Long Beach Fire Department divers use 'shark navigators' to save lives

The Long Beach Fire Department uses sonar technology to find objects in low visibility water.

Jaysha Patel Image
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Long Beach divers use 'shark navigators' to save lives
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15 divers and 3 dive supervisors with the Long Beach Fire Department are proficient in using sonar technology.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Long Beach divers are using a special device called the "shark navigator" to keep people safe and to save lives.

It is a device that's used for rescues. Despite the name, this was not made to find sharks. It helps locate people, cars, boats, and more that could be underwater using sonar technology to track it all down.

"If we have a confirmed submersion, our initial diver will go in on a primary search on a rapid diver unit and conduct an expanding circle search which will cover about a 48-foot radius; but if that's unsuccessful within that first five to 10 minutes, we will have a shark in place, setup with two divers ready to go," said Omar Naranjo, the marine safety captain with the Long Beach Fire Department.

While Long Beach lifeguards use it to make rescues, the Navy uses the same device but for a different purpose.

"The Navy usually uses it in a more stealth manner, in the sense they use the internal Doppler of the navigator so they can go unseen," Naranjo explained.

The Long Beach Fire Department has two shark navigators which allow divers to mark and navigate directly to targets in low visibility water conditions.

They also use the "mako" sled which connects to the shark navigator to expand their search.

"We're currently working with the mako diver delivery system which is a sled that works in conjunction with the shark navigator, and our dive supervisors are now fully proficient and it's in the works that they're going to be training our divers to use that because that expands our search area even further out," Naranjo added.

Officials say they hope practice for that will begin to happen early fall.

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