AquaLens Improves Water-Borne Search and Rescue Capabilities for Lake Michigan First Responders
In Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, on the western shore of Lake Michigan, winters are harsh and filled with snow and ice. In the summer, the lake attracts residents and tourists alike looking to enjoy all she has to offer. The unfortunate inevitability of accidents in this lake-side county keeps first-responders busy year round conducting search and rescue operations. To provide rescue crews on these missions with some visibility below the water line, the department had long relied on a standard fish finder. The grainy, low resolution video feed was helpful but far from the optimal tool for the job. When the fish finder failed in the icy, dark conditions of the lake, the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department turned to the Aquabotix AquaLens for an upgrade.
“The whole reason we came across Aquabotix was because we had some incidents where we were searching for someone who had gone under the icy water,” said Stephen Cotey, Project Manager. “We were using a 10-year old fish finder camera. There was no light on it, so we were literally taping a flashlight on it, trying to stick it on a pole and look under the ice.”
Having relied on their DIY solutions for some time, the department personnel had a good idea of what they were looking for in a replacement. A purpose-built solution was paramount after all of their duct tape adventures, but the team also required a durable camera that delivered video they could work with in any condition.
“The AquaLens is easily deployable, as opposed to trying to find a pole to tape on the fish finder and then taping on a flashlight and hoping it all stayed together underneath the water. The Aquabotix tool is all-in-one,” said Mark Owen, Emergency Management Director of Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department. “It is water-tight, has a nice hand-held screen you can strap on your wrist, as well as the ability to push that image to a bigger screen for added visibility and detail.”
Since purchasing the AquaLens last year, Sheriff’s Department personnel have been conducting drills with the new tool aboard the department’s 42-foot rescue boat. As officers are introduced to the LED-lit, high definition view they get with the AquaLens, the underwater viewing system from Aquabotix has quickly become a key part of their open water rescue training repertoire.
Compared to the department’s former DIY solution, which was time consuming to assemble, unreliable and could cost a life in certain scenarios, the AquaLens is extremely easy to use and can be deployed into the water in 30 seconds. Designed for rugged viewing in demanding underwater applications, the AquaLens’ expandable cable allows personnel to see deeper, more remote underwater areas.
“It was a great price point for what we considered a really good value,” said Cotey. “You have the color camera, as well as the LED lights and most importantly, the infrared capability.”
With its upgraded technological edge, the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department is now well equipped to handle the most demanding water-borne rescue scenarios. As the teams continue to drill with the AquaLens, their ability to affect a search and rescue from safer distances will enable them to better serve the public while keeping personnel further from harm’s way.
For more information about the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department, you can visit their website at http://www.co.ozaukee.wi.us/sheriff.