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Man Overboard! - 2003-03-27

One of the greatest hazards aboard any ship is falling overboard. The U.S. Navy has found a new way to reduce the likelihood of loss of life from drowning and hypothermia from overboard accidents. VOA’s Margaret Kennedy has this report on a new device in use on the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf.

Sailors who work on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Constellation face constant hazards…rotors and propellers…. Flight crews often work at night when visibility is limited… Vehicles are everywhere on a deck that is slippery from oil and water.

Coordination is complicated and important. The wind is often strong. Hand signals are the best way to communicate in the deafening roar of the engines. Being knocked or blown overboard has always been a problem for sailors.

The U.S. Navy has taken a definite step to reduce the likelihood that sailors’ lives will be lost this way. It is giving an electronic device called a MOBI to deck personnel. Chief Warrant Officer Michael Frost explains:

“MOBI stands for Man Overboard Indicator. The MOBI device is a salt-water activated device. The device being here… this being the antenna. In the case it goes in the water it is activated. It then sends a signal to a receiving station onboard the ship. Ok. Here, this is seaman so-and so, or this is whoever, the name of that… owns that MOBI, that’s the person in the water.”

The MOBI has an indicator to tell the bridge exactly where the sailor is so that he can be quickly rescued. On deck, I spoke to munitions specialist Timothy Collins, who demonstrated how the MOBI is worn.

“It runs up through your float coat. You run it up through here, and it’ll stick out…if this is not sticking above, because when your float coat inflates, it throws you up to the top of the water so you won’t drown if you’re leaning over and you’re knocked unconscious. So they want the top of the antenna to be at the top so it transmits back to the bridge. It’s a good thing to have. It makes you feel more comfortable up here”

Three thousand sailors on the Constellation already have these devices. And the Navy has put in an order to buy one for every U.S. sailor who needs one.