COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Rescue divers have a limited amount of air and diving time.
“The deeper they go, the more the air compresses and the less air they have to breathe. But in addition to that, we have decompression rules that we have to follow. We have to think about, ‘are we driving back up over a pass to come back home?’ It limits the amount of time that each diver can be under water for,” said Bill Hull, fire captain of the heavy rescue team for the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
That’s where sonar technology comes in handy.
“What we can do is map the bottom, we can rule out where not to search. If we find something unusual on the bottom, we can throw down a buoy and we can send a diver down to that targeted spot and they can rule out whether that’s a victim or not,” Hull said.
CSFD bought the Hummingbird Side Scan Sonar just under two years ago.
Since then, divers been training with the sonar boat twice a month.
Whether it’s a rescue or recovery, time is of the essence and using a sonar boat can speed things up when divers are in murky water.
“You’re not seeing anything, so these guys can go down and literally have a blacked out mask and accomplish the same mission because that’s what it is, it’s all by feel,” Hull said.
It also lets the fire department use their resources more effectively, without exhausting divers and ruling out areas that don’t need to be searched.
“Prior to having this equipment, we would have to rely solely on witness statements and we’d have to do a blind search,” Hull said.
CSFD is one of only a few departments that have sonar technology.
It has been used two times this year, once at the John Martin Reservoir and more recently in Lake Pueblo.