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What is "Public Safety Diving?"
Date:11/01/02  By Blades Robinson
Dive Rescue International

The term "Public Safety Diving" is a generic term used to describe the underwater work conducted by law enforcement, fire rescue, and search & rescue/recovery dive teams. Public safety divers (PSDs) are different from recreational divers in many aspects. Unlike a recreational diver who can plan the date, time, and location of a dive, PSDs respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays and weekends. It is not uncommon for PSDs to dive in the middle of the night, during inclement weather, in zero visibility "black water," or in waters polluted by chemicals and biohazards.

PSDs respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

In addition to "recreational" dive training, public safety divers receive specialized training for conducting search patterns, recognizing hazards, conducting risk/benefit analyses, diving in zero visibility, using full-face masks with communication systems, and recovering evidence that is admissible in court. Because some of the water that PSDs are required to dive in is so polluted, they wear vulcanized dry suits, dive helmets, and utilize surface supplied air. At times, the decontamination process that takes place out of the water can be longer than the actual dive time! If a conventional SCUBA cylinder was used, the air supply could easily be exhausted before the de-con process is completed.

Many public safety divers are volunteers, though it is not uncommon for career law enforcement or fire rescue personnel to assume these additional responsibilities with slight compensation in their salaries. Firefighters are natural candidates for public safety diver training because public safety diving equipment is so similar to gear worn in smoke filled environments. Because firefighters are used to working in limited visibility, wearing full-face masks and self-contained breathing apparatus, public safety diving and firefighting are complementary disciplines. Law enforcement personnel are also trained as public safety divers because of their extensive experience in handling evidence and introducing this evidence in court.

More information on public safety divers, their training, and their equipment can be obtained from International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists, Dive Rescue International, Trelleborg - Viking, and Kirby Morgan Dive Systems.

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