Dive rescue specialists test new methods, technology in suburbs

When someone disappears under the water, a few seconds time could be the difference between life and death.

Dive rescue teams from across the country have been meeting in the suburbs this week. They are learning how to use new technologies, including drones, to save lives.

It takes guts to go into the water carrying 40 pounds of gear, but these are the people who risk their own lives to save others. More than 100 dive rescue specialists from all over the country gathered at the Twin Lakes Recreation Area in Palatine Tuesday to learn new techniques and technologies that could save thousands of lives.

“Seconds definitely count. We know outside of the five-minute mark, when the brain and the heart don’t get oxygen, we start killing brain cells,” said Lt. Todd Rishling of the Elk Grove Fire Department.

From new communication devices…

“They’re all able to talk to each other. So if you’re trapped underneath that back up diaper comes to help you, you can talk to each other,” said Lt. Dan Pearson of Hoffman Estates Fire Department.

…To new methods of pumping oxygen.

“It’s called surface supplied air. So he’s breathing from these bottles on the ground. So we can swap them out. He can actually stay in the water indefinitely,” Pearson said.

But what’s changing dive rescue is actually up in the air. Drones are increasingly being used to deliver lifesaving flotation devices.

“We’ve already had success with this flotation device and the strong, in rescuing and individual who was in the middle of a lake. We were able to fly at the flotation devices to him and keep him from drowning,” said drone operator Mike Pruitt.

And drones are also being used to find people in the water using thermal imaging technology.