This post will probably upset a lot of people. Probably because you have already spent all that money on your awesome new gear. So please hold your judgment until the end.
I love gadgets! I love cool gizmos and tools that allow me to conquer the challenges of life. You want to make me happy? Just drop me off at Home Depot and I will dream and scheme for hours. I probably should have an adult with me when I go there…
Every sport, profession or hobby, has some new must have tool or toy breaking into the market almost every month. Sometimes they are really amazingly helpful inventions that improve whatever it is you are doing. But sometimes they are a little bit weird and a lot of useless. I mean just look at the picture to the right!
Dive gear is no exception, and is one of the most widely discussed topics of any diving field. From Sport Diving to Public Safety Diving to Commercial Diving; dive gear is talked about among divers, like street racers talk about their cars, or my family and Fantasy Football. It’s your connection to the underwater world. For some people it’s just a tool, while for others, it’s their identity.
Let me clarify something. This blog is about Public Safety Diving. I’m not saying anything about sport divers here, so please continue to hold your judgment. Alright, here we go.
I have written previously about The Importance of Uniformity. I believe very strongly that as a team, every piece of gear should be the same. And I’m also a big believer that if it does not serve a purpose to your mission, get rid of it. Some of you are thinking about the “what ifs?” What if I drop my knife? What if I lose the search line? What if my regulator free flows? What if my light dies? What if my fin strap breaks? What if my depth gauge stops working? What if my computer batteries decide to give up the ghost while I’m 30 feet down? WHAT IF?!!!
Ok. So what? Does this means it’s the end of the world? No!
Last week I wrote about not trading in your common sense for toys and technology. The same thing applies here. Divers tend to feel that the more gadgets they add to their BC, the better a diver they will become. Even equipment manufacturers will rename something and make a diver believe they will be a better diver if they just buy that piece of equipment. Be careful that you do not become easily swayed by the shiny box and smooth talk.
For sport diving, there are some really cool accessories to enhance your gear and overall diving experience. For example, this thingy pictured right here is a personal favorite of mine. —————————–>
It’s a device that is capable of sending out a signal to rescuers, that you were an idiot and have no idea how to navigate, monitor your air, or start your dive into the current, and in some cases, all three. It asks you on the home page of the website, if your life is worth $299. I know mine is! That’s why I’m gonna buy two of them! So I can be extra stupid!
Really people?!!! We are just making it easier for divers to operate without the basic skills! Learn to use a compass and be back on the boat when the captain says so! There, I just saved your life, and your wallet $300. Take your dive buddy out for lunch and tell them I said they are welcome.
Public Safety Divers need to understand that the gear you use does not make the diver. And in the hazardous arena that is Public Safety Diving, the more equipment you have the greater chance of entanglement.
So when choosing your diving setup, here are some things I recommend you take into consideration.
These are just some things to think about. You have to keep in mind entanglement, entanglement, entanglement. The more you stick out with your gear, the better chance you will end up in a very awkward dance with something on the bottom.
Ok, you can judge now.
Search negatively my friends!
Last time I checked, you can not inhale water. Actually you can; but in doing so there have been reported many health risks. One of those risks is death. I’m not joking. People actually die from drowning! And you know what’s even more amazing? Public Safety Divers still do it! Even understanding there is a risk of dying, they still try to inhale that H2O. Why?!
Apparently no one told them that it’s no bueno. (Free Spanish lesson. You’re welcome.) If someone had, then maybe they might have been more careful. They might have had a different outcome. But where can one learn this kind of wisdom? Where can you go to understand what not to do?
It’s really not a question of where you can go, but who you can go to. The who you learn from is more important than where you learn. There are a lot of places you can go and learn advanced/specialty diving. Almost every sport diving agency has some kind of Search & Recovery certification. And if you are an advanced open water instructor with your agency, you’re all good to teach it. But has that instructor ever actually done it? Have they been down and located what was missing and brought it back? I’m not talking about a weight belt that fell off the boat in the ocean; I’m talking about zero visibility water looking for a gun that’s been pulled apart and tossed in piece by piece with every news station for 50 miles watching your every move. How would that instructor perform then?
Sadly this is happening. Police and fire departments across the country are finding and hiring sport diving instructors to train their people in something the instructor has no experience in, or business teaching. They are learning in clear water and comfortable conditions. If it’s raining they go home. Somehow this seems acceptable. Amazing.
Let me ask you a question. Why would you train anywhere other than where you would be performing the job? Pools are really nice; in fact I was in a pool last night. But I was teaching open water newbies, NOT people that need to be bringing their A-game at the worst times in the worst conditions! We need to get away from this mentality of trusting an instructor because they have a card that says they can teach a class. Take the time to interview someone who is going to train your department. Ask them what their experience is. I don’t care how many people you have taught, I want to know how long you have been doing recoveries and what kind of cases you have worked on. Tell me stories and some of your mistakes you have made.
Tell me why you teach what you teach! Are you doing this because it’s a good gig and the money is good, or are you doing this because you want to bring the very best training to those that serve our community’s? It is OK to ask these questions! If someone is going to get all defensive because you are challenging there credibility, then something is wrong.
So to sum this whole thing up in two words…be annoying. Ask questions, do your research, and don’t condemn you and your team to failing before the class even starts. Write down what you want to accomplish, and every question you can think of before you interview a potential instructor. Then get at it!
Search negatively my friends!
In my world there is nothing worst than looking like an incompetent newbie. Anyone who has been in the Public Safety Diving business for any amount of time, knows what I’m talking about. Showing up to a callout and suddenly everyone on the team looks like it’s their first time suiting up. It looks bad and is embarrassing. Not what you want, especially when the media or other agencies are around.
So why does this happen? Mainly because dive teams don’t take uniformity to an all encompassing level. The only thing that should be uniform is our training and t-shirts, right? Wrong. Every detail of your team and it’s equipment needs to be the same.
This is something my team takes seriously. We have everything the same right down to the compass and
where it’s kept on the BC. Each item was picked because of it’s functionality and ease of use. In the real world things go wrong. Regs free flow and BC’s auto inflate, and It’s really nice to be able to grab another guys setup and go! You should not have to think about where their light is or how his BC works. You have a job to do.
The only thing I allow my guys to have of their own is a wetsuit, mask, and fins. Even then, we train in the other guys fins just in case.
When doing search patterns it is also good to be uniform in how you do them. Hold the line the same way. If your tending, you should all stand the same way. In doing this there is no question in what is going on with the other team members. You can also step in for someone and not lose the momentum of your operation.
I’m going to drop a truth bomb on you. If you don’t know your team, and I mean really know them. You will not function as a team. Profound I know. This sounds like a no-brainer but is often overlooked within Police and Fire Departments. They have guys who are “on the dive team” but are regular patrol and only get called if they are really needed. Do they even know who they are diving with? Who is that guy up there tending me?
So take a moment and ask yourself what you and your team can improve on. What can you make more streamlined?
People say that all publicity is good publicity. Being the incompetent newbie on the five o’clock is not what they mean…trust me.