Side scan is an underwater imaging technology that has been around for decades and has already become the standard technology used for conducting underwater surveys the world over in every conceivable field. It’s been modified for specific use in seawall inspection, ship hull and infrastructure inspection, topographical mapping, commercial and recreational fishing, and of course search and rescue. For teams like CBDR, side scan has become in integral part of their operation, bringing a level of safety and efficiency to underwater search and rescue that otherwise just isn’t possible.
Currently, when we are called out in the case of a possible drowning victim or object in the water, we begin by interviewing any witnesses for as much information as we can glean, but the most important piece of information is what we call the last seen point, or the “LSP.” And based on that LSP we send our divers in to begin our underwater search patterns to cover the ground as quickly and efficiently as possible, as time is usually our biggest enemy. Very often, we are able find what or who we are looking for very quickly using tried and true techniques that have been by use by teams like CBDR for decades. But that said, underwater searches are not an exact science, and there are a few inherent limitating variables that can’t always be overcome. For example, we sometimes will get multiple witnesses who give conflicting stories or LSPs, each with a very high degree of certainty. It can become very difficult to determine which information is most reliable, an thus which we should act on first.
Another set of variables unto themselves are the water conditions and submerged hazards. Much of the water in our area is fast moving current (“swift water”) that allows for little or no visibility for the divers (“black water” diving). And it’s not at all uncommon that we are forced to send our divers into water where there are hazards like strainers or entanglements in swift, black water. This can require the diver to take on an extraordinary level of personal risk, sight unseen. Per CBDR policy, every team diver has the right and responsibility to decide for themselves when not to dive anything that they’re not comfortable with or that exceeds their training; but the nature of hidden dangers is you’re unaware of the full extent of their possible effects. Thankfully we’ve never had a CBDR diver killed or even seriously injured; but we have had a few close calls, and so this forces us to be very realistic about the potential dangers inherent to public safety diving, and about the duty we as a team have to keep them as safe as physically possible at all times. Diving is and will always be the most dangerous part of what we do as a team- but it’s central to our mission at CBDR, so there is no replacing it either.
These variables on occation combine to prevent us from finding what we’re looking for in a timely manner. This is an issue, particularly when looking for a drowning victim. For our team members, there’s simply no worse feeling than knowing there is a family grieving, and not being able to bring their loved one home to them. The longer it takes to find them, the more protracted this intensely emotional loss becomes for their loved ones becomes- and every moment is made worse with the knowledge their family member or friend is ‘lost.” It’s a wound that’s forced to remain open and exposed, unable to begin to heal. But as heartbreaking as it is, every year drownings continue to occur. So the very best we can do in light of that reality, is simply whatever we can to ensure we find them as quickly as possible, as safely as possible.
It is an unfortunate fact that accidents occur, for us in this area particularly those of this kind when so many of us live, work, and play on or around the water. That’s why CBDR is relentless with our campaign to promote life jacket use in our area. But in those cases where the worst couldn’t be avoided, it’s our mission to recover that victim and return them to their family as quickly as possible.
It is for these reasons that CBDR has chosen to start perusing the acquisition of side scan sonar. There is no substitute for having a diver in the water and there is no silver bullet to make the process 100% effective or in every way safe, but technology can allow us to serve that function in a much safer and much more efficient fashion than we currently can. And that’s why we are asking for your help.
After a lengthy research and selection process, considering every option currently on the market, members of CBDR have chosen the Marine Sonic ARC Explorer as the best option available. This decision was based on durability, ease of use, value of the investment, compatibility with our equipment already in service, and the recommendations of other dive rescue teams regionally as well as around the world already with this system in service; agencies for whom this technology has already proven invaluable.
Our Board of Directors have pledged 50% of the total cost to put this system into service here at CBDR, to come out of our financial reserves. But that leaves 50% for us to raise from outside the organization- that comes to $22,500 that we need your help to raise.
We here at CBDR are humbled and honored to be part of an incredible team of first responders in this area, and to have the opportunity to partner with the agencies that we do. And the support we receive from the community as part of that team of first responders is truly incredible. We strive, in everything we do, to do you proud, and to provide the very best service we can offer to this incredible community we're privileged to serve. This is the next step in advancing that mission, the next step providing that next level of service to the Columbia Basin. So we humbly ask for your consideration and assistance in reaching this goal.
Where exactly is the money going to go?
The cost for the base system is the vast majority of total cost of implementation, but it isn't all of it. In order to make this project a reality, it will require additional funds to outfit our 3 boats that will be equipped to use the system with proper rigging and power required to support the system's operation. We will also need to send a contingent of 4 of our team members to Virginia for their multi-day factory training. The training is offered by the manufacturer free of charge to teams that have purchased the system, but we will still need to cover their travel expenses. So the costs break down like this:
ARC Explorer system cost: $38,900
Boat Outfitting: $3,100
Travel for Training $3,000
Total Initial Investment $45,000
Those were the numbers as presented to the CBDR Board of Directors on Oct 15th at their monthly meeting. Believing this was a worthy investment, the BoD pledged 50% of that total cost of implementation from our financial reserves, and asked our team members to raise the remaining funds from outside the organization. Their pledged 50% of the total cost covers the outfitting of our boats, travel associated with training, and $16,400 of the cost of the unit. This leaves a remaining need in the amount of $22,500 directly associated with the cost of the sonar; and that is the portion we are now asking for our community's assistance with.
If more funds are recieved than the minimum amount needed, the addional funds will be used to reduce the out of pocket expence to CBDR, in accordance with IRS guidelines. In accordance with RCW 19.09.100, CBDR is headquartered in Richland, WA, and our secretary can be reached either through our website (cbdr.org), calling our main office at (509) 946-CBDR (2237), or emailing myself at firstname.lastname@example.org or our general mailbox at email@example.com.
We deeply thank you for your time and consideration to help make this a reality.
Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions you might have.
CBDR Fundraising Officer, Diver in Training