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