Blog Entries

Below you find the latest 4 blog entries posted on the site.

Friday, October 12, 2012 at 4:20:00 PM

Often Overlooked

I've watched many new divers gear up and go through their buddy checks (occasionally forgetting something) and get ready to go for a dive many times. More often than not these new divers will catch a small issue and fix it quickly. One thing I see overlookd in just about every team I see enter the water is one of the most important things when it comes to diving; Communication.

There are many standardized hand signals used by divers today. Most are basic in form; low on air, turn around, go this way etc. But as a team, diving together frequently (or even infrequently) one has to consider reviewing hand signals. Human beings rely on their voices for nearly all of their communication needs, (yes, even today as our fingers madly text) we've grown accustomed to talking about our needs and wants. As you enter the water, that ability is removed and it's always a little bit amusing to watch a new diver attempt to communicate with their buddy when they have no idea what they're talking about.

Each time I step into the water, either professionally or for fun, I make sure to spend a few minutes during my pre-dive briefing and go over the hand signals. Making sure everyone understand the basic gestures typically prevents someone looking at me like I have a third eye when I ask them "how much air left?". As I dive frequently with the same people, we've deveoped several "specialized" hand signals. These can be used for a myriad of things and for many different reasons, but if only one of your knows the meaning- it's pointless.

I've explored the additional option of using American Sign Language (ASL) on more than one occasion. I find it to be a fascinating tool for use underwater. Unfortunately, as I seem to be the only one willing to learn it, the efforts are in vain. My point is simple, take a minute to incorporate a review of your hand signals before you step into the water. Even better, make sure you've got your slate attached, as when all else fails, write it!

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Monday, October 01, 2012 at 4:09:00 PM

Public Safety Dive Training and Certification (Sources Magazine 4th Qtr. 2012)

Since the early days of diving, there has been the need for salvage, rescue, and recovery divers. In the beginning, that role was usually filled by the military or adventurous and enterprising individuals, often employing homemade devices and some bizarre “inventions.” They were the pioneers of salvage and underwater exploration. Later the military began utilizing salvage and rescue divers on a regular basis. As time progressed and equipment became more user-friendly and available, some of these roles were filled for civilian needs by the local police, firefighters, and medics—all dedicated, resourceful, and brave members of our communities. When they were called upon to deal with some of the most dangerous or daunting tasks, they gladly stepped up and did it. Many divers on municipal or county dive teams were volunteers, who were often trained only as advanced or rescue divers or were not formally trained at all.

With the tragic events of 9-11 the public safety diver, or PSD, became a critical component of our modern security conscious society. Homeland security protocols were developed, and the use of the specialized PSD became much more prevalent within police, fire, and EMS departments. Modern PSDs handle a variety of problems, from inspecting piers, ships, and waterways for explosives or contraband, to searching some of the most inhospitable and dangerous waters for evidence, to the difficult task of recovering lost loved ones.

With so many divers and dive teams performing so many different tasks, the training for this field is as varied as instruction was in the early days of recreational diving. 

There have been many advances within the field, and there are many who have opened discussion for national standards for PSDs and their training. While I agree with the concept and many of their ideas, the ability to make one set of standards for such a large group of people almost certainly invites controversy. Getting divers from one entity to agree with those of another can be difficult, not to mention the issue of compliance.

We’ve all seen divers who were certified have trouble performing some of the most simple tasks. Seeing this issue, I sat down with the help of several seasoned PSDs, commercialdivers, and instructors to design a specialty course with the PSD in mind.
During my career in law enforcement, I was fortunate enough to participate in many programs and training, and I enjoyed and excelled with training and problem solving. I became a field training officer (FTO), and in that role, I created several training manuals and standards. When I retired, I missed being a part of a team and working with others to help improve things or develop new ideas. Then a friend of mine, who was an avid diver and a member of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, suggested I pursue becoming a diving instructor. As I progressed towards that goal, I was mentored and assisted by some of the most amazing dive instructors I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn from. One of them (Course Director John Sims, NAUI 11274) offered some especially great insights and direction. With his guidance and the input from several members of various police and fire  departments, I developed and submitted a specialty course outline to my NAUI Representative (Jill Wentworth). Within a few weeks, I received approval to teach the program and immediately began implementing the internal structure and forging the logistics to teach it.

The goal is to train a PSD candidate to the highest standard, instill a uniform and structured set of guidelines, and seek additional instructors throughout the NAUI community to train additional PSDs 

enabling local police or fire departments to seek training through their local NAUI dive shop. With enough successful candidates, I hope to have this training approved by state entities that regulate public safety, such as P.O.S.T (Police Officers Standards & Training) in California.

The specialty was designed around existing NAUI standards. I took what was needed from several certification courses and applied them to the world of the PSD. Focusing more on techniques, skills, and creating safer divers, the program addresses a specific and often tough type of diving. The main objectives are providing the PSD with the best skills possible to fulfill their role.

NAUI Instructors who have a background in law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, or a comprehensive understanding of the rules of evidence and the criminal justice system can teach this specialty. The concept is simple: teach existing PSDs and those who wish to become one to the highest possible standards.

For more information, please visit my web site at www.PublicSafetyDiveTraining.com
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Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 3:46:00 PM

A small, but oh so helpful tool

Having watched many a diver enter the wonderful world below the waves, something has occurred to me that I thought I'd share.

How are your communication skills?

By this I'm not really asking if you can express yourself with amazing skill or argue a point with such rapier wit and intellect that those around you are amazed, but how's your hand signals?

Most of us take the ability to speak for granted, once you're down below, voice communication skills are moot. How many times have you wanted desperately to tell someone something down below, performing several forms of hand and body contortions, only to have your point completely missed? What seems obvious above, isn't so much below.

Enter the simplest form of communication- The dive slate. A small, sheet of plastic (usually) with an attached pencil. The possibilities are endless... One can convey all types of queries, directions, attention points and knowledge with a few simple strokes of the pencil.

I realize this seems kind of silly, but I only bring this up based on my own experience and the ease in which a small problem (communication) was removed once the slate was introduced. I've even gone so far as to print several basic instructions (using a label maker) onto the back side of my slate so that all I need do is point out a particular request to a student and they are able to understand and follow.

Dive buddies who dive together on a regular basis typically develop a good way to communicate below, but; being able to articulate something unusual, or, a problem is without a doubt much easier when you only need to spend a few seconds writing it out.

As always, dive safe.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 3:32:00 PM

Gear-Taking care of your "stuff".

Complacency, there I said it.
Its really not a terrible word, it kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?
The problem with it is it tends to get us into trouble. We get wrapped up in our busy lives and some of the "little things" get put on a back burner.
Rotating the tires, or getting the oil checked on the family car is one of the most common things that get placed on a to-do list and more often than not goes a tad longer than it should. Now, I'm not suggesting we're not responsible, more to the point we're so responsible with all the big things (i.e. Jobs, house payments or rent, school, soccer/baseball/hockey, studying, home repairs, etc) we sometimes have to let some of the smaller things sit for a while.
Don't get me wrong, I know most of us would never allow our beloved car go over 3000 miles without an oil change or our pool/jacuzzi filters to go without their maintenance.
But.... one thing has come to mind, it's been tossed around time and again. Dive gear.
Our dive gear is without question LIFE SUPPORT. We trust our mechanical equipment to take us to a foreign world, allowing us to survive in an environment we would not be able to without it.
When our gear is used, it is in a hostile environment, water is invasive, harmful and even over time, caustic. Water evaporates, leaving behind a solid; salt crystals. Salt crystals can, over time, become a force that fuses metals, alters the properties of rubber and even corrodes parts of our gear.
When our gear is placed into this world, it sees some amazing things, it also has its seals, pistons and fittings exposed to water. 
A simple yearly service (which means every 12 months) can help protect your gear and you in this remarkable world. By keeping your gear clean and well maintained, we can prevent issues and prolong the life of our gear to many years of faithful performance. Soaking your gear in warm water, and by soaking I mean for up to an hour or two, may not always be required, but when it comes to breaking down encrusted salt, what's the hurry?

A little bit of plain white vinegar goes a long way as well. Put a cup or two into a bathtub, or a NEW 40 gallon trash can full of warm water and you'd be amazed how much crud is left at the bottom of it once you've removed your gear after a good soak.

As always, dive safe-dive happy.

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