A situation common to Dive Teams throughout our country is how do you get service to a community that has limited resources. For this you must answer a few questions to justify the overall demand. Understand that need is not based on the number of accidents but the perception of the requirement. You most likely have very expensive and costly fire equipment. The cost of a pumper alone would run most dive teams for several years, yet no one argues about a pumper that does not make fires. Why? Because the need is perceived. Dive Teams are the same way. They have a perceived need, and this need is promoted by the Dive Team’s community involvement.

There are basically three types of teams, Fire, Police and Joint (EMS is included in Fire). By type we mean the controlling make up. The team may be either volunteer or professional. Fire departments are traditionally involved with rescue so most rescue teams stem from fire departments. Police teams are usually only involved with evidence and not rescue however many police teams do both. A joint team is combined fire, police and EMS and getting more common. Any type of team may have civilian members if their charter separates the team from the controlling department or makes a provision for who may be a member.

Before organizing the team it must by justified. Here we are not concerned with evidence gathering teams, but dive rescue teams involved in rapid response rescue. Prevention is a key element of any team’s justification and the team must serve the whole community. To avoid the stigma of ‘lifeguard’ you must attack the subject by analyzing your total local community.

* How much waterfront do you have?
* What are your water recreational activities (boating, swimming, fishing, ect… )?
* What about sport diving activities?
* Do you have canals?
* How many bridges do you have?
* What is your boating traffic like?
* Do you have any marinas?
* What is your mutual aid response area?

Next is to preplan “what if scenarios” and establish a purpose.

You need to establish your goals and objectives. Need is not based on the number of rescues but in the team’s image in the community. You also need to motivate your fellow rescuers to the point that not being involved in this community and its water rescue operations puts them outside the mainstream thinking. You probably will not find any research which supports most dive teams across the country. But when you visit one you the feel of the excitement of all involved. There are few records that support any team, they exist solely on the perspective they give the community. You have to create these perspectives.

Once you have established purpose, you have to highly profile the team and what it’s activities and benefits to the community as a whole will be. In most water front communities water recreation is a key element to the economy of the town. When the town can promote a Dive Rescue Team as safety to beach goers, boaters and sport divers as well as to the commercial water trades, you justify your team. This needs to be shown to civic and business leaders such as Chamber of Commerce, City Council members and public safety leaders. Keep in mind that the Dive Team is more than just numbers of responses. It’s service to the community. The key is perspective of the goals and services provided. The Los Angeles California Fire Department has high visablity because it patrols and monitors diver training classes, and high diver traffic areas patrolling dive sites. Work with the community. Do you have a large sport diving community? The possibilities of Team community involvement is limited only by how much you want to do as a team.

Next you need to establish your basic equipment list. All you need to start is basic gear and the will to succeed. All this fancy equipment and boats are great but usually not covered in an initial budget for a team when requesting money from a department. A team can be started with personal gear and no money. You can use old ropes and boat bumpers, you are only limited by yourself. You have to find incentive and equipment where it doesn’t exist. Many companies will donate boats, jet skis and gear as well as parties to the community dive team. We’ve trained a dive team which was co-sponsored by a beer distributor. Many teams have boats and jet skis donated by local dealers. Some of these teams do nothing more than curse the local boardwalks and marinas but they are high profile. Most of the patrols are volunteers on off days. They have benefits that are more than pay.

In most incidents SCUBA gear is used for search and recovery and very little in rapid response. Keep in mind that most rescues are surface rescues unless diver related. However, SCUBA gear is used for rescuer safety similar to a Scott air pack.

About the “hours of training needed,”proficiency is training and requires minimal time after every member knows the teams procedures and equipment. However training must be ongoing, make it fun. Turn training days into a picnic and fun time. Stay fucosed on your goals which can only be done by having the training and up to date information.

Remember our motto is:
“We work in the classroom for knowledge, train in the pool to develop skill, then put it all together in the open water, and above all we always expect the unexpected.”
We are here to help you at any time.

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