Can YOU Really Make a Living Being a Public Safety Diver?

by Joshua Norris:

Say what you want about Public Safety Divers as a whole; but many of these individuals are volunteers who spend their free time jumping into some nasty water for no money. Most of the time, it seems that the only pay off they do receive for recovering a weapon or someone’s child, is to be informed that they have no clue what they are doing. Sometimes the arguing and d**k measuring even jumps into the realm of how only surface supplied gas divers know what, and how, to successfully perform the tasks at hand. However, there seems to be a serious lack of surface supplied units that can be moved up and down a river or beside a muddy pond with ease. So who exactly is needed to complete the mission?

In many instances, being part of a volunteer PSD team is exactly that. You become a volunteer. If you are fortunate enough to be part of a team that looks out for the members whole heartedly, you may even get your personal gear replaced if it is damaged while at a scene or during training. Others may not be so lucky. With budgets of next to nothing and many leaders not being dive certified themselves (or they were certified in 1978, went on 13 dives and stopped forever), it can be difficult at best to squeeze any real funding out of an organization.

So how does one actually make a living being a Public Safety Diver?
Some of the larger Law Enforcement Agencies and Departments will pay you very well to be on the dive team. Major city departments, the FBI, and even some military contract work is out there for the taking. It is really easy to join these high profile teams as well. All you need to do is get a degree in Criminal Justice, get accepted into the program after living in the area for a number of years, be related to the Mayor, and have a completely spotless record your entire life. If you are anything like some of the Marines I served with, you just might fall short on one or two of those pre reqs. The truth of the matter is that if you seek out the training in your local area and knock out the basic ERDI certifications, you will likely still find it difficult to make your living solely off of Public Safety Diving.

There are a few exceptions to this rule though, and it could be you as well. The trouble that many folks run into is the train of thought they have going into it. The image of the diver coming out of the water with the lost OJ Simpson knife, or being the one to finally finds Jimmy Hoffa in some Detroit sewage system equates to very little when discussing the bottom line. While being a part of a team is very noble, and honestly the furthest many individuals want to go, the real money is in Instructing and Consulting.

“There is no way to make any real money being a Dive Instructor though.”
Not with that terrible attitude. Working your way up, and gaining a solid reputation in Public Safety is not a very easy thing to do. It takes, dare I say it, a lot of hard work and dedication. In order to be successful, you must set yourself up for success. Go out and meet with the teams and gather the basic information you will need in order to craft a solid training program for them. For instance, if the local team is certified through Advanced Adventure, an Instructor would simply need to explain the liability involved around a team member diving, untrained, into a hazardous situation. From that point, the organization will likely look for a way to bolster their training in any way they can. If you can adequately demonstrate value added to the team and having the ability to bring them up to speed, why would they not decide to bring you on board to train everyone to a certain level above what they have? Local Community Colleges can even use State funding in certain cases to pay for training so the department does not really lose anything. The divers are even getting in state-required continuing education hours while they are advancing themselves and gaining more knowledge. How is that a bad idea for anyone?

“But Josh, the Community College does not pay that well.”
This goes back to all of that hard work and dedication. If you plan to build your retirement account by teaching one class each month to eight or nine guys from the fire house, you will probably not be happy when Social Security goes away. Set up a solid training schedule with multiple departments in the surrounding area(s). Once you have your own calendar filled, you can work and work and work to your heart’s content. Again, this takes time and hard work. ERDI has so many different courses to choose from that you will likely never teach them all. The beauty of the program itself is that it builds the divers up from scratch and then uses courses such as ERD 1 and 2 to culminate all of the training they have gone through.

Eventually, you will find yourself no longer looking to set up courses with the local departments. A funny thing will begin to occur. Your phone will begin to ring and different folks will start wanting you to come out and train them. These will be full blown teams and sometimes just individuals looking to expand their own knowledge. This is the time where all of those long days start to pay off for you. Where before you may have been discussing a four day long course with a team from which you would make one or two thousand dollars profit; suddenly you will find yourself in talks of training a large team for a month or two and walk away with some serious money in your pocket. It all begins by gaining the ability to teach some of the basic courses and then determining what you, as an Instructor, feel comfortable specializing in. Some folks want absolutely nothing to do with swift water, and that is just fine. Some folks specialize in cave recovery, and that is just fine as well. Whatever you prefer to do – ERDI has the right courses and path to success that you will need.

– Joshua Norris, Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC

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