m not going in the water without it ever again.”

Convinced of its wide application, Selfridge conducted two ice rescue trainings using the ARM-LOC this past winter. At the writing of this article, he reported that he just recently saved a fourth drowning person using the ARM-LOC, in yet another off-season water rescue. “I will always carry the ARM-LOC with me.”

The ARM-LOC is a product of Water Rescue Innovations of Duluth, MN. Proudly made in the United States, it has been featured on ABC News, FOX News, and the Discovery Channel.

Stephané Rebeck has more than 30 years of experience in a variety of aquatic environments. The founder and director of Backyard Lifeguards and BYLG Sport Water Rescue of St. Louis, MO, she was named the National Drowning Prevention Alliance Lifesaver of the Year in 2018.