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Radio system makes divers’ job a lot safer

July 8, 2019 05:39 pm Updated: July 9, 2019 01:17 am

What are the big myths and facts about rescue diving?

The first myth is that water is clear-cloudy and all objects beneath the surface are fuzzy but visible. The second is that divers can make themselves understood with rudimentary sign language including the old reliable thumbs-up gesture. The facts are these: Water in lakes and rivers is pitch-black. Divers have to rely on compasses to keep themselves on course. Not knowing the tides and currents can result in tragedy. A mile down the channel is a perilously long way.

The idea of divers from the Hudson and Athens volunteer squads doing their risky and difficult jobs with a new hard-wired microphone and headset in each of their masks seems simple, but thanks to donations from the Hudson Polar Plunge in February, the work divers are called upon to perform just got a lot safer.

The hard-wired radio system allows the diver to talk to his shore tender and the shore tender to relay information to the diver. The diver can also be linked to his backup diver to communicate. The surface tender has a headset; the diver’s is wired into his mask. Suddenly, divers using rope pull signals to communicate is a technique from the past.

The new system is expected to be much faster and more efficient. It has a surface range of 125 feet and a depth range of 60 feet. Donning full gear and wet suits, the divers tested the system June 20 to work out the kinks. The dive teams will break out the equipment again July 17 when they participate in a large-scale search and rescue training simulation in the Hudson River with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Police divers are called in for all sorts of missions at any time of the year, from rescuing multiple victims from a boating accident in the summer to saving men, women and children who fall through thin ice in winter. Local divers deserve and need to have a communication system that makes rope pulls look like smoke signals.