Public Safety Diving in the new Millennium, part #1
In the 80s, and even through the early 90s, it was an oddity or even exotic for a fire or police department to have a surface / subsurface water rescue team. As we rescue our way through the year 2000, weather patterns are changing. Flooding has become a major issue in our country. The number of drowning’s has certainly not reduced. In fact drowning continues to dominate in accidental cause of death to children in North America.
As water rescue /dive teams become the norm, sadly we seem to be contributing to the drowning and near drowning count, via our own water rescuers. Yes assumed risk goes along with the job, however as we step into the first century of this millennium perhaps we need to review how to do our job not only more efficiently, but safer.
Sadly, sport diver training is the first step for most in our journey to PSD due to the fact that it is the most available, not because it is the most appropriate. The majority of PSD deaths can be contributed to sport diving techniques and equipment.
PSD when performed improperly can be extremely dangerous. It always requires special training and planing, it is a technical operation such as any other rescue call, such as high angle, confined space, or hazmat.
• Needs to have direct line access for backup diver to primary diver for rescuing our own. Must have a real and practiced plan for self-rescue, not, “oh if this happens we will try this.” Rather, have procedures that you have tested and and well-practiced in realistic scenarios.
• Should be wearing, and trained in the use of, a true alternate air source- a pony bottle. Not a sport diving octopus, solely used for the rescue of a buddy in a non entanglement clear, mid water environment.
• Should be wearing at least three cutting tools, with at least two being shears or wire cutters, which are far more effective and safer than knives.
• Should have trained and certified tenders who truly understands the job of directing and monitoring the safety of the primary and backup divers.
• Should have at least 10 dives in a similar environment and depths, and have practiced team rescues and safety procedures before conducting actual search operations in such areas.
• Low visibility, dive operations deeper than 75 ft should use surface supplied gas.
• Should assure that the local EMS team, standing by in case of an accident has been trained in diving Neurological and proper medical treatment.
This millennium, Let’s begin to understand that PSD is technical operational diving and requires training and preparation equal to the job.