Is Public Safety Diving the Commercial Diving Career for you?
What is Public Safety Diving?
Public safety diving is the commercial diving work conducted by law enforcement, fire rescue, and search & rescue/recovery dive teams. Public safety divers differ from recreational, scientific, and other commercial divers who can generally plan the date, time, and location of a dive, and dive only if the conditions are conducive to the task. Public safety divers respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and may be required to dive in the middle of the night, during inclement weather, in zero visibility “black water,” or in waters polluted by chemicals and biohazards.
In addition to their commercial diving training, public safety divers require specialized training for recognizing hazards, conducting risk assessments, search procedures, diving in zero visibility, using full-face masks with communication systems, and recovering evidence that is admissible in court. Some of the water they are required to dive in is contaminated, and they may be required to wear vulcanized drysuits, with diving helmets sealed to their suit, and utilize surface supplied air. At times, the decontamination process that takes place out of the water can be longer than the dive time.
How do you become a Public Safety Diver?
In Canada and many other countries, public safety divers require certification as a commercial diver as well as further training in law enforcement, fire rescue, search and recovery etc. This allows potential Public Safety Divers to begin work with their commercial diving certification doing jobs such as salvage & environmental emergency cleanup. From there divers can train in areas such as First Aid, Emergency Response, Firefighting, etc to break into various sectors of the field.
Divers will find a lot of overlap between these fields such as the many similarities between dive equipment and breathing apparatus worn in smoke-filled environments by firefighters.
In the USA, many public safety divers are volunteers. This can make it difficult to create a career out of public safety diving but can allow access to unique training and networking opportunities for both commercial diving and other fields of public safety. Of course, this position isn’t just about a career and can have a meaningful impact on lives in your community.
If you’re willing to follow a career less focused on diving you may want to consider a career such as law enforcement or fire rescue as there can be opportunities to take on roles involving commercial diving. For example, law enforcement personnel can get training as public safety divers because of their knowledge and experience in handling evidence and presenting evidence in court.
Commercial Diving Certifications for Public Safety Divers
Whether working in the USA, Canada, or abroad you’ll want certifications that are recognized world wide, this is why at DiveSafe we train to DCBC standards which are the gold standard for diving around the world. As a Public Safety Diver you need to be prepared for a wide breadth of situations and so there are a lot of certifications to consider. Here we’ll explore two options for your first step into Commercial Diving and Public Safety Diving.
A Commercial SCUBA certification is not only the fastest ticket to get you in the water but also serves as an extremely flexible option for Public Safety Diving as it’s easy to transport to remote locations and allows vital flexibility for jobs with unique constraints such as cave rescue that are only accessible using streamlined kits.
A commercial SCUBA certification is the most common certifications for a reason but it does come with some limitations. Due to limited air, low contaminant protection, and unreliable comms there are situations where SCUBA just won’t cut it. So how do we fill these gaps in the commercial SCUBA diver tool kit?
Meet the Unrestricted Surface Supply certification. Surface Supply gives divers access to many heavy-duty tools including underwater welding, cutting, and hydraulic tools. These tools are mandatory for certain types of jobs involving wreckage, accessing difficult locations, or repairs. But that’s only part of what surface supply can add to our toolkit. Diving near a train wreck, or a sunken boat leaves a lot of contaminants. These areas would be unsafe for SCUBA, but on Surface Supply the diver is completely isolated from the water and it’s contaminates and so opens up all kinds of dive jobs.
Still, the big game changer is that for a surface supply diver air is near infinite allowing for longer dives and added safety if a diver gets fowled on debris such as a wreck. Further, there’s always a tether between the diver and topside ensuring the diver can be located and brought to the surface in an emergency.
The downsides for surface supply are few but some situations may call for maneuvering that requires freedom from a tether and heavy gear. Surface Supply also requires extensive topside gear that may not be readily available for fast deployment. Still, surface supply diving is a vital component of any Public Safety Divers tool kit and serves as the go to for a majority dive jobs.
So what commercial diving certification should you get? Well, you can get started with a commercial SCUBA certificate but you may not have access to certain jobs. Luckily programs such as ours at DiveSafe allow you to combine a Commercial SCUBA certification with your Restricted or Unrestricted Surface Supply Certification. Between these two certifications, you’ll be able to take on nearly any job opportunity!
With Public Safety Diving the training never ends. With you’re commercial diving certifications you’re ready to work but Public Safety diving means being ready for any situation, and so there’s always additional training to be done. Training in First Aid, Search & Rescue, Law Enforcement, and Fire Fighting are just a few of the other areas you may wish to train to cover a wide range of dive jobs.
Note that SCUBA and Surface Supply courses at DiveSafe also include 1st Aid, Oxygen Therapy, and Dive Accident Management which are vital for all commercial dive careers and even more so for Public Safety Divers.