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When to question your officers decisions

Discussion in 'Public Safety Divers/Search and Rescue' started by Jared0425, Jan 20, 2017.

  1. Jared0425

    Jared0425 Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Detroit, Michigan
    733
    315
    63
    Many of us whom have been in Public Saftey have been taught to follow are orders with due observance, and almost without question. Then the inevitable happens where an individual who is not much in the position of power is ordered to do something that he/she thinks is wrong. This scenario not only includes diving, but search and rescue.

    My experience happened about a week ago when we were activated to search, locate, and salvage a airboat that had sunk in the St. Clair River north of Detroit. I am one of the head sonar operators on the dive team and have received much training and experience in the field. It's something that I personally take great pride and joy in. Being prudent, I went up to the facility the night before to make a list of everything that I needed including spare parts. I live much farther away in a rural part of the county that would be worth it to drive there again in the morning when the scene of incident is much closer to me. Thinking that my list could not have been missed I assumed that the crew would have grabbed these items as there are essential to success. I left the list quite visible on the back of the boat that could be seen by everyone loading gear. Our sheriff department just got a brand new custom sonar boat that I had helped design and this would be it's first real mission. We have an A-frame on the bow to support the sidescan, and pole mounted multibeam setup on the side, a sector scan sonar, hummingbird style mounted side scan transducer, and the generators to supply them. Imagine my shock the next morning when the only thing on the boat was the side scan fish without the spare parts and the multibeam that was also missing all of it's components. I was livid, but we were close to 2 hours being schedule and needed to get out there and find this airboat. I decided to put all my faith in the side scan fish and the back up plan would be to use the hummingbird. We called the salvage company as we left the dock and they indicated that they would take 3 1/2 hours to get on site. Plenty of time I thought. We were working with the new fire chief of the local FD. This would be a great opportunity to show him our capabilities.

    It would take us approx 40 minutes to reach the site and in the meantime I started to set up the equipment. We had 2 sonar operators including myself, 4 divers including myself (as a last resort), 2 dive chiefs/officers, and a chase boat with an operator and the new local fire chief. As I was setting up the fish I noticed that I could not get the TPU to ping the fish. A this time I knew we were in a world of crap. We got on site and the dive chief mistakenly deployed the fish before I could check to see if it was firing. I tried every trick in the book to try and get it to work but no avail. Within about 15 minutes of arriving on site, the chase boat located a strong contact on the bottom and dropped a weighted bouy within the area. I resorted to using the hummingbird to locate it and sure enough, we had a great hit. Problem being that the water was a little too deep for a good survey with a hull mounted sidescan as the nadir zone was almost 80ft wide. We tried to relocate the contact for almost 2 hours but the boat operator who was the junior dive chief could not run grids as he was zig zagging, circling and going into random areas. My temper was starting to flare as I was being ignored even though I was running the sonar operations. The commanding officer decided to put an inexperienced diver whom was not current into the water. The river can go from great visibility of close to 100ft to black water within hours. That day vis was less than a foot. The new diver had never dove in these conditions before and was not weighted properly or had the experience to even attempt this. The junior officer myself and my co operator protested his decision to use a tow sled in such low vis with an inexperienced diver. We were snapped at and told to follow orders as he knew best. Knowing that if the other officer was shot down, I didn't stand a chance convincing him otherwise. The dive and diver went as well as you might expect. Sucking down 2000lbs of air in less than 5 minutes, poor Coms, losing his weight belt and hanging on to it and tangled in the sled, in 50ft of black water I had had enough. I pulled him up and told him he was done. I once again forcibly told him to let me get another shot at locating the boat near the buoy and within 10 minutes I had a great hit. I personally took control of the boat an let my co operator spot the side scan. Finally doing proper grids we found the boat about 45 ft away from the buoy we deployed a few hours ago. The tug and barge were on scene and anchored up stream but they would not be able to get it as it was close to sundown. Once again the officer ordered the most experienced diver that was suited up to once again sled. As he was sledding he almost hurt himself bad as he slammed into the side of the wreck. We buoyed it and I pulled the diver to the surface. The officer then was nagging the company to let us secure the moorings for salvage but we all were cold, tired, and pissed beyond any reason. I once again forcibly told the officer no way and the divers followed suit. He was livid at me, but we turned back an headed home. I was taken aside and chastised, but I knew I was right as the the other officer had protested along with me. Our commanding officer said that I was in the right and the officer that was running things had a write up. I was embarrassed myself, as mentioned earlier I take great pride in my sonar training and capabilities. I don't mind being questioned or second guessed, but ignored when I was running the sonar operation really pissed me off and we embarrassed ourselves in front of another department.

    The moral of the story is, if you know that the commanding officer is doing something wrong and he ignores you both in private and public conversation, SPEAK UP! Our jobs as PSDs has little room for error or bad judgment calls. Make your opinion known. I hope you all learn from this story.

    Jared
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2017
    Divegoose and flyboy08 like this.
  2. rkinder

    rkinder Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Seneca, SC
    41
    44
    18
    Jared,

    You where simply looking out for the safety of your fellow team members. Many do not speak up when it is needed leading to injury or worse. I hope feelings can be put aside by all and a frank open discussion held with all team members to ensure the entire teams safety, including proper deployment check lists. This is an on going problem with officers listening to less experienced divers complaining that they are not being allowed to dive. Even when they have not done the work necessary to be proficient in the task at hand. This puts all team members at risk not just the inexperienced, because when it goes wrong everyone scrambles to help a team mate in trouble, possibly leading to more than one person in trouble..

    Thank you for posting, good luck and keep looking out for your team.
     
  3. Todd Dicker

    Todd Dicker Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Wisconsin
    28
    32
    13
    Did your operation have a designated safety officer? Just curious about that. Around here, it would be pretty outrageous for any officer, up to and including the chief, to ignore a safety objection from anyone. But in particular, a safety officer saying "hold on, stop everything" is the word of God for every department I work with.
     
  4. Jared0425

    Jared0425 Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Detroit, Michigan
    733
    315
    63
    Our team has no safety officer. The dive chiefs are the only people who run ops. This situation is the first time in my 6 years on the team that this has occurred at the level I stated above.
     
  5. aavmaj

    aavmaj Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Central Texas
    4
    3
    3
    On our team, they have two functions, mentoring the dive supervisors (They are always the senior most experienced supervisor in the type of diving we are conducting) and running the dive. That way we are always bring up the next generation of supervisors. My team has a policy for all divers to verbally repeat that "Any divers can call a dive for any reason at any time." We do it to verbally reinforce thought and we don't allow the supervisor to question the divers if they do. They can ask questions as to the conditions that made the diver do it but not about the decision to call the dive. It has served us very well. Thank you, for the post. I think that it is very important that are community openly mistakes so that we get better as a community. It is a very difficult thing to do.
     
    Seya likes this.
  6. sheeper

    sheeper Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States
    1,197
    610
    113
    when I train public safety teams (and not just dive teams. I'm a tactical trainer), I emphasize the importance of "team". What this really means is that if one team member has an issue, question or concern then EVERY team member has it. This goes hand in hand with "Any diver can call a dive for any reason at any time." You were watching out for the team. I also teach that "everyone is a safety officer".

    The team is no place for ego. It is critical to review and rehash and game the situation out until issues are resolved.
    Of course, there needs to be another emphasis on building a quality team with quality members....but that's a different issue.
     
  7. aavmaj

    aavmaj Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Central Texas
    4
    3
    3
  8. seaseadee

    seaseadee Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Boca Raton, Florida, United States
    233
    101
    43
    As a layperson I am curious about something said above. How does a less experienced diver gain experience if they aren't allowed to dive?
     
  9. aavmaj

    aavmaj Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Central Texas
    4
    3
    3
    I will speak for my team, a lot of training and then they are slowly introduced into more and more experiences. The most experienced diver is usually the safety diver because he has to handle a stressed out diver in an emergency situation. Not a great place for a junior diver. It can take up to three years of training and operations before a diver is ready for a majority of situations and even then he might just have a bad day and say not for me. For us, when you can say that in front of your peers, you are a mature diver. We have a long training program, if you come to us off the street and stick with it, 18 month to 24 months (40+ dives) to become qualified to begin to learn what you don't know.
     
    Jared0425 likes this.
  10. rkinder

    rkinder Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Seneca, SC
    41
    44
    18
    That is the point they need time to be comfortable in the water, team training, diving for recreation, additional courses with time spent in the water perfecting what has been learned. Then being mentored beginning with simple missions in known conditions. Team training in waters and conditions that the team has encountered in the past. Just going to the pool does not equal real training. An example is if normal vis is 2 feet then team training needs to be in areas with 2 foot vis. in similar depths, with a safety diver right next to them, coaching them. Next is to concentrate less on the number of dives and concentrate more on time and the type of diving conditions the diver has experienced both in formal training and informal training and use them when conditions are within their comfort zone. Practice emergency drills, such as out of air and loss of buoyancy, until they become reflexive. ( A high percentage of divers die having never dropped their weights )

    But it most of all requires effort on the part of the individual diver to gain the experience necessary to be safe. This is the hard one for people to understand after all they have the card. This lack of preparing for what can be the hardest diving you will ever do, is why we keep killing divers.

    Part of me feels like I must be real stupid because I still learn something on each and every dive, and yet every week I meet divers that know it all, and look at me wondering how I am still learning after all the years. ( never stop pushing for improvement )
     
    Jared0425 likes this.

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