The St. John’s River in Palatka, Florida was alive with activity last week as six local Sheriff and Fire Rescue teams took to the water to practice underwater search techniques utilizing Humminbird® Side Imaging® and 360 sonars. Nineteen participants from Putnam and surrounding counties applied recently-learned theory provided during an in-depth, two-day Humminbird® training presented by Black Laser Learning® (BLL).
The training was hosted by the Putnam County Sheriff’s office at their training facility, courtesy of Sheriff H.D. “Gator” Deloach III and his Marine Unit Team Lead, Deputy Dennis Jones (at right). The instruction occurred Dec 12 and 13 for members from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Alachua Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and Putnam County Fire Rescue.
On the first day of training, participants spent over eight hours learning how to operate and analyze data from the Humminbird® Side Imaging® sonars. The comprehensive course utilized data from the 800 through 1100 series units, as well as the new HELIX® MEGA model and the newest SOLIX model. Teaching points included sonar image theory, image analysis, how to establish the search area, survey line spacing, adjusting range for wind and currents, and how to apply the Humminbird® system most effectively during search operations.
The teams were also introduced to Post Mission Analysis and how to process Humminbird® data. BLL introduced the SAR HAWKTM Humminbird® SAR Target Acquisition Software, a model that is specifically engineered for the Search and Rescue (SAR) professional. SAR HAWK has the ability to playback Humminbird® data insuring there are no gaps in coverage and giving the search team a second look at data under controled conditions. Drowning victims are difficult to locate and having the ability to review the data back at the command center is a plus for the search and rescue professional. In addition to target acquisition, the data is produced as a mosaic, that when connected to the Internet, is superimposed over local satellite imagery providing accurate search area coverage. The SAR HAWKTM‘s standout feature is that its operation is almost entirely automatic, which means the operator can concentrate on the mission at hand, instead of focusing on operating the software. SAR HAWK software will be available to law enforcement agencies starting in January of 2018.
The second day saw the group work on six sets of targets strategically placed to allow teams to practice on known submerged targets simultaneously without interfering with each other. The practice targets included rescue mannequins acting as drowning victim surrogates, weapons, and other potential targets of interest. Working in 8-16 feet of water, participants took turns operating their systems as well as newer Humminbird® systems over every type of target, utilizing different frequencies and other parameters to determine the most effective operational tactics.
Field operations concluded with an on-dock discussion around the effectiveness of the various Humminbird® units and tactics to detect and discriminate the various targets. “The wide variety of Humminbird® systems and diversity of targets presented a unique training opportunity,” said Vince Capone, BLL’s senior sonar instructor. “We were able to better define tactics and effectiveness of the various models and frequencies.” While the older systems provided effective imagery of the submerged mannequins, the newer, higher frequency HELIX® MEGA and SOLIX provided outstanding imagery, especially with larger displays. The newer systems allowed the law enforcement folks to search for small targets previously thought to be impossible to find with the hull mounted systems. BLL plans to incorporate the new data and lessons learned into future classroom and video training products.
Both the classroom and on-water training segments were filmed, and will become part of a new BLL Humminbird® training package to be offered in the spring of 2018. For those organizations that can’t attend live training, this will be a very convenient, cost-effective way to train marine units on how best to utilize the Humminbird® sonars. The training package will also include manuals for all participants. BLL is working on several new Humminbird® training products, including a new training video focusing on the HELIX® MEGA, Quick Guides for expedient field references of settings and operational functions, and companion guides to support training events.
As a result of the training, these SAR professionals now have more confidence in underwater search operations with new insights on different targets like small objects as well as crime scene mapping.
Black Laser Learning would like to thank Sheriff H.D. “Gator” Deloach III, and Deputy Dennis Jones for such an exceptionally well-organized event.
Our thanks also go to the participants from Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Alachua Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and Putnam County Fire Rescue.
Special thanks to David K for facilitating the communications between Putnam County and Black Laser Learning.
SAR HAWK TM– is a Trademark of Black Laser Learning, Inc.
Humminbird®– is a Registered Trademark of the Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
Side Imaging®– is a Registered Trademark of Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
HELIX®– is a Registered Trademark of Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
Not In the Manual®– is a Registered Trademark of Black Laser Learning, Inc.