What does it take?

CarolinaFireJournal - David Pease
David Pease The Reds Team
07/25/2010 -

In 1975, I was recruited to help start the rescue squad in Garner, N.C. The irony is, I was recruited as a diver, and ended up going to EMT school, the first class in our county. I ended up riding on an ambulance as well as doing rescue. Back in 1973, when I was certified as a diver, there were only a handful of dive organizations and they only offered open water scuba certification. The only diving I had done prior to becoming part of the rescue squad was in the Florida Keys and the rock Quarry in Rolesville. Soon, I found myself in black water diving in lakes and ponds around the county, as I was the only “Rescue and Recovery” diver in the county.


You talk about on the job training, and I am not too proud to tell you that I was scared on my first dives. Looking for bodies in water with no visibility is not fun. With 37 years of diving under my belt, things do come a little easier now. 

Having put together our dive team over 20 years ago, I have seen a lot of changes in the field of diving. There are three components to recovery diving, or diving in general for that matter. One is the training you receive, having the right equipment for the job, and good old experience. It takes these three things to put together and operate a safe dive team. I do mean team, as in this particular discipline, there is no room for free lancing or being a hot shot. In this article, I want to take a look at the training aspect of the recovery diver. Please don’t misunderstand, when I refer to recovery diver rather than rescue diver, very little rescue is done by divers, unless it is other divers who get in trouble. Occasionally, divers have responded to cars submersed, or a subject down in cold water, and have actually performed a rescue. However, this is few and far between.

Diving has come quite a ways since the 1970s, when there was only one certification. Now, I will have to say, that the requirements back then were much more strenuous than they are now, such as treading water for 45 minutes. Over time the diving industry saw a need to develop and train divers in more advanced skills, allowing the diver a safer option in diving while enhancing the dive industry as well. Divers that want to become part of a dive team and get involved in recovery operations, now have a lot more training options. Once completing the basic open water certification, they should move into the advanced level certification. Most dive organizations have very similar classes that can be taken for this. This level will give you training, skills and knowledge in the areas you choose, and will also add to your bottom time.

When looking at the advanced level, consider taking the deep dive specialty, giving you the knowledge for dealing with deeper dives should they occur, and they will occur. Next, look at the navigation specialty. Underwater navigation will give you experience and skills using a compass in the water. Again, this is another good skill to have for recovery diving. I would consider night diving or limited visibility diving as my next specialty. This will be a great help when you enter the world of black water. I wish that was available when I was certified.

Another good specialty is the search and recovery class, which will give you knowledge in searching under water and using lift bags. A couple of other specialties to look at would be Peak Performance Buoyancy, Dry Suit Diver or Equipment Specialist. All of these will benefit you as you move toward your Public Safety Diver Certification.

Once you reach the advanced level certification you will have a much greater skill base and knowledge to build on. You will also have more dives and bottom time under your belt. You need to continue to make dives and build up your experience. Once you have achieved your advanced open water you can log enough dives to become a Master Scuba Diver. Most of the certifying organizations require around 50 dives for this. Your next step will be “Rescue Diver” which is not how to rescue the general public we serve, but how to rescue your teammates or dive partner.

Next time we will look at the recue diver certification as well as the public safety diver certification, and some dive team training you can do. Down the road we will talk about dive team guidelines, NFPA guidelines, and equipment to consider. As tempting as it is sometimes, please don’t put yourself, or your team member’s life in jeopardy, by diving in situations you are not trained or skilled to do.

Until next time, stay safe, and dive safe, and for those that know me, I did not dive with Jacques Cousteau.

If you have any questions or comments e-mail David Pease at [email protected] and visit the team website at
Comments & Ratings

Daily Fire / EMS News

A collection of Fire / EMS -related news from around the web!

Get Aggregated RSS

View the full Fire - Rescue - EMS News section
for more articles

About the Carolina Fire Rescue EMS Journal

Welcome to the Carolina Fire Rescue EMS Journal! We want to provide you with timely online information and breaking news that best equips you to meet today’s emergency challenges. Among our firefighting articles, you will find the latest in firefighter technology, firefighter training, leadership development and the newest products and services presented in an “Act Now” user friendly format.  We want to be your best online source for the fire and rescue information, resources and reviews you need.
Regional Impact, National in Scope
  • Delivered free of charge to ALL fire departments, ambulance bays, rescue squads and hazmat teams in North and South Carolina
  • Quarterly circulation includes: fire academies, industry related technical schools and colleges and all major apparatus manufacturers
  • Regional & National trade show distribution
  • Largest circulated regional industry trade publication subscription base