Portable Sonar Technology Helps Rescue Divers Search Areas With Limited Visibility

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The City of Long Beach’s Public Safety Dive Team operates in an environment with limited visibility, making it difficult to know where they are, where they are going and what is around them. But now, the team can use recently received sonar technology that revolutionizes search and rescue and investigation techniques, particularly in the case of missing swimmers and submersion victims.

“The Shark Marine Navigator sonar imaging and navigation system gives our first responders the ability to do their jobs better and safer in a dangerous environment, and provide better service to the community,” Mayor Bob Foster said.

Originally developed for military special forces divers to navigate underwater undetected, the Shark Marine Navigator allows divers to “see” up to 250 meters away in zero visibility, providing them with complete situational awareness of their environment. Public Safety Team Divers are confident this technology will allow them to locate a target or victim much faster than traditional search pattern techniques, giving victims a greater chance of survival.

“The Public Safety Team is always looking for new technology to do our job better and safer,” said LBFD Marine Safety Chief Randy Foster. “Public Safety Diving is not without risk, but I believe the Navigator helps us on both fronts, and it can be used to increase a victim’s chance of survival.”

The Navigator is portable, with a screen about the size of a standard laptop. The screen illuminates critical information the same way that an airplane instrument panel does when flying through the dark.

“The City is constantly seeking to improve service delivery to the community,” said Reginald Harrison, Deputy City Manager in charge of the Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Communications. “The recent purchases of the Shark Marine Navigator represents the forward thinking capacity of the Public Safety Team, and it makes the City a safer place to live, work, and play.”

The core functions of the Long Beach Public Safety Dive Team are search and rescue, investigation, and salvage.

The Navigator was funded by a $200,000 Homeland Security Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) Program grant, and will improve the city’s capability to respond to a significant incident, such as a natural disaster or an act of terrorism. The Navigator is stowed on a 24-hour response Long Beach Fire Department Marine Safety Rescue Boat so it can be deployed quickly and effectively.

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