How do I start training public safety divers?

By Thomas Powell

In the past few years, I have had more than a few scuba instructors approach me about becoming public safety dive instructors. The primary question on every one of their minds is “How do I become a public safety instructor?” The answer to this question is both simple and complicated. The reality is that you do not become a public safety diver overnight, let alone an instructor.

First Things First

Your first step toward becoming a public safety diver is to first be a diver. You need to focus on becoming a proficient scuba diver who is confident in basic skills, buoyancy, and equipment use. The better diver you are, the better public safety diver you can become. If you learn to adapt to problems, understand the equipment available to you, and experience various environments, your knowledge set will be better developed for entering the public safety community.

That being done, your next act is to search out a dive team in your local area or location. The easiest way to do this if you do not know who or what is already present in your community is to contact your regional emergency management office. This office can often provide contact information to help you along your path. Once you know what teams are closest to you, read up on them and see what you can find about their resources, training, and activities. This information will help you better decide which team you should contact. When you contact team leadership, you should seek to discover the prerequisites for team membership and expectations once you become a member.

Once you have petitioned a team and gained membership, you will begin a training program that leads you down the path toward becoming a true public safety diver. Why did I choose to include the basic entry to public safety diving in a description of how you become a public safety dive instructor? You cannot lead from the front and teach others how to do things if you yourself have not performed the actions you teach. You must first become a public safety diver in order to teach them.


Experience and understanding is the key to being a good public safety dive instructor. It is the little actions and hints that you can share with others that will set you apart from others. Working your way toward becoming a supervisor, and experiencing every role on a dive team will help you discover these tips and tricks that you can pass along to your future students. Simultaneously, the knowledge that you gain from other experienced public safety divers along the way will only assist you.

Along your path, one action you can take that will further benefit you is to improve your recreational diving skills. Partake in courses to garner further education and even move forward into the professional pathways of education. How can you teach proper public safety divers if you cannot teach future team members how to become proper and efficient divers in the future. If you do become a recreational instructor, take the time to work with students and do your best to teach skilled students who you would trust to dive with your own loved ones.

Once you feel you are ready to become a public safety dive instructor, you should look into the instructors available to assist you with education. Find someone with a teaching style from which you can learn as much as possible. The objective is to take your experience and learn to meld it into something that you can convey to others in a safe and proper manner. Once you have earned the right to teach public safety divers, one piece of advice is to first team teach. Work with an experienced professional to ease into working with new teams. This will help you to build confidence and provide added value to your students.

The Value of Education and Teaching

Just as with recreational scuba teaching, the more you have to share with students, the better value you provide. As a public safety instructor, you should take your time to learn as much as possible. The ability to teach subject matter such as full face mask diving, dry suit operations, contaminated water, crime scene investigation, and various other topics will elevate your level of value. Similarly, as an instructor, you should be prepared to teach any classes you present. Essentially, your personal kit as a public safety instructor is complex. Your kit may include harnesses, tender lines, a full face mask, and many other things. Obviously you do not need to have equipment available for every student (most teams provide essential equipment), but you should have the equipment needed to perform as your students and provide demonstrations.

Finally, you must practice to remain proficient. The best method of achieving this objective is to remain active in your community as a public safety diver. Maintain your membership on a team or teams. Like many scuba diving activities, you can get rusty in regard to skill sets. Do your best not to let your skills degrade. Team membership helps you to continue to expand your experience and provides practice.

Not everyone is prepared to become a public safety diver, or a public safety dive instructor. The idea of recovering the bodies of the deceased, or searching black water for miniscule evidence is not something relished by everyone. Similarly, teaching others to do the same cannot be done without some level of background in the subject matter. If you choose to follow this path, you must commit to helping others learn how to perform their tasks in an efficient and safe manner.

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