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Best signalling equipment from the searchers point of view

Discussion in 'General Scuba Equipment Discussions' started by Navy OnStar, Dec 1, 2007.

  1. Navy OnStar

    Navy OnStar Angel Fish

    While on one of my unfortunate non aviation tours. The ship would shoot at these things we called "killer tomatoes" to test their big guns. These things we made of the same material as an SMB and were not very radar reflective We used to duct tape a couple yards of tin foil on them and they stood out like cruise liners on radar.
    I used to teach Radars at Electronics "A" School when I was enlisted and the "crinkles" would actually help the radar reflectivity. The premise behind new stealth technology is constant curvature and eliminating the angles. the crinkles would act like the angles and cause energy to be reflect back in many paths. Picking up a 1/4 exposed 55 gal drum is actually pretty hard because of the curve of the drum there is not very much surface area actually pointing back to the radar. From my experience an aluminized space blanket would reflect enough radar energy to be picked up. And I'm not talking about a small square but carrying half or a whole one. they are very compact when folded.
  2. Navy OnStar

    Navy OnStar Angel Fish

    Most USCG stations have approximately 4 helicopters, 2 of which are ready to fly at any time. They have 2 crews ready and 1 on standby to fly those helicopters. Crew day (time allowed to be at work) is 12 hours but may be extended with permission from Commanding Officer (rare) They get on average 5+ calls a night (just during the night) do the math and that means they have to prioritize the order in which they go. These calls may be anything from an overdue boat, to a fisherman with heart troubles, to lost divers etc.

    If there is a Navy Base/Ship in the area they will pass excess to them if able. Most Navy Bases (with aircraft) have at least one helicopter on standby for this purpose. Anything close to land/inland waters can be passes to the sheriffs department and USCG patrol boats.

    Now here’s the real info. How do they prioritize? Here’s the info I got:
    They prioritize by chances of survival so they look at:

    Location: is the position known? in the water - or on a boat?

    Environment: Water Temps. Time in Water.

    Equipment: Does the USCG know if they have any Signaling equipment? Environmental protection Equipment?

    From my conversations with several USCG Pilots. Single or double persons in the water without KNOWN signaling equipment usually get the lowest priority due to low chances of being found.

    What does this mean? If you are left by a boat with all the signaling equipment in the world but the USCG doesn’t know you have it, and a passenger on a cruise liner has chest pains, if there are not enough assets to do both…..the chest pain guy gets priority.

    SO what can you do to make yourself a higher priority?
    1. Carry equipment that the USCG feels increases your chances of being spotted: I have listed Pros and Cons of each of these on the first page.
    - Daytime in order: Signal Mirror, Large SMB or Signal Square (i.e. Space blanket or RescueStreamer® - Water Safety Emergency Distress Signaling Device ) Smoke, Flares, Sea Dye, electronic personal locator. (listed last due to high number of false alarms)
    - Nighttime in order: Strobe light, high power flashlight, flares,(Night time smoke – produces bright flame with the smoke)regular flashlight, glowstick, any other light source, Electronic personal locator. (listed last due to high number of false alarms)
    2. Make a list of what signaling equipment you have, and what environmental protection equipment you are using, and how you plan to use it in an emergency/lost situation.
    3. Leave that list with several people along with your dive plan. Including instructions on what to do if you are overdue. Include police and USCG phone numbers so they don’t have to look them up.
    4. Have another copy of that list laminated and attached to the bag you take on any charters and point it out to the Dive Master should you be missing.

    Time is your biggest enemy next to cold temperatures. The longer you are in the water un-located, the less likely the USCG or Navy are going to be able to find you. So, make sure te person you leave your dive plan with is responsible and will follow the directions you give them at the appropriate time.

    I think I have hit all the major points. Questions? Comments? Concerns?

    js47 likes this.
  3. Teamcasa

    Teamcasa Sr. Moderator ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Near Pasadena, CA
    I’ve used a small waterproof handheld VHF radio, locked in a pelican or other water proof case when diving in areas where getting lost at sea were possible. Fortunately, I’ve never had to use it and it is not a bid deal to clip on just in case.

    Do you like this idea?
  4. dumpsterDiver

    dumpsterDiver Banned

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Very good imformation on the USCG search priorities.
  5. Bonuss

    Bonuss Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
    Great info! I have been upgrading, got the tallest Carter SMB I could get; a signal mirror; high end strobe; but had the same question about search priorities AND the concern who will know I have the big strobe!?

    Bob in CO
  6. Nick_W

    Nick_W Manta Ray

    I should preface this by saying that I am not a pilot, just a guy who has been picked up by a helicopter more times than I can remember.

    One thing we used to do when we were signaling pilots at night is take an IR chemlight and tie it to a piece of 550 cord about three or four feet long and swing in a circle over our head. The pilots used to tell us that with NVGs on that would catch their attention in a heartbeat. If you're not worried about limiting your audience to only those who are wearing NVGs, I imagine you can do the same with a normal chemlight to increase the visibility.
    Tfast78 likes this.
  7. Charlie99

    Charlie99 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Silicon Valley, CA / New Bedford, MA / Kihei, Maui
    Was that trick with the cord and chemlight good for long distance signalling and the initial sighting, or was this used for a nearby helo to relocate a swimmer they had dropped off?

    In either case, adding some motion to the signal is a good trick to remember.
  8. Nick_W

    Nick_W Manta Ray

    It depends upon where we were. If we were in the water we would start doing it as soon as we could hear the helo. Granted, they already had a fairly good idea of where we were (this wasn't a SAR thing), but they could spot it from a pretty good distance. If you did this with a normal chemlight and the pilot was using NVGs you'd be lit up pretty good.

    Clearly this isn't as good as a strobe but its pretty easy to tie the cord off to the chemlight, wrap it around, and stuff that in a pocket as a backup to the strobe. And is certainly better than just holding a light in your hand an waving it.

    And with this it isn't the motion so much as the fact that the fast motion makes the light appear a lot larger. Like when you twirl a sparkler around really fast and it looks like one solid line of light. Same thing here. Spin that thing around on the string really fast and you've got a four or five foot wide circle of light.
  9. DiverLS

    DiverLS Photographer

    # of Dives:
    Location: Reno, NV
    For a signaling mirror - try using all those "sample" CDs you get in the mail. Glue two of them together shiny side out for both. A good advantage, a hole in the middle to sight the reflection. And sorry, not an original idea. An old dive buddy gave me one about 15 years ago. It's been replaced 3 times (no cost except excess nail glue) :)
  10. D_B

    D_B Kimber/TekDiveGirl storyteller and memory keeper ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: San Diego, Ca.
    This comes up quite often ... Sorry, but CD's , while better than nothing, are not effective signaling mirrors, they have been tested and found lacking, and the hole does nothing for "sighting" it in
    ... If your going to bet your life on something, why would you not want the most effective device ... get a real signaling mirror ..

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