Even in the night, firefighters can see as clear as day.
Longboat Key’s Fire Department recently acquired technology that surrounding emergency teams such as Sarasota, Venice and the Coast Guard don’t claim: two night vision monoculars.
The difference, firefighters say, is night and day.
Fitted over your head, the TNVPVS14-Night Vision Monocular allows firefighters on Longboat’s marine rescue team to see clearly out of one eye at night. The set of two monoculars cost $7,047. Half of this was paid for by grants, the other half from fire department funds.
Fire EMS liaison and spokeswoman Tina Adams said the department has ordered a pair of night vision binoculars it hopes to receive within the next two to three months. The binoculars cost $7,993 and were also paid partly from grant money, partly from department funds.
Deputy Chief Chris Krajic and Lt. Brandon Desch met the Longboat Observer at the department’s fire boat in The Moorings to demonstrate and explain how the equipment works.
“When we deploy this, it's with four personnel, especially at night,” Desch said. “The captain will wear one to watch one out where he or she's going, and to watch the screen. And then we have another person that will wear them as a spotter.”
Once the department gets the binoculars, Desch said, the second person who wears the monocular will sit at the helm of the boat to watch the radar and to look out, and the person who wears the binoculars will become the spotter for whatever the team is searching.
Thus far, the department has already made use of its night vision gear multiple times. Combined with an infrared torch, clear vision in the night becomes bright, and personnel can see ahead 50-100 yards.
Desch said he was on scene when the rescue team was using the equipment to look for a boater off of Siesta Key. Venice Fire Rescue eventually came to his aid.
“Venice located the person. As they saw them, we came up at the same time,” Desch said. “As soon as they said, ‘We see something off our port bow,’ our guys turned and said, ‘Oh, yeah, there he is, we can see him.’”
According to Desch, the Coast Guard was a mile away from the area conducting searches when the boater was found.
Krajic said that with the complex waterways in the Longboat area, night vision is especially helpful.
“You look around here, all the little cuts and all the little islands and things like that, you can see if there's something floating in the water, like a marker or a buoy,” he said.