Comms in open water
Published: 01 April, 2009
Every water rescue responder knows that safety and clear communications are paramount to any water rescue operation. However, wind, engines, and the noise from water itself can compromise communications, which can have a knock-on effect on the success of a rescue operation.
K-based company Gecko Headgear designs helmets for water rescue combined with advanced communication systems. General Manager Dean Bunker explains that Gecko designed the GMSH 10 (Gecko Marine Safety Helmet) helmet, the perfect combination for the GRF10 head-mounted communication units.
The communications system’s microphone can be mounted on any MK10’s left ear aperture, whilst the radio is either worn on the body or hand-held. Naturally, the system is completely waterproof and the microphone cancels out exterior noise.
Bunker explains that Gecko has recently launched a new intercom system called RibCom, which facilitates and clarifies on-board communications. “This system allows rescuers to talk to one another very clearly without having to shout or move closer. With a radio transmitter only two people can speak at one time, but because the whole crew are connected to the RibCom system via a cable, all people can engage in conversation.”
The RibCom interfaces with a radio, which acts as an additional member of the intercom circuit, and all traffic received over the radio is made available to the other members in the group. The whole system is completely waterproof up to IP 67 regulations, and comes with easy-to-install mounting plates.
Bunker adds that the company is currently developing a blue tooth communications system, which will require no cable from the radio to the helmet
Surfer Jeff Sacree founded Gecko in 1993, after he developed a lightweight helmet to avoid headaches in cold water. Other surfers weren’t picking up the product in great numbers, but in 1995 he contacted the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, whose personnel were wearing motorcycle helmets. Of course these were deemed unsafe, as they resulted in too much weight on the head. Sacree, however, set out to design a lightweight helmet for the RLNI and the result was the GMSH range of lightweight helmets.
In the following years, the company also started supplying the MoD and the Australian navy. “The GMSH helmets actually led to the first Marine Safety Standard in Europe in 1998, but since that time we have continually kept developing our equipment resulting in the comms system we manufacture now,” concludes Bunker.