How Your PSD Family is Different From Your Real family

by: Felix Ventura Jr. | SDI/ERDI Instructor Trainer

Family: a noun that is used to describe a basic social unit.

psd familyMetaphorically the term family is used to create inclusive categories such as community, global village and humanism. When I think of family, I not only think first of the family that I came from, my parents, siblings and extended family members. I also count my family as those individuals that I have come to know – my close friends, co-workers and the family of public safety personnel that I have met over the years. Yes, family, although different but in many ways the same.

This is how many public safety divers would characterize the relationship between life with family at home, and that of their work family. Most people go to work every day for years and sometimes they will develop a lasting friendship or two. When they talk about brothers and sisters they are referring to a sibling. In public safety, those endearing terms can extend to the people we trust with our lives every day; our “Public Safety Family”. It is with both of these families that we spend a great deal of our adult lives. How many times can you recall sharing holidays, meals, special occasions and sometimes a room with one of your fellow divers? In many ways, the people that we work with in public safety are our adopted family. The old timers are the dads that teach the kids the ropes and inspire them to carry on the traditions, much as we do with our own families. The bosses, like parents make sure we follow the rules and stay safe. We beg, borrow and loan tools, clothes and money from each other. When either suffers the loss of a member, the entire family grieves.

So in many ways, Family is Family. Public safety divers are not unlike other public servants – Police, Fire Department, or EMS. The time spent on the job is often filled with great uncertainty. As a public servant we are called upon, many times without notice, to put our personal safety on the line time after time. Then and there, our public safety family is by our side to help support and protect. Then when the job is done, we go home to our families who support us in a different way but with equal passion. In the end, I think we are the lucky ones. Where else do you get to do the thing you love and have two families love you for doing it?!

Cronomer Valley Team Leader Jorge Resto tries to educate and get the families at home more involved with what they do in public safety diving. He has done this by setting aside pool time and hosting frequent BBQ picnics, inviting family members to come out for a demonstration on what it is we do as public safety divers. He believes by doing so, it will hopefully give them a better understanding of the job, and help them feel more at ease with what we do. His dive team belief is: it is important to keep the family at home involved with the public safety family, which helps to keep the stress levels down on both sides.

Cronomer Valley’s Dive Team also shares this sense of family with their team members and trainees. Resto states, “What hooked me from the get go was my ERDI Instructor saying, ’At the end of the day EVERYBODY goes home.’” Our team has taken other public safety diving courses, but I believe that if you really care about your dive team members and want to keep things up to standard, then you should incorporate ERDI Courses in your training.

Jorge Resto is former Chief and current Dive Team leader for New York’s Cronomer Valley Fire Department, Dive Team


3 Public Safety Diving Courses to Consider for 2015

by Dr. Thomas W. Powell:
ERDI PSD ClassPublic safety diving is a realm within the scuba community that has continued to see growth over the past two decades. Teams around the United States face differing issues and problems with every operation. These problem factors often lead to the recognition that more training is needed to keep divers safe. Almost every team out there has a mixed bag of certifications that have come from different agencies at different times under the tutelage of different instructors. With this understood, Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) has worked hard to meet the needs of almost any team working in any environment while following NFPA and OSHA standards.

Many public safety dive teams make the decision to get the team to where it needs to be in regard to training, and then maintain that status. The problem with this mindset is that environments change, old leaders leave, and Murphy’s Law will always bring new concerns to light. To make potential problems manageable, training can never end. A team must review where it stands and how it can be better. With training, failure points can be discovered and plans can be developed to prevent future failure. A few training ideas to help improve team capabilities in 2015 are listed below.

Too many teams today have taken core recreational courses and consider themselves to be operational public safety teams. These teams often have a few older members who know how to bag bodies or recover evidence, and they provide verbal guidance as needed on scene. In the modern court room, this system is no longer plausible. Instead, team members are expected to be trained to meet OSHA, NFPA, or at least state medical examiner standards. The ERD 1 Course is the first benchmark for any team. This course reviews basic scuba skills but then integrates tender work, encapsulation, and recovery techniques. Skills are practiced and reviewed while each student rotates through every position on a potential dive operation. If the newest member has had the experience that allows him or her to know how stressful command can be, he or she will likely be more supportive and helpful during a real-world operation. Similarly, ERD 1 opens the doorway to team specialization and ERDI specialty work that may benefit the team to a great degree.

Contaminated Water
On almost every training day, public safety divers have a habit of asking if they can dive wet. The problem with this action is that teams must train to react and perform as they would during a live mission. Live missions often require encapsulation due to unknown and known contaminants. The modern world has developed new and interesting bacteria, chemicals, and other dangerous soups into which public safety divers enter. Every dive operation environment must be considered hazardous unless proven otherwise. How many times have dive teams reported ailments and issues that develop due to various contaminants? The concern is that team members do not know how to stage, plan for, and perform the necessary activities associated with contaminated water diving. To combat the lengthy process surrounding diving in hazardous environments, the ERD Contaminated Water Ops Course teaches divers how to recognize contaminated environments, plan for proper diving techniques, and perform decontamination procedures following a dive. decontamination If every diver has learned to be proficient in regard to diving in contaminated environments, the team will be better prepared to care for team members and team equipment when these types of environments come into play. Similarly, the team will be better trained to quickly perform necessary actions in a proper and successful manner.

A Specialization
Finally, education never ends and a team can always work to become better. If a team has completed ERD 1, the smartest next step would be to specialize in a field that could be beneficial in that team’s area of operation. Some of the available specialties from ERDI include Night Diving Ops, Hull Searching Ops, Confined Space Ops, Ice Rescue Ops, Threat Assessment, Swift Water, Small Boat Ops, Helo LZ Technician, and many others. Any one of these courses can help a dive team improve or expand its capabilities in a fashion that may help the team better serve its local community. For example, in the northern states, learning and training for ice operations may allow the team to perform recoveries where they previously could not. Similarly, if a team’s area of operation includes any harbors or ports, hull searching and threat assessment programs may allow the team to better protect those locations if needed.

To find out what is available and who can teach these courses in a specific region, all you have to do is walk into your nearest SDI/TDI/ERDI Dive Shop or call Headquarters in Jensen Beach, Florida (or your Regional Office). You can also search for instructors and facilities on SDI/TDI/ERDI website, here. An instructor can be found to meet your needs. The objective is to help any team become more proficient at serving it’s community in a safe fashion, no matter how broad.

– Dr. Thomas W. Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba – Garner, NC


ERDI’s first CrossFit sponsored athlete

Team ERDI, Brian Rottman, Elite Crossfit Athelete

ERDI is proud to announce its first sponsored CrossFit athlete, south east regional competitor Brian Rottman. For those of you that are unaware of what CrossFit is it can be described as the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.


If anyone going to Wodapalozza would like a FREE shirt to wear please feel free to come by our office and pick one up. It’s on a first come first serve basis. Men’s and women’s shirts are available and they look AWESOME.


Crossfit has become known as the go to fitness regiment for individuals looking to enhance their level of fitness.  Police, fire and rescue teams are risking their lives on a daily basis and staying fit is one way to ensure optimal performance on the job. It is common to find CrossFit gyms located inside police and fire stations across the country and we feel that partnering with a CrossFit athlete would fit our thinking outside the box mentality”, stated Stephanie Miele Carney.

Brian Rottman, aka Rotty, is a regionally ranked athlete in the southeast region and a force to be reckoned with both inside and outside of the gym.  Not only is Brian our sponsored athlete but we are proud to announce that he is the newest addition to the accounting department at SDI / TDI / ERDI World Headquarters. Brian’s work ethic, positive attitude and value system made him the ideal candidate for both a sponsorship and position at the company…welcome aboard!

Over the course of the next few months we will be positing updates about Brian’s upcoming events and his progress during the CrossFit Open which will be starting in the next few weeks.  This weekend we will be posting updates from Miami’s Wodaplooza event in which Brian will be competing in the Elite division.  This division is by invitation/qualification only and is made up of some of the best CrossFit athletes in the world. Stay tuned for more updates and wish Brian good luck!



Miami fitness festival

The Wodapalooza competition was a huge success. Lead by Brian Rottman of Team ERDI, he competed in the Elite invitation only division against some of the best athletes in the world. All of his hard work paid off and he was able to win one of the toughest workouts during the event. All of us at ERDI are proud of him and can’t wait to watch the next event. “I had a great time this weekend working out with some of the best athletes in Cross Fit and representing ERDI. I knew that ERDI was very popular dive company in South Florida, but I was blown away by all the support I received from other Fire Fighters and Police Officers who were also competing or were spectators. I’m looking forward to the next few months of competitions and meeting more ERDI Divers from around the country”, stated Team ERDI Captain Brian Rottman.

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Make sure if you are at one of these events that you come by and say hello to us! Stay tuned for more updates!


Diving in Extreme Weather

by Sean Harrison:
##Emergency Response Diving International, ERDI, is always traveling around the world learning from public safety divers in the field. During our visits, it is interesting to see how various teams prepare for seasonal changes within their region. These changes can range from extreme to minimal. In the North American regionsthis time of year, the preparations generally focus on extreme cold and ice, whereas the southern regions focus on heavy rains and flooding. In both regions however,preparation is needed.

Teams have a wide variety of training environments at their disposal; from pool facilities to lakes, ponds, and even oceans. To simulate ice training, teams will cover one corner of a pool with a thick piece of plastic that has a hole cut into it, just like the hole that would be cut in real ice. The rest of the pool is covered in a thin sheet of plastic to simulate an overhead and darker environment. This allows the team to practice for winter calls before the first snowflake of the season falls. All the same protocols are followed including: line pulls and communications, harnesses, tie-offs, and surface support. There are even teams that have cars completely cleaned and equipped with lexan windows submerged for training. When punched, the window will drop as if the glass has been broken. They will use manikins of all shapes and sizes to simulate whatever the team may encounter, and seatbelt webbing so divers can practice cutting and freeing victims. While this is not exactly like diving on and under the ice, it works as a great refresher and gets a team thinking of all the required steps and protocols for working in these hole As with colder water and environmental changes, public safety responders must take into account the physiological changes too, for example, dexterity of finger movements which would decrease in these conditions. Preparing for entanglements is a necessity as first reponders must be able to free themselves in case of an entanglement. Wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) as a diver, as well as tender support. Making sure to use ice rescue suits for static water conditions, as they are not intended for moving water applications.

Teams in areas where floods are expected, train for two different types of exercises: flooded homes and cars, as well as swift water. Training for stagnant flood water varies depending on location and team structure. Generally, it consists of how the team should be properly equipped, in regard to contaminated water,search patterns, and marking protocols. For areas where swift water is an issue, teams go through exercises of knot tying, finding anchor points, ropes and high lines, load bearing calculations and when not to deploy personnel into the water.

This extreme weather training, along with routine training ensures the best possible outcome for the victims, along with helping to insure the entire team comes home safe. While these extreme weather scenarios cannot be re-created for training purposes, when the time comes, these teams will be better prepared than if they had not trained at all. The hopes are that prior to an actual call-out, the team will get a chance to practice on the ice or in swift water. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Early season ice draws unknowing victims and flash floods come without warning, hence the name. A necessary point that needs to be stressed is: every department/agency must have a solid documented SOP and SOG. This not only protects the rescuer, but also the department.

Teams all across this nation and the world provide an excellent service to the community and ERDI hopes to be able to visit as many as we can, and highlight their efforts. If you have a story about your team working in extreme weather conditions, please send it in along with any supporting photographs.


Why We Love FFM (and Why You Should Too)

Dr. Thomas Powell
erdi ffm diverThe modern scuba world is one of excitement, adventure, exploration, and enjoyment. Every day people take to the water to see new things or enjoy a different environment from the norm. Despite this trend, there are a select few individuals who choose to dive in order to serve their communities. These divers are willing to get wet despite harsh conditions, limited or no visibility, and dangerous environments. Essentially, when a truck containing hazardous materials experiences an accident in the middle of a snowy winter night, there are people out there who are willing to attempt to rescue or recover the driver. These problematic diving conditions suggest that public safety divers must work to remain safe and protected as much as possible. One of the primary items that can add to a public safety diver’s protection is the full face mask. Within the public safety diving community, full face masks have largely replaced the standard recreational scuba mask in both training and operational settings. The following factors suggest why all public safety divers should love the full face mask and seek to utilize them to improve safety and operational capabilities.


  • Encapsulation



      First, the full face mask is an item that allows for the encapsulation of a diver’s face. If worn with a latex hood, the head and the soft tissues around the mouth, nose, and eyes will be protected. On those difficult days when a diver must submerge into unknown conditions and potentially hazardous materials, the chance of injury or ailment is reduced. This factor can provide protection from chemical contaminants, hazardous biological materials, and even cold. Similarly, fitting attachments such as spider straps ensure that a full face mask can be securely attached to the head of a diver and remain more secure when compared to a traditional mask with a single strap. The fact that a diver’s head is better protected can help to improve confidence, capability, and even response time.


  • Improved Field of Vision

Second, the full face mask provides an increased field of vision when compared to a traditional scuba mask. The large lens structure found in many full face units provides a wider, clear surface area than traditional masks, and therefore improved visual capability. In most scenarios, public safety divers may not have the luxury of clear, high-visibility water, but when an individual does have the ability to see, the greater the field of vision, the better a diver can search or make observations.



  • Communications

Perhaps more important than anything, full face mask units provide a resource that has not always been available to the public safety diving community. In years past, divers have relied on rope, hand, or tactile signals. Communications systems found in full face masks allow divers to communicate to not only other divers, but to the surface support team during an operation. This factor allows for complete discussion relating to scenarios, the provision of guidance, and the possibility of improved recognition during problem situations.



  • Breathability

Finally, a full face mask allows for unique and improved breathability. Essentially, a diver can breathe from his or her nose. During intense or difficult scenarios, a diver on a full face mask unit can take deep breaths through both the mouth and nose into the lungs. This factor can improve the ability to relax and remain calm during problematic situations.


The full face mask is a unique tool for any public safety diver. It allows a diver to communicate, gain improved visibility, and protect soft tissues. There is no reason that a public safety dive team should not use, care for, and promote the use of full face mask units in operational settings and training environments. A resource of this type can help to protect the life of an individual who works to assist others. Programs such as the ERDI Full Face Mask Operations Course can help any dive team learn to better utilize and employ full face mask units during operational activities.

-Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer
Air Hogs Scuba
Garner, NC


The Training You Cannot Skip if You Want to Bring Your Team Home Safely

by Dr. Thomas Powell:
ERDI diverDive teams operating in the modern world can only be successful if they train to be successful. A dive team is comprised of volunteers who have taken a step beyond recreational scuba. These men and women have chosen to dive in barely tolerable, low-visibility conditions in an effort to serve their communities. For some, this is an obligation, and for others, public safety diving can become a passion. To be successful, team leaders must bring every team member home from every operation. To accomplish this objective, dive teams must be prepared for the most extreme, harsh, and unfriendly environments. To achieve this level of preparation, teams must train beyond basic levels of diver knowledge.

The first step for any dive team is to both understand and practice full encapsulation; encapsulation means that all areas of the diver’s body are covered and protected from exposure to the environment. The conditions in which public safety divers work can be extreme, to improve safety divers must be encapsulated when they enter the water. The first steps toward achieving encapsulation involves training in the use of dry suits and full face masks. Together, these two items (in conjunction with dry gloves, boots, and hoods) can provide encapsulated protection. Experience with dry suits and full face masks is essential when entertaining emergency response training. International Training offers both sport training in full face masks and dry suits through SDI, and technician and operational training through ERDI. Eliminating diver contact with water and the environment can reduce the dangerous potential for a diver to come into contact with chemical, biological, or other hazardous materials.

Once a diver understands encapsulation and how his or her equipment functions and is used, team-based emergency response training must be performed. The first of these steps can be found with Emergency Response Diver 1 (ERD 1). The basic ERD 1 Course takes a diver/dive team and introduces operational settings, skills practice, team work, recovery operations, planning procedures, and protocols. This program also offers an opportune time to advance a diver from recreational training with full face masks and dry suits to operational levels while performing team-based exercises. This type of program increases safety by forcing a team to work in unison through scenario-based operational simulations. If a team is trained to work together, the overall risk held by individuals is reduced. Essentially, the team members will learn to trust one another to work toward safe success.

Third, a team must review the types of operations performed in its operational setting. Are there rivers and streams? Do major social events occur? Is a boat critical for many operational entries and exits? The answers to these questions will provide guidance as to what other forms of operational training a team may require. Moving water suggests a need for ERD Swift Water training. The need for a boat suggests the need for ERD Small Boat Operations training. The presence of major events may suggest the need for ERD Threat Assessment training. ERDI provides many sub-specializations for dive teams. In many cases, these courses may require a request from a team leader. The best way to discover how to get the training you need is to contact an area ERDI Instructor and find out how best to get the assistance you need. Any ERDI Instructor can provide a doorway to assistance, and if an instructor is not in your region, ERDI’s World Headquarters can help to provide assistance as needed.

One course that every dive team must take is ERD Contaminated Water. Certain departments of various types already undergo hazardous materials training, but teams must train to deal with decontamination and hazmat problems as they pertain to dive operations. Beyond basic encapsulation, team members must understand how to scrub, clean, and remove gear from a diver in the manner that best protects the diver’s physical well-being. Divers must trust one another to bring each other home following an operation. The actions required to achieve this objective do not end when a diver leaves the water. Public safety divers must view all dive operations as contaminated water scenarios. The water in which a diver operates may be unknown and any form of hazardous material may exist in that water. When a diver exits the water, this hazardous material may still remain on the diver’s equipment.

ERDI team trainingOnce a team has trained through various operational scenarios, and prepared for the types of operations most common in the team’s operational region, the Emergency Response Diver 2 (ERD 2) program serves as a capstone course. This program is one that brings together the learned knowledge and skills of all team members to practice and train for the worst worst-case scenarios. Essentially, divers can combine skill sets and organize activities into a streamlined set of operational protocols that provide the most secure and efficient method for bringing every diver home at the end of a mission.

Finally, no team is always ready for any type of operation. Once a team has deemed itself “trained,” the training cannot stop. On a regular cycle, team members must practice skill sets and problem adaptation. If this type of continuing education is not performed, team members may get rusty and skills may be forgotten. Issues such as this are what can get a team member hurt. One weak link in the educational chain can lead to a problematic operation. To encourage regular training and operational preparedness, ERDI suggests that one in every four team members become an ERD Dive Training Supervisor. This program is tailored to help a leader develop training plans, and incorporate skills practice into a regular program.

Safety is the key to operational success for any dive team. The most efficient way to remain safe is to train for the worst possible situations. A dive team must never stop training if it wishes to remain successful, safe, and to provide the most benefit to a community. With training comes safety, success, and security.

-Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC

New Lenox Dive Incident 12-06-2009 032

Make Sure Your Team Comes Home Safely From Every Mission

by Dr. Thomas Powell:
ERDI team trainingAlmost every day, the news media produce images and stories about different dive teams performing active operations around the world. These operations range from simple recoveries to major rescue efforts. In every case, the viewer almost always sees some sort of joint operation in which divers work with differing public safety agencies. The mission seems to be paramount in comparison to everything else being depicted. That being said, the viewer does not see the primary objective of any dive mission, which is: to bring the divers home safely. Safety must always come first, and any person involved in the dive mission must make it home, above all other tasks and objectives.

Many factors are associated with team member safety, but the first is scene security and safety. ERDI training teaches students to review operational scenes, to look for potential threats or problems, and to plan for safe entries and exits. Prior to arriving on scene, and even following arrival, team leadership must watch for potential problems and make adjustments as needed to eliminate excessive risk. An example can be found if an entry is steep, hazardous, or unsafe. In a situation such as this, a different entry point must be chosen. A diver’s physical safety must not be endangered in an effort to make use of the closest entry point.

Second, dive teams have a bad habit of racing to scenes and each team member wants to be the individual who finds the lost item. This type of behavior is unacceptable unless the potential exists for a live victim. If a search is needed to locate items such as a body, evidentiary items, or even a vehicle, the team involved has all the time in the world when facing possible safety issues. There is no acceptable level of risk that is worth a diver’s life. The team must take time to plan the operation, implement that plan, react to possible issues, safely recover any items, and secure each diver following the operation. These steps take time, and haste can cause people to make errors. Any error could cost someone his or her life when dealing with complex equipment in zero visibility environments. Essentially, thorough planning and a slow but thoughtful pace are critical to team success.

On a dive scene, every team member is a dive safety officer. If problems are recognized or the potential for injury is discovered, the team member discovering these issues must make them known. Timidity or refraining from acknowledging risk to a supervisor could elevate the potential for harm to a teammate. For this reason, team leaders must encourage team members to speak up and to remain honest when problems are discovered. Any diver has the right to call a mission. The rules of recreational diving must spill over into public safety when safety is a concern. If the risk to human life is great, a dive must be called.

Safety must always come first in diving. Public safety diving is no different in this aspect from any other type of diving. Teams must train for the worst and hope for the best. If team members have prepared for worst case scenarios, and practiced how to cope with any foreseeable issue, risks may be reduced. The objective for any team member should be to return home with his or her fellow teammates. Public safety divers of all types must watch each other’s backs, protect one another, and stay focused on the mission at hand while remembering that the diver comes first. If this level of trust does not exist within a team, a diver could become injured and the team may not be available the next time the community has a need.

– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC


Public Safety Diving Lessons Learned from Recovery Operation

by Eric Brooks, SDI/TDI/ERDI Instructor Trainer #8699:
##On September 5, 2014 the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Dive Team was called out to assist Graham County Sheriff’s Office with the recovery of a potential drowning victim. The mission (as described in a news brief written by Sgt. Ursula Ritchie) lead to the successful recovery of a 26-year-old male who failed to complete the swim across the lake. A debriefing and eventual after-action report emphasized several lessons learned from the dive mission. Those lessons and their potential benefits to future missions are the focus of this article.

The mission consisted of setting up an inflatable raft 100 feet off shore of the boat ramp to use as a dive platform to search the area between 100 and 200 feet from shore, and deploying a second diver to search the area from shore to 100 feet out (to the raft). Dive team one consisted of ERD Instructor Bill Jordan and two ERD tenders Mike Turner and Wayne Hughes (who would act as the tender for the backup diver, ERD Instructor Trainer Eric Brooks). Their mission would be to search the far area using the raft as a dive platform Dive team two consisted of Eric Williams, Dominic Epps and Scott Schneeweis. Their mission would be to search the area between the boat ramp and the raft. Additionally, ERD tender Travis Chesna and Graham County SAR member Tom Sawyer operated the team’s dive boat, and acted as the mission safety officers and team shuttle. After diver number two got tangled in the raft anchor line, his search pattern was reduced to prevent further entanglement. Once both divers completed their initial search of their assigned areas, backup diver Brooks deployed to search the area around the raft anchor that had been an obstacle to diver Williams. The search around the anchor eventually lead to the recovery of the victim.

What lessons can be learned from this mission? First and foremost, it is important to utilize all members of your dive team in the planning process. By discussing the “plan” and asking junior/new members of the dive team how they think the mission should be run, you give them a chance to think through the process. This will become more beneficial on future missions as their experience, training and skills improve and they become ready to run missions on their own. This type of experience helps to build confidence and gives team members situations to draw from to use for future missions. Additionally, utilizing all of the members on the team helps to keep interest. CCSAR is a volunteer dive team. Having members take an active role in the mission keeps them interested and excited about future trainings and diving opportunities.

The second lesson learned deals directly with the search area. Having documentation on what areas were searched and what areas need to be researched is important so that areas are not missed. With this specific mission, the second dive team had an issue in their search area and it was decided to proceed, omitting the problem area, and then returning to it at a later time when the anchor could be removed. As it turned out the victim was in the problem area. Our team uses a backup tender to map the dive area using a form developed specifically for this purpose (see attached photo). With multiple search areas, the incident commander in conjunction with the dive team leader can look at all of the mapped searched areas and determine if any area was missed, or poorly searched. In this particular mission it was important to completely eliminate the first 200 feet from the boat ramp out towards the middle of the lake before moving the operation farther from shore. Additionally, these maps could become part of the chain of evidence in a trial, and therefore, should be signed by the cartographer and kept on file.

The third lesson learned involves diver training and staying current in your dive skills (and tether line communications). As it turns out one of the divers who showed up to the mission was not allowed to dive because of a lapse in his training. He was given support duties and at the end of the mission, he was allowed to dive to refresh his skills in order to become reactivated. As it turned out he was unable to successfully complete his refresher and it became apparent that the call to not allow him to dive was the right call. On that same note, divers and tenders need to practice their line communication, as these are perishable skills. We utilized full-face masks with communications, but our team is still trying to work out some of the bugs with our units, so we actually dive using both line pulls and voice communications. The point here is that it is important for team members to stay current with line signal just in case voice communications becomes inoperable. (We have also planned a future training session to work on our voice communication issues.)

With the successful completion of a mission and/or training it is important for dive teams to assess the lessons learned during these events. These lessons can become the focus of future training sessions as well as key factors to remember when conducting actual dive missions in order to make them safer and more successful.

Eric Brooks is the owner of ProTech Scuba LLC and an SDI/TDI/ERDI Instructor Trainer. He has been a volunteer member of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue since 1999. For questions and/or comments about the article or becoming an ERD Instructor you can email him at


3 Things to Keep Your Public Safety Dive Team Safe

by Dr. Thomas W. Powell:
psd diversIn the modern scuba industry, individuals have many paths to choose from. One of the most complex routes an individual may take is that of the public safety diver. A public safety diver must first be a recreational scuba diver, and then choose to entertain black water, dangerous environments, and complex procedural standards. These factors suggest that a dive team made up of public safety divers must work hard to ensure member safety while seeking objective completion. Three of the most important factors that can keep a public safety diver safe are: knowing the environment and bottom, understanding risk versus benefit, and having the proper equipment.

Understanding the Environment

Understanding the environment in which a public safety dive team operates is critical. Every ERDI public safety course starts by telling students to “size up” a scene and take note of important information. This information may include objects such as vehicle wreckage or dangerous entry points, or even problematic odors such as the scent of fuel or dangerous gasses. If divers cannot prep and perform in a safe fashion, the associated mission is likely to grow problematic or unsafe.

Similarly, divers are taught to obtain information from outside resources and even witnesses to better understand a dive environment. A witness may help to focus a search area, while a local may know the bottom features of a body of water. Fishermen often know where lines get snagged or boats have trouble. If a witness can help narrow a search area, the divers will have a reduced area to cover which may reduce diver exhaustion and the total time underwater. If a local can provide information, a team leader may be better prepared for planning the proper search patterns or team resources to overcome possible hazards that were otherwise unknown.

Finally, public safety divers are taught to obtain information about water quality. This information may come from local labs, state facilities, or even the Environmental Protection Agency. This information can be filed and maintained to ensure that when a team deploys, as much data as possible is available to determine if a dive operation should be performed. Knowing the quality of water in a specific location may help a diver plan what equipment and support resources are needed. This knowledge may also help to show the need for resources maintained at differing departments (such as a HAZMAT team) to be made available on the scene of a dive.

Risk vs. Benefit

In regard to risks versus benefits, all forms of diving involve some level of risk analysis. A recreational diver must analyze possible depths, temperatures, personal health, and other factors to determine if a dive should be considered reasonable and safe on a satisfactory level. Public safety diving is no different other than to involve a greater set of risk factors. Team leaders and individual divers must determine if the lack of visibility, dangerous water quality, underwater hazards, and various other factors make a search worthwhile. For example, if a criminal has admitted to a crime, and other evidentiary factors have almost sealed a case for a prosecutor, the handgun lost in a swamp may not be worth seeking if the risk associated with harming a diver is too great.

Divers operating on public safety dive teams must recognize potential threats and safety concerns. Every diver is a dive safety officer when it comes to the safety of his/her self and others. If entries are too dangerous, another route must be planned. If the water quality is too poor and dry suits are not available, the team must decide not to dive. No item, weapon, or remains, is worth the life of a healthy public safety diver. All divers accept risks when they choose to entertain the sport of scuba diving. Despite this, a team or dive organization must remember that liability is a constant issue when the safety of others is in question. The reality is that a team and its members must determine what level of risk they consider to be safe (following historical and data-based guidance), and work together to not violate this limitation. Finding a missing item is a success for any dive team, but the family members of an injured diver may not recognize any level of success over the injury.

Having the Right Equipment

Finally, a dive team must have and maintain proper equipment for the missions in which the team may choose to participate. ERDI divers are taught that all dives should be considered to involve contaminated water unless definitive proof shows otherwise. This education suggests that divers operating within public safety parameters should be fully encapsulated with dry suits, fitted and attached hoods, full-face masks, and attached gloves and boots. The equipment used by dive team members should also be standardized to ensure that every team member knows where items are placed and how to assist one-another during an emergency. Similarly, a diver should never be required to bail out of his or her mask if at all possible. For this reason, switch blocks become essential to allow a diver to switch to backup gasses as needed. The lines used to connect divers to tenders must be sturdy and rated to handle contact with sharp objects underwater. In regard to secondary search equipment, metal detectors or sonars can reduce search times, decontamination equipment ensures a higher level of individual safety, and even items like cylinder stands can ensure increased comfort and safety when dealing with diver exhaustion during decontamination. psd diver

A dive team must be prepared to provide to its divers the equipment that they need. Once this equipment is possessed, it must be maintained and serviced on a regular basis. When equipment is subjected to the worst possible environments, service is critical to prevent possible failures.

If a dive team seeks to understand its operational environment, maintains proper equipment, and ensures the benefits of an operation outweigh the risks, that team is more likely to experience success and higher levels of diver safety. Safety should be the first concern of any dive team. No operation is worth the lives of team members, and the risks associated with public safety dive operations must always be recognized and monitored to the highest degree possible.

-Dr. Thomas W. Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC


Don’t Forget Your Life Vests and PFDs

by Brianne Grant:


photo by: Keith Cormican

It has become common for public safety divers and dive team members to overlook the importance of wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) during training or missions in, near, or on water. Somewhere in the evolution of personal flotation devices, their necessity was lost among the burden to wear them. PFDs can be cumbersome but they are one more piece of personal protective equipment public safety team members should be applying before responding to or entering a scene.

Teams will often view PFDs as a necessary evil because they are just one more thing that must be brought along and worn. In the quick commotion of an actual operation, PFDs can easily be forgotten. This could result in a potential negative outcome such as accidental submersion. When responding to missions, or operating in monthly training, required PFD use is typically outlined in a team’s standard operating procedures or guidelines (SOP/SOG) however referencing these guidelines is often neglected.

PFDs are crucial to a team’s safety in rescue or recovery scenarios that involve swift water or ice, for rescuers, tenders as well as other team members on site. A PFD will help keep a submerged team member’s head afloat in the event they are accidentally knocked off balance, tugged in, or forced to enter the water unexpectedly.

Public safety PFDs are typically a neon color (usually orange) with reflective tape lining the front, sides, and back for easy identification or location. This unique identifier is another crucial safety feature for team members or those responding to the scene, especially for operations conducted at night. The neon color of the PFD makes it easy for victims to identify who the rescuer is, as well as give tenders and team members a distinct visual reference to track during the mission.

Not only do PFDs help with in-water incidents for team members but also with on-land incidents. The vest that members reluctantly put on over their uniforms, adds an additional protective layer. PFDs can protect members against unfavorable weather, adding an extra layer of warmth and holding in body heat. They also add an additional layer of cushion should a member be impacted by rescue equipment or to the ground by accident.

PFDs are not a thing of the past, and can help no one when tucked into truck storage compartments, strapped to a boat, or left in an inaccessible location. PFDs should be the first piece of personal protective equipment team members use before accessing, entering, or responding to any potential water mission or training. Yes they are cumbersome but try and stay afloat with knee high waders on, I bet you’ll no longer think they’re a pain!