NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) was officially activated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Naval Support Activity Norfolk Sept. 27.
Vice Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, commander, Naval Submarine Forces and Allied Submarine Command, and the ISMERLO team did the honors, cutting the ribbon and opening the door to a new approach to submarine rescue.
ISMERLO is the international hub for information and coordination on submarine rescue. Any time a submarine runs into trouble, ISMERLO can quickly post the word on the Internet, find a system capable of rescuing the submarine, and coordinate a rescue effort in support of the country involved.
"What we're trying to do here is provide some improvement in the international community of submarine escape and rescue capability," Donald said. "It's really the culmination of a large amount of hard work on the part of a lot of people to make this come to fruition."
ISMERLO is a small office with an essential mission.
"When you look at contributions - actual people in-house - it's Norway, Spain and the U.S. contribution," said ISMERLO Coordinator William Orr, "but in reality, ISMERLO is something bigger. The knowledge management database requires the updating and input by all the participating nations for the information that's on the Web site to be valid, and to provide the information exchange that's necessary in the event of an accident," he explained.
"ISMERLO is not the group that's directing everything and having all these rescue systems fly all over the world," Orr added. "ISMERLO is the facilitation - the liaison office - between the nation that has a disabled submarine and the rest of the submarine escape and rescue community that will be providing rescue assistance."
Orr said ISMERLO was inspired in part by the tragedy of the Russian submarine Kursk (K-141), which sank in the Atlantic Ocean in 2000.
"What we found was, during the Kursk [incident], there was very little coordination between the nations," he said. "Each nation had their own plan of the way they would execute a submarine rescue."
"We hadn't ever really gotten down to 'how do we coordinate the whole thing up until the time we start getting the people out of the submarine?'" Orr added. "Because of the limited amount of survivability, that's going to become critical."
ISMERLO will use its Web site, www.ismerlo.org, as the primary medium for submarine rescue coordination. Part of the Web site's function, Orr said, is "to provide a relatively easy format to provide information to decision makers, or people who just need to know where the rescue is and what's going on.
"So when a disaster occurs, there are faces and names; people know who to call, everything's going to be quicker," he said. "And that's what ISMERLO is supposed to do, is provide the most rapid possible response."
For related news, visit the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/sublant.