Last month, County Executive Allan Kittleman and Fire Department Chief John S. Butler announced the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services had acquired essential new rescue equipment that may save a few lives this summer.
Known as an ROV, the remotely operated vehicle works underwater and uses sonar technology to assist water rescues. These devices can be employed for a variety of purposes, but will be utilized mostly for search and rescue by HCDFRS. The equipment has been tested since last October and will be put into service immediately.
“We want to stress that residents always use caution when enjoying the water this season,” said Kittleman, “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are roughly 3,000 drowning’s nationally each year, and one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. This new equipment can play a critical role in emergencies, but first and foremost, we encourage everyone to practice safety and supervise children around any body of water.”
Each year, the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services is involved in 18-25 water rescue missions. Typically, these incidents involve drivers stuck in flash floods or swimmers in various lakes and reservoirs who find themselves unable to escape the water.
The ROV sends a signal to a screen that can see through murky water and surface reflection. It weighs only about 13.5 pounds and provides responders with a 360-degree view. The device can also be used in streams and flooded roadways, and can withstand freezing temperatures.
While we hope the use of this search and rescue equipment will remain limited to demonstrations and training, we know that is unlikely this summer. Thankfully, with acquisitions of important new technology such as the ROV, first responders here in Howard County have the tools and training they need to save lives when the time comes.