An unmanned, remote-controlled robotic water rescue craft called Emily helped save the life of two swimmers being pulled out to sea in waters near Otter Rock on Monday, July 16.
EMILY (Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard), a 24-pound, 54-inch long, 16-inch wide, 8-inch high flotation device, otherwise known as an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), was launched by Depoe Bay Fire District responders following reports that 10- and 12-year-old children were caught in a rip current just south of Devils Punch Bowl.
According to a Depoe Bay Fire District news release, one child made it to shore as the firefighters arrived on scene. The child’s father was in the water attempting to swim to the other child, who remained stranded on a rock outcropping.
The child dismounted the rocks on his boogie board and the rip immediately began pulling him seaward. Firefighters deployed EMILY and pulled the victim and his father into shallow water, where they were met by a firefighter who helped them to shore. The swimmers were examined by Pacific West Ambulance personnel and refused further treatment.
It was the first rescue by EMILY in Depoe Bay and among the first worldwide, said Depoe Bay Fire Chief Joshua Williams, whose department owns two of the lifesaving devices.
“EMILY is the ideal rescue device for our dangerous surf conditions and our limited resources,” he said.
With the ability to be deployed quickly, saving as much as 15 to 20 minutes in rescue time, Emily is powered by an electric impeller similar to those used on jet skis. Named in memory of Malibu, Calif., eighth-grader Emily Shane, she can travel 12 times as fast as a person, can make tight turns in choppy waters and can run for up to 20 minutes on a single battery charge.
“We are pleased that this recent addition to our arsenal of lifesaving tools has already proven her worth,” Williams said.
According to developer Anthony Mulligan, president and CEO of Hydronalix, the Sahuarita, Ariz., company producing and marketing the lifeguard buoy, the surf rescue device will not only save the lives of thrashing victims but possibly would-be rescuers themselves.
The floatation device is powered by an electric motor and jet prop impeller that produces speeds up to 40 mph. It is equipped with a speaker so the operator on shore can give instructions to a person being rescued.
With a buoyancy of 80 pounds, it can support the weight of an average of four people, and has been featured on CNN and was a subject of an article in Popular Science magazine. It was developed by Hydronalix for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Navy, mostly for exploratory purposes.
EMILY was first tested in the waters off the Oregon Coast in September 2010 at approximately the same site as the recent rescue. At the time, North Lincoln Fire & Rescue District #1 Safety Education Officer Jim Kusz said he was pleased with results of the test, but cautioned that EMILY, which was already in use in Southern California waters such as Zuma Beach in Malibu, might need a little bodywork to survive some of the world's roughest waters.
Alterations to the prototype were made, Kusz said, and it remains relatively the same size as the device tested nearly two years ago. It is so compact it can fit in the trunk of most motor vehicles.
EMILY requires an operator on the beach to guide the device to the victim at sight-line distances of up to 300 yards. Designers predict that later versions will autonomously save potential drowning victims as reliably as a human rescuer.
Once tossed into the surf, a sonar device, sensors and on-board software scans for underwater movements associated with swimmers, then responds to the victim six times faster than a trained rescue swimmer.
GLENEDEN BEACH – Depoe Bay Fire District saved two swimmers being pulled out to sea by a rip current in the waters just south of the Devil’s Punch Bowl on July 15. The firefighters were responding to a report of two children between 10 and 12 years old being caught in a rip current.
One child made it to shore as the firefighters arrived on scene. The child’s father was already in the water attempting to swim to the other child who remained stranded on a rock outcropping. The child dismounted the rocks on his boogie board and the rip immediately began pulling him seaward. Firefighters immediately deployed the unmanned, remote-controlled water rescue craft known as EMILY (Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard). Both swimmers grabbed the rescue device and were pulled into shallow water where they were met by a fire fighter who helped them to shore. The swimmers were checked out by pacific West ambulance personnel and refused further treatment.
"EMILY is the ideal rescue device for our dangerous surf conditions and our limited resources. This is the first EMILY rescue in Depoe Bay and one of the first worldwide.,” according to Depoe Bay Fire Chief Joshua Williams. “She can be deployed quickly from the shoreline and—powered by an electric impeller similar to those used on jet skis — EMILY can travel 12 times as fast as a person, can make tight turns in choppy waters and can run for up to 20 minutes on a single battery charge. We are pleased that this recent addition to our arsenal of life saving tools has already proven her worth.
“We are also pleased that our new shift system allows us to respond immediately to emergencies like this one.”
Depoe Bay Rural Protection Fire District covers fourteen miles of the central Oregon coast from the Siletz Keys south to Otter Rock. Career staff and volunteers provide fire protection, rescue and emergency medical services from three stations. For more information about the District and how to become a volunteer, visit the website (www.depoebayfire.com) or contact the office at the address or phone number below.