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What to look for when deciding to join a PSD team?

Discussion in 'Public Safety Divers/Search and Rescue' started by LG Diver, May 22, 2006.

  1. LG Diver

    LG Diver DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Los Gatos, CA, USA
    Hi all,

    I've been reading a lot here and considering joining a PSD team. There's a volunteer team in my town, and I'm attending their monthly meeting tonight to meet some folks, ask some questions, and see if it's for me. What sorts of questions should I be asking? Are there ever situations where you would opt to not join a particular team for some reason? Are there "red flags" that I should be on the lookout for, such as a minimum amount of regular training, minimum number of team members, etc? I'm a pretty new diver so I'm looking to get the following things out of participating in a team like this:

    - Sense of giving back to the community a bit (first and foremost)
    - training/experience/confidence in operating in difficult diving conditions
    - Building some ties with other members of the local community since we're somewhat new in town.

    I'm currently a member of my employer's volunteer emergency response team, so I'm already CPR/AED, medical first responder and hazmat responder certified. I also have a PADI rescue diver cert, though I currently only have about 25 dives. Is it a bad idea to consider joining a PSD team with my level of experience- should I wait until I have more diving under my belt?

    Does anyone have any information/experience directly with this team that you'd care to share?


  2. leam

    leam Solo Diver

    Lots of good questions, let me share what I know. My level is not much further along than yours so please don't take what I say as gospel.

    First, many PSD people suggest a diver have NO experience, it's easier to train a new diver than to break skilled ones of purely sport habits. That said, you're at the point where you have some experience and comfort but you've probably not had years to ingrain habits. I think that's the best of both worlds, especially for volunteer teams that don't have the resources to train a new diver just to have them go someplace else.

    Look at how well kept their equipment is. Visual order implies someone who spends time making sure things are kept up to date. Look at the Hydro and VIP dates on the tanks, dirt on the regulators, and any sense of disorganization in the gear. If the team members seem to know where things are then that's a plus.

    Training, I'd say no less than once a month. PSD work is not really sport diving and if they're willing to put you into the water without making very sure you're ready, then you need to stay away. You also should feel free to make yourself look like the newbie you are. Not only is it honest but you can probably get a feel for how they would handle it if you didn't feel ready for a dive.

    Don't worry if they make you surface support for a while. As long as they're not being demeaning about it that's one of the best routes. Onec you know how things go topside you're more ready as a diver. And it gives you time to learn the skills you need in the training sessions. See if they can explain what skills you need to be ready and how they would help you learn those skills. If they don't have a list, or don't have a way to train you, be caareful.

    How many times have they actually been in the water in the past few months?

    Just some starters.


  3. LG Diver

    LG Diver DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Los Gatos, CA, USA
    Thanks Leam! Great information- exactly what I'm looking for. This particular team requires that each team member provide their own equipment. Is this typical? I'm not sure how excited I am about taking my personal gear into some of the environments we might be diving in, but it's not a deal-breaker. This was the first inkling to me that this team might be resource-limited, so I'm trying to get a sense for what things are typical vs things that I should be concerned with.
  4. Gary D.

    Gary D. ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Post Falls, Idaho
    Leam got off to a good start here.

    Having your own gear is not a bad thing at all. We issue out everything except the standard mask. BUT, 90% of my gear is mine. I like it that way.

    The gear can be deconed after an operation. It gets done better in your hands than the hands of another.

    What is their policy on gear replacement? If it gets broken on an operation who pays?

    Ask about what happens if you refuse to make a dive during an operation. See how they react. If they laugh or make smartass remarks walk away. Peer pressure kills more PSDÂ’s than anything else.

    Good luck tonight.

    Gary D.
  5. leam

    leam Solo Diver

    Our team requires each person have mask, fins, and suit. However, we use AGA masks and have suits so it seems more to be an evaluation of the individual. If your team doesn't have a lot of equipment they probably don't have anyone who knows how to get grant monies or solicit financial support.

    That said, I agree with Gary. I dive with as much of my own gear as possible. No one cleans it like I will, and if no one else uses it I've got no one else to blame if things aren't put back to where they belong. It also means I can go dive on my own and train with the same gear setup.

    Many teams are resource limited. However, I've heard more about teams that are motivation limited or worse, skills limited. I spent 4 of my military years in Disaster Response and I can assure you keeping up with training and equipment is a boring pain. But that's what impressed me about this team--the gear they had was stowed right, accounted for, and we have clean-up details that come out once every two weeks and clean the gear, check the tanks, and fire up the generators.

    If your team can have fun together and keep everyone motivated about keeping up their skills and gear, that'd be a plus. See where they are on the continuum between "too somber to allow for human error and too social to actually get in and dive".

    The other real query is your gut reaction. Do you feel these are folks you'd want to learn from and trust to get you out of the water if something happens?

    If you like the team, the task is fun. If it's not safe for you, feel comfortable walking away. There are other teams and other opportunities.


    leam the fellow newbie.
  6. bridgediver

    bridgediver Instructor, Scuba

    Hi John

    I've heard of this team before and what I've heard is good - never worked with them though. From what I've heard (and by having a brief look at the partial SOG they have on their website) I'd say they put safety first, have good procedures and training. They're also really busy.
    Let us know how it goes.
    Good luck


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