Becoming an ERDI Supervisor with Prior Experience

By: Alan Cale

You may have read my last article about Taking an ERDI Course with Prior Experience, but what about when that experience involves being a leader for the team?

I joined my local public safety team while working as a dive leader for the local college.  We were all volunteers, but due to the flexibility of my schedule, I was able to respond to every call and attend every training event.  

Several years later, after gaining a sizeable amount of experience, I found myself as an assistant commander in charge of scheduling training and recruitment for the team.

What is a Supervisor?

Much like a Divemaster in the SDI system, an ERDI Supervisor can fulfill two different roles.  They can work with an ERDI instructor in order to keep watch over new public safety divers in training, but they can also supervise team operations during active emergency response diving calls.

At the end of the day, both require an individual that is prepared to step up and take charge, understanding that lives are in their hands.  Both require extensive knowledge in ERDI operations, training, and governing bodies that cover public safety diving.

In my case, I was fulfilling both roles.  I was working with our team members to ensure that they:

  • Knew the different positions on the team and what their job was when the calls came in
  • Knew where all the gear on our trucks was located and how to properly take care of it
  • Knew what our search techniques were and other rope skills

The last one was one I felt I couldn’t stress enough.  I spent many of our training sessions having all our team members work with throw bags and running simulated searches with lines because they were the bare bones of what we did as a public safety team.  Continued training didn’t have to even be a planned-out activity. I would often quiz team members by randomly asking them to go find a particular piece of gear on one of our trucks during our meetings and then time them on how long it took, or send a team member out into the parking lot and have someone grab a throw bag to rescue them from the asphalt pond.

During calls, I was supervising operations, ensuring the safety of our members, making sure the plan was followed, and recording information as it was received just to name a few of my duties.  Once I took my ERDI Supervisor course, I learned about many of the gaps in my knowledge since all my training was on the job, and as a result, didn’t follow a standardized training regimen.

What Should a Supervisor Know?

Regulations.  This was a huge deficiency in my training.  If you are a supervisor for a team not trained in ERDI and are unfamiliar with OSHA CFR 29 Part 1910, NFPA 1006, 1561, 1670, pick them up and learn how each of them affects your team.  While looking at them, be sure to know the difference between when a call is a rescue and when it is recovery because the answer will determine which guidelines apply to you. If you aren’t sure, then it’s time to reach out to an ERDI instructor.

You’ll also need to be familiar with physics and physiology, equipment, logs and checklists, the anatomy of accidents, interacting with witnesses, bystanders, the media, and even the victim’s families to name a just few.

You may see many things in the above list you are already doing; I know in my case I was.  The point is not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to standardize the training and get public safety teams responding and working in the same ways to increase Interagency Operations.  For me, the course was excellent at taking the skills I had already gained over several years of public safety operations, improving them, filling in the gaps, and giving me even more tools to work with during both training and active calls.  

My main take away from this course was the same as the one I learned early on in my public safety career: you are never done learning.

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