by Dr. Thomas W. Powell:
Public 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.
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. 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.
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