$23K grant advances water rescues

Published 12:36 am Friday, July 14, 2017

Water rescues in Covington County just got a lot more advanced.

Opp Fire Chief Cory Spurlin, who heads the Covington County water rescue team, said that on Tuesday the team received all new scuba gear, thanks to a 100 percent-funded grant through Homeland Security.

The grant totaled $23,953, he said.

“Everything is no cost to the city of Opp, county or citizens or Covington County or Opp,” he said. “EMA Director Susan Harris was key to getting this funding.”

Spurlin said the equipment is the top-of-the-line for search and rescue.

“We received enough equipment for four divers,” he said. “We received a lot of equipment, some of it includes first and second stage regulators, full face masks, wet and dry suits, fins and gloves. We are excited about it.”

Spurlin said that previously the dive team used their personal equipment.

The major change Spurlin said is that they now have communication from diver to diver and to the surface.

“Communications is big,” he said. “It’s something that we’ve never had. Previously, we had no communication back to the surface. We relied on hand signals and tapping on the tanks, mainly visually and audio what we could do. We always work together.”

Spurlin said the new communications system will make conducting search, rescue and recovery a lot safer.

“It’s like day and night,” he said. “That’s why we are so excited. We’ve been involved in several different instances in Covington and other counties. We are glad to help any county that needs it.”

Another addition is underwater metal detectors.

“We’ll be able to help law enforcement with their cases,” he said. “If someone has tossed something like a weapon into the water or there’s an accident, we can help locate a piece of a car. There’s a lot we can do.”

Harris said she applied for three grants through the Homeland Security Grant Program Competitive Grant application in 2016.

“We received two out of the three grants,” she said.

The first was for the scuba gear, and the second was a $23,714 grant for the Opp Police Department for a generator at the Emergency Operations Center.