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Locally made robotic lifeguard helps refugees

Posted at 5:17 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 20:23:54-05
At only 24 pounds, the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, or EMILY, can help rescue up to six people without endangering first responders. 
"You can just walk up, throw the boat into the water, take it out to the victim and it will sustain them," said Daniel Okiyama, an electrical engineer with the Sahuarita-based company Hydronalix.
Founded in 2009, Hydronalix manufactures small remote controlled robotic lifeguards that can assist search and rescue crews. 
They sent the technology to Greece, along with the company's owner Tony Mulligan and Rural/Metro Fire Capt. John Sims to assist the Hellenic Coast Guard in refugee rescues.
Sims is a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard and has worked for Rural/Metro for more than 20 years. 
"He was just kind of  the perfect person to be able to give the professional perspective on how effective this tool is going to be," said Capt. Jay Karlik, public information officer for Rural/Metro.
Mulligan and Sims are working with the Center for Robot Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) in their attempts to reduce drowning deaths off the coast of Greece.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 18,000 refugees have arrived in Greece so far this year and 47 of them have died in the attempt. 
On January 5, officials found 34 bodies including seven children, according to CRASAR Director Robin Murphy.
"This is a lot better than sending a person out because panicked people tend to latch on to anything they can get," said Okiyama. "Including other people, debris."
So far the team has focused on training and hasn't yet participated in active rescues. 
"Hopefully it will help to save some lives over there and anywhere the boat is used," said Karlik. 
Karlik also said Rural/Metro has tested the EMILY technology here at home for its use in swift water rescues. He says they may start using it in the future to help keep first responders safe.