Underwater video systems are now widely used by both public and private sector dive operations. These systems consist of video camera mounted in an underwater housing with a long cable connecting it to a monitor on the surface where the picture is viewed and recorded. There are numerous advantages to having a system that can send live video topside for support personnel to see. Many law enforcement agencies and public safety dive teams put down a camera instead of a diver in the initial stages of an underwater search to save time and increase safety. It also allows them to make a permanent record of a search operation, an underwater crime scene, or evidence. Commercial diving companies employ these systems so topside staff can see what the diver is doing and also to produce a record of the work being done for their client.
The Tonawanda New York Sheriffs Department is one of the many agencies using this type of video system. Lt. Scott Sheehan, officer in charge of the 10 member volunteer squad, said last year was one of the busiest in his team’s 40 year history. With so many navigable waterways around the Twin Cities the service they provide is indispensable. Private donations allowed the team add several pieces of much needed dive gear including full face masks with underwater communications and a JW Fisher DHC-1 diver-held video system. These items have helped improve the squad’s ability to accomplish the many tasks they’re called out for, including recovery of weapons, shell casings, and stolen property. “The thing about a dive team is it takes a lot of resources to run a rescue or recovery, especially in the winter”, says Sheehan. “The guys only get 12 or 15 minutes bottom time in these conditions. If you’re looking for something small, you need a lot of divers. Recently we did a Homeland Security Drill at a local oil refinery and used the DHC-1to film it. The system worked great and everyone was impressed with the quality of the video we shot. With limited bottom, having a recording allowed us to review the operation in detail back at the office and discuss any changes we could make.”
A private sector firm using video in their subsea operations is WJ Castle PE & Associates. Company founder William Castle has been providing marine and structural engineering services for over 30 years, and has served on a number of industry boards including the Association of Diving Contractors (IADC). Recently the firm was hired to do an inspection at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Company engineer Steve Gardner reported, “We were working under the Nimitz Library. Our goal was to document the condition of the pile caps and grade beams supporting the building and develop a repair strategy based on the existing conditions. It was important to have good footage of the structure to share with all the stakeholders.” To ensure satisfactory video was captured Castle’s diver was equipped with JW Fishers MC-1 mini camera with internal high intensity LED ring light. The compact unit was easily attached to the diver’s full face mask. Topside the video was viewed and recorded on Fishers VRM-1 with built-in flat screen monitor and digital video recorder. Gardner added, “Mr. Castle was very happy with the video we made. Considering the team didn’t have a lot of time to familiarize themselves with the system before the job, I was impressed with how quickly they set it up and how easy it was to use. In a few months our construction team will be at the site to make the necessary repairs and all the work will be documented by the MC-1 for inspectors to see.”
In Ohio the Franklin County Sheriffs Office formed its Dive Rescue Team in 1993 under the leadship of Sheriff Jim Karnes to provide the department with the organized and experienced group of deputies trained as Public Safety Divers. Their mission is to respond with trained personnel and specialized equipment to the scene of a water related incident to save human life, recover drowning or accident victims, and provide assistance to the Detective Bureau in the recovery of property to be processed as evidence in a criminal investigation. Some of the specialized equipment the team is using is JW Fishers MC-1 and DHC-1 underwater video systems and their metal detectors.
A few of the many other agencies and companies using Fishers video systems are the Benton County Sheriff in Arkansas, Offshore & Ocean Eng. in Australia, Anderson County Vol. Rescue in Tennessee, commercial divers Underwater Solutions in Massachusetts, Hartford PD in Connecticut, CW Divers in New Mexico, Los Angelos County Sheriff, Search & Rescue Society of British Columbia, and Margarita Marine Service in Venezuela.