Supplying the Underwater Heroes


While nothing is ever typical for this diver, here is how a scenario might go for Dave, a member of a municipal fire department’s dive team.

1:17 AM – Dave receives a call to come in. A winter storm is raging, with sleet making things difficult to get around.

1:35 AM – When he arrives at the station, Dave learns that due to slick, icy bridges, a van has spun out of control and into the water with passengers trapped inside.

1:39 AM – Dave and his dive teammates are geared up and they head out. The current air temp is 34 degrees and the water is about 55 degrees.

1:47 AM – They reach the river near where the van is submerged in about 18′ of water.

1:50 AM – It’s dark, still sleeting and the river current is flowing about 6 knots where the van is submerged. The team enters the water.

1:56 AM – Dave and his team must fight the current and almost zero visibility but they do locate the vehicle.

1:59 AM – They find one passenger still alive but injured. They cut her free from the car and get her to the surface. An ambulance takes her to the hospital.

2:08 AM – Dave and his team return to the car to retrieve the two bodies of the passengers who didn’t survive.

While this is a fictitious story, it illustrates what a typical search and rescue event might be like for our underwater heroes – our public safety divers.

We more commonly associate scuba diving with good times, scientific research, or global conservation, but scuba diving plays a big role for police departments, fire departments, and military agencies like the Coast Guard and Navy.

Public Safety Diving

This branch of scuba diving is commonly referred to as “Public Safety Diving,” and the most common duties performed by police, fire departments, and other organizations pertain to search and rescue.

These divers have to undergo an arsenal of training in addition to standard certification, so the divers can excel at such difficult skills as diving in zero visibility, using face masks with communication systems, conducting risk assessments, and identifying potential hazards, among other things.

These divers also never get to follow a set agenda, and are on-call 24/7 in case an emergency arises – regardless of weather, temperatures, or water conditions (including contaminated water).

Search & Rescue

public safety rescue divers - bridgeIt’s a tough job to be sure, but it’s an essential one to the general public, as these divers are instrumental when there’s a problem involving water such as:

  • A capsized vessel
  • A submerged vehicle with entrapped passengers
  • Trapped people (drains, grates, during floods, etc.)
  • Body retrieval

And while search and rescue is arguably the most important role of a Public Safety Diver, it’s not the only way these skills are utilized for the public good.

Crime Scene Evidence Retrieval

public saftey rescue - san diego police diversMany law enforcement divers are instrumental when it comes to gathering evidence, as on the surface, it’s pretty common for the bad guys to get rid of incriminating items by tossing them into the open water. From weapons to decades-old stolen cars, (both of which have been found), these divers spend hours in murky waters digging up the evidence that will eventually put the criminals away.

In addition, these highly trained officers may even spend their time under water:

  • Inspecting boat hulls for narcotics or contraband
  • Performing anti-terrorism operations and disposing of explosives
  • Inspecting critical infrastructure near ports and waterfront areas

Specialized Dive Gear

As one would expect, these special jobs require specialized gear that goes beyond the traditional recreational items. Police and fire department divers need reliable, durable gear since they tend to be diving in dangerous and unpredictable places.

Some examples of special gear include:

  • Fully encapsulating drysuits that protect from hazardous materials
  • Neck and wrist seals
  • Full face masks with communication technology
  • Pony bottles or other alternate air supply
  • Specialized gloves, hoods and boots
  • Lights and cameras
  • Harnesses for carrying extra equipment
  • Body and evidence bags
  • Floats, ropes, tethers and shackles
  • Cutting devices such as knives and fog cutters
  • Reels and markers

Scuba Toys is proud to be a provider of this top-rated commercial equipment!

We’re an expert at identifying the gear elite dive teams require to get the job done, and providing a wealth of underwater tools that will make the lives of these underwater heroes slightly easier, and much safer.

Contact us today to learn how we can outfit your public safety dive team. Call us at 877-728-2243 or visit us online!

Would you consider being a public safety diver? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image attributions:

Featured image:

Nightime image:

San Diego Police Dept. image:

Article Name
Supplying the Underwater Heroes
While we mostly think of warm, turquoise water with 75' visibility as typical dive conditions, public safety divers must endure murky, sometimes contaminated water, strong currents, zero visibility and hazardous conditions.

2 responses to “Supplying the Underwater Heroes”

  1. Esteban G. says:

    I hadn’t really thought about it before I read your post but I’m going to look into now, thanks for the info.

  2. Diane E. says:

    My dad was a public safety diver for the Miami fire department for about 15 years. After hearing awful stories about the bodies he had to retrieve, I don’t have the stomach for it.

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