Douglas County Underwater Search and Rescue Team trains on Lake L'Homme Dieu
The 12-member team typically trains monthly and will get out on the ice at least once in the winter.
ALEXANDRIA — Anytime a diver with the Douglas County Underwater Search and Rescue Team enters the water, there is a risk. To help lessen that risk, the team has been using a new underwater camera that is essentially an underwater drone, said Art Vinson, team leader and deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
The 12-member team typically trains monthly and in the winter, members will get out on the ice at least once. Earlier in March, they headed out on Lake L’Homme Dieu for some under-the-ice training.
Vinson said the team cut a hole in the ice and sent divers, along with the underwater camera. The camera isn’t necessarily new, he said, but because there were some new team members, he wanted them to do some training.
In order to do a search and rescue or search and recovery dive operation, Vinson said there should be at least four team members at the scene. But, he said that is the bare minimum and it is better to have seven or eight. Although when asked the question of how many divers he would like when a rescue/recovery mission happens, without skipping a beat, he replied 50.
With four members, one person is the primary diver, then there is a back-up diver. There is also what Vinson called a 90% diver, which is basically someone who is mostly ready, but who is just “waiting in the wings” to be called on if needed. The fourth person is the tender, or the person who is holding the rope and communicating with the divers through their headsets.
The camera that the team was practicing with can be used anytime, but Vinson said it would be especially used in a recovery situation in the winter. The camera, he reiterated, really helps lessen the risk for the diver. The camera makes it easier to find and recover the body. The camera is tethered to a cable and the diver can then follow the camera to where he/she needs to be.
“With technological advances, such as our camera, we can pinpoint within feet where a body is,” said Vinson.
In addition, Vinson said if the case happens to involve a crime, he said the underwater camera could be used to collect evidence without putting divers in the water.
This coming June, the Underwater Search and Rescue Team will be hosting a training through Dive Rescue International.
During the three-day training, divers learn a variety of basic skills, including set up and recovery, scene evaluation, safety protocols, interviewing witnesses, sweep patterns and line signals to name a few.
The training includes classroom instruction, time in a pool and in a lake where they put their skills to the test.