by Dr. Thomas Powell:
Dive teams around the United States exist to serve communities, territories, and regions. These teams often operate within specific geographic areas. In many situations, a dive team undergoes training and obtains equipment until leadership or an oversight group determines that the team can be deemed operational. Essentially, the team can then begin to perform assigned tasks such as rescue, recovery, or investigative operations. From that point forward, many teams focus on maintenance rather than improvement. When new divers join teams of this type, they are required to meet a certain standard, but the team as a whole entertains “in-service” refresher-style training rather than new concepts or courses.
The act of maintaining a “good-enough” status is one that does not encourage forward movement. Operators in this type of environment often lose the excitement associated with training events and become “rusty” in regard to basic skills. Individuals may view training actions as “the same old thing” and simply go through the motions required when not faced with new tasks and challenges. Training in new areas and performing new skills encourages divers to stay fresh and remain active. When people learn new skills, they are more likely to want to use those skills and gain practical efficiency. Education and vast skill sets can make any dive team better, and increase the likelihood of successful results associated with operational missions.
Training is a factor that can help any team improve and protect itself. All leaders overseeing public safety organizations recognize and understand the topic of liability. If a dive team performs an improper action, or operates in an unsafe manner, the team and its leaders are liable and face judgment on some level. Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) works to ensure that course programs meet NFPA and OSHA standards. ERDI is the only agency of its type to take on this challenge. This standardization ensures oversight bodies that teams undergoing training in ERDI programs are being taught to operate in a manner that may reduce liability and ensure a safe operational environment. For this reason, team leaders can be encouraged to protect a team’s assets and operational status by training to become safer. This factor is the number one standard that suggests dive teams should seek out ERDI training and work to climb the training ladder within this educational system.
Dive team leaders often enjoy the idea of mutual aid agreements and deals that improve team benefits. If a team has the ability to perform one type of mission, that team will have that capability’s associated value. If that same team learns to perform multiple mission types, the value associated with that team improves tremendously. Essentially, the team would have increased capabilities that can be offered to both a local community and surrounding areas. Offering assistance availability to outside areas can often lead to financial, human, and even political support. To achieve a level of increased capability, dive teams must seek training and knowledge. This knowledge must be obtained, practiced, and then put to use. If a team uses training in an effective manner, various added benefits may be obtained through team education. ERDI is a training agency that focuses on first developing quality divers who can dive in a safe fashion. From that point, a fitness standard must be established and core public safety skills must be developed. These standards can be seen in the ERD 1, ERD 2, and ERD Dive Training Supervisor course standards. ERDI also maintains specialized training that focuses on contaminated water, hull searching, swift water operations, threat assessment, full-face mask operations, dry suit operations, small boat operations, helicopter operations, technical ropes use, crime scene investigations, and various others realms of expertise. Similarly, instructors with specialized skill sets are encouraged to develop needed course programs for teams that can be vetted by subject matter experts and studied to ensure OSHA and NFPA compliance. These educational programs provided by ERDI are unparalleled and focus on diver safety. The course programs provided by ERDI are taught by field experts around the United States who are actively working with dive teams and who have experience in public safety dive environments. For these reasons, team leaders should be encouraged to research how effective ERDI programs have become around the United States. The proof of success can be found among the teams that have already trained within the ERDI system.
Finally, teams must look at the past and determine how effective they have been and what team capabilities have been lacking. A review of this type will show team leaders where weakness exist. To become more efficient, teams should seek ERDI training programs that will eliminate these weaknesses. Training courses require skill practice and skill practice is what makes a dive team improve. Educational programs such as those developed and provided by ERDI can help a dive team to become more prepared for operational missions and better able to serve their communities.
– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC