Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dive Team Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Breaking News

Dive Team SOP

Dive-Team-SOPI (ERDI Staff Member) recently bumped into an old friend who is still in public safety on the volunteer level after a career as a firefighter. The volunteer fire department of his community also had an organized dive team and my friend was on the team as well. Through the conversation, I learned —amazingly— that the team did not have an SOP – Standard Operating Procedure – for team operations. Amazed? Yes. Surprised? No.

In a real world scenario of limited funds and limited resources, often the development of an SOP takes a back seat to day-to-day operations. When this is coupled with the perception that SOP development is complex and time consuming, it is no surprise that a dive team may not have an SOP.

Basically, an SOP is a management tool that defines a framework of function and response for an operation. The level of detail or how “dynamic” it’s designed is an administrative decision, but in the end an SOP serves to act as a definitive link from administration leaders and policy makers to the personnel who take action and perform the duties associated with the SOP. In addition to standardizing response, it provides a means to reduce confusion, reduce liability and increase efficiency.

While some will argue…often a Chief or AC…that a high degree of “flexibility” is needed on a given call, line officers or supervisors do not have to be locked in to a hard-written SOP, as long as it’s constructed correctly. And, a team or department also has the option of having SOG’s…Standard Operating Guidelines, as well. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll keep our focus on SOP’s. Let’s take a step by step look at constructing or writing a Standard Operating Procedure for your dive team.

Getting Started

Given that policy plays a major role in any operations, developing a SOP is a group activity involving administration (policy makers), officers (on the scene decision makers) and team personnel. If your team is involved in mutual aid responses, then the group should also include these members, as well as third party members who may interact with your team. An assembly of this type will insure that department policy is identified and defined, as well as allowing for operational decisions that need to be made. This group can then determine how detailed or basic, the SOP needs to be, specific to their jurisdiction or region.

Information Gathering

This process starts with a needs assessment. The development team will ask themselves exactly what the SOP should reflect and how will it meet the team’s requirements. An examination of the jurisdiction’s needs will be incorporated as well. Other information to include: existing SOP’s from other teams; potential external factors that impact your SOP (laws, regulations, accreditation); local department/team history, including type of calls, frequency of calls, etc, and team capabilities.

Analyze Information

Now the work begins. An analysis of the gathered information is basically a systematic approach of data and alternatives to achieve the desired outcome. It is at this point that the team will determine if this is possible. Questions you should be asking your team include:
  • Can we incorporate this into real world operations?
  • Will more training and equipment be required?
  • Will it withstand public scrutiny?
Writing the SOP

In this phase, some of the decisions that will need to be made are listed below.
  • Mission Statement. What is it we serve to do?
  • Scope. What do we want to accomplish with this SOP? Is it for water rescue overall or just dive team operations.
  • How detailed to make this. In normal circumstances, including too much detail may hamper personnel from carrying out their duties. Rather, give a broader range to accomplish the task.
  • The SOP must be clearly written in plain language to avoid any ambiguity.
  • Selection of words. Consider how words in the written version are used. Consider the words “will” and “may” are used in the following example: “Dive team members will use aluminum 80 cf cylinders for dives.” Or more appropriately “Dive team members may use available cylinders to accomplish the mission requirements”. Here is that flexibility the Chief was looking for.
  • Include a review date of the SOP.
  • Implementation. How will the new SOP be distributed? How will personnel be notified? Is training needed to fulfill the requirements of the SOP?
The Real World

Once in place, an evaluation process should be part of the SOP as well. After all, even the best laid plans are not always the best in certain situations and things don’t always go as planned. The review and evaluation process should be well planned and workable to determine if the SOP is effective and safe. In addition, an evaluation or review may be dictated by unforeseen circumstances, such as a call that resulted in less-than-desired outcome, personnel changes or funding changes. Having this review or evaluation defined ahead of time will save time and energy during any review.

Need Help?

In today’s working world, the internet serves to offer information and resources on a variety of subject matter, including SOP’s. ERDI forums, PSD forums and governmental agencies, such as FEMA, offer help and guidance. Much information is available at no cost and there are also companies that specialize in assisting FD or LE teams to develop their SOP’s.

Contact ERDI

Please email omnidive@omnidivers.com if you are interested or want additional information.

What is an Acceptable Depth for a Public Safety Diver?

Breaking News

What is an Acceptable Depth for a Public Safety Diver?

Acceptable-DepthA question that is batted around on public safety diver forums, meetings and general discussions is ‘what is an acceptable or maximum depth for a PS diver?’ If only there was a straight forward answer to this question. In order to see the complexity of this question we have to dissect the various regions and conditions in which PS divers respond. For the most part, this article is going to focus on the US dive teams, as other countries have different regulations and in most cases allow their teams, once properly trained, to respond to any situation without fear or question that they may be exceeding a regulation or governmental standard.

There is a wide spectrum to areas of response: from shallow water retention ponds (less than 6m / 20 ft) to deep high altitude lakes (60m / 200+ ft) and then there is everything in between. Each of these environments presents their own challenges and risks, regardless of depth. Shallow retention ponds have silt at the bottom that is extremely fine, easy to stir up and loaded with fertilizers and heavy metals. Deep lakes can have low visibility and nearly all have extreme thermo clines, as well as hidden obstacles to contend with. Rivers, fast or slow moving, present their risks too: subsurface floating objects, deep “pools”, undercuts, and the list goes on.

Dive teams are going to respond to the situation and do their best to fulfill their obligation to the community, so irrespective of governmental regulations or guidelines, ensure the team is trained for the possible conditions they can encounter. A well constructed SOP will define the conditions the team may encounter and will also serve to define what training needs to be done. Training a team for deep cold water or high altitude exercises that they will never encounter is counterproductive and a waste of time and valuable budget money. This is not to say this training will not benefit the team, but the team should be fully functional and ready to respond to a more likely ‘call out’ first before they seek higher level training.

It is quite often that dive teams who do need to respond to deep or overhead locations (wreckage, cars, boats, aircraft, caves) will have to look outside of their normal PS course offerings and seek out technical training, such as the courses offered by Technical Diving International (TDI). For cold water deep dives, advanced nitrox and decompression procedures courses may be in order. For even deeper dives, trimix may be needed. The skills and knowledge gained during these courses will benefit the divers, even for the shallower dives.

So to get to the root of the question ‘how deep can you dive to’ from a training agency and safety perspective, as deep as you have been trained, are equipped for, and feel comfortable going to. The final decision maker is: is the risk acceptable. Dive team’s primary objective – bring back what you put in the water.

For more information on courses that ERDI and TDI offer, visit us at www.tdisdi.com.

Please email omnidive@omnidivers.com if you are interested or want additional information.

A different perspective for Public Safety Dive Teams

Breaking News

Getting Rigged for Deep Diving…

A different perspective for Public Safety Dive Teams

Getting-RiggedBy far the majority of jobs for Public Safety Dive Teams are carried out in shallow water. Certainly it may be muddy, polluted, swiftly moving and otherwise extremely hazardous, but the added complications that come when planning for depth are not part of the usual risk analysis. But occasionally a call comes in for a “deep” recovery or search and it’s a wise PSD Team Leader who pulls out the “operations manual” specific to this type of dive.
Let’s recap for a moment the major factors that must be accounted for when a diver is called on to work at depth. But firstly, what do we define as DEEP?
The threshold for what’s considered a deep dive varies considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction— and sometimes from unit to unit within the same jurisdiction – and because of this, any real definition is a moving target. Your team’s SOP should be the guiding light; however, for the sake of illustration here, we will draw a line at 18 metres/60 feet. Anything deeper than that is deep, and requires special handling.
The first item on any deep-diving agenda is gas supply: specifically, gas volume management. The deeper we go, the greater volume of gas we use with each breath. Also, Diver A may have a dramatically different consumption rate than Diver B.
Here are some numbers. My resting gas consumption rate (required minute volume or RMV), sitting here in my office typing, is a little less than average (about 12 litres per minute). Average is said to be about 15 litres per minute. This is based loosely on an adult lung size of about 6 litres, a resting tidal volume of about 1.5 litres and 10 relaxed breaths a minute. (For imperial units, the average commonly used is about 0.5 cubic feet per minute.)
It is important to note that this is an approximation, an average, and will be greatly influenced by several factors:
  • Smaller people have smaller lungs, and the majority of women seem to breathe less
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) – the higher it is, the more oxygen is used and the faster the breathing cycle
  • Fitness and general health – the fitter you are the less air you use
  • Level of Anxiety – when stressed air consumption can double or triple

Note well that last bullet point because, when last I checked, PSD often have to work under great stress. It does not matter how many times a diver has worked a crime scene or searched for something or someone who has dropped out of a boat, their level of anxiety is higher than it is driving into work in the morning.

The increased gas volume needed for a specific depth is lineal and requires only simple math. A dive to 30 metres/100 feet will require at least four times the gas required on the surface. A dive to 40 metres (about 130 feet) will require five times the volume or at least 25 percent more than at 30 metres or 100 feet!

Of course, scuba cylinders are fitted with submersible pressure gauges and several personal dive computers available to PSD teams give their users an accurate readout of tank pressure; however, PLANNING to complete a dive operation within the limits of the diver’s “on-board” gas volume is a smart first step.

One seat-of-the-pants option for this type of planning is to take the average resting rate, multiply it by the target depth for the job on hand, and multiply that number by a factor of at least two to correct for stress and workload (the actual Dive Factor). Here’s a simple example. A diver with an average consumption rate has to work on a vehicle recovery at a depth of 33 metres or about 110 feet. The ambient pressure at depth is therefore going to be 4.3 bar / ata. His per minute requirements will be his average rate of 15 litres, multiplied by the depth of 4.3, multiplied by a dive factor of three, rather than the minimum of two, because this is going to be hard work. Result = about 195 litres per minute. For those using imperial units, the steps are similar. Plug in 0.5 cubic feet X 4.3 X 3 = 6.45 cubic feet per minute.

Clearly, a single “aluminum 80” is not going to offer much time at depth, and certainly little margin for contingency, should the diver get himself tangled in the rigging for the lift or have trouble sorting out the correct orientation for the harness… which of course would never happen!

And this brings up the number one reason why the guidebook on deep PSD operations often specifies the requirement for a large volume cylinder, fully charged and containing at least 2800 litres, or about 100 cubic feet, when work is going to be carried out between 18 – 40 metres (60 – 130 feet).

Next on the list is a back-up source of breathing gas. For a PS diver, the term diving alone is a misnomer, since a diver is part of a working team. But since most operations are completed by one diver in the water at a time, we use the term alone. This is particularly relevant when a working diver’s primary gas source is compromised in some way. It might be a regulator free-flow – alarmingly common in cold or dirty water – it may be an o-ring failure, but there is no “buddy” to fall back on and ask for an alternative gas source.

At depth – particularly below the deep threshold of 18 metres, or 60 feet, many teams opt to outfit their divers with a back-up first and second stage fixed to a meaningful volume of alternative “air.” This redundant life-support system may take the shape of a “buddy bottle” – a side-mounted or slung stage bottle – or it may be that the diver is wearing a set of doubles with an isolation manifold. The bottom line should be an alternative system containing sufficient gas to get a diver to the surface at a rate no greater than 9 metres/ 30 feet per minute, plus a five minute safety stop!

The next consideration for deep diving is narcosis. Narcosis is variable and several factors seem to add to its ability to close down situational awareness and critical decision making. In the absence of SOPs that allow the use of helium as a working gas at depth (perhaps the topic for a future article), there are several factors that we can limit or virtually eliminate and thereby better manage narcosis.

Carbon dioxide is thought to have a dramatic effect on narcotic loading. When we work at depth, we consume more oxygen and produce a correspondingly greater volume of carbon dioxide. This triggers an increase in our breathing rate… and so has a cyclic effect: the more gas we demand from our regulator the harder we work at breathing, the more CO2 we produce!

A diver used to working at depth will recognize the early symptoms of carbon dioxide build up (rapid breathing for example) and moderate the workload until he regains control of this breathing cycle. But we can help allay the early onset of CO2 build-up by selecting top-quality regulators (those designed to be used deep), and by insisting that all regulators to be used on deep missions are serviced at a GREATER FREQUENCY than recommended by the manufacturer… and by a licensed and certified technician.

In addition to using more gas, when a diver ventures deeper, the limit to the number of minutes he can spend there without requiring staged decompression stops to get back to the surface is shortened. Not only does staged decompression demand specialized training (and is sometimes forbidden by PSD SOPs), it also requires additional gases to help optimize the off-gassing process as the diver makes his slow ascent. The special techniques, training and equipment for staged decompression diving is well outside the scope of this article, but there is one item from the stage decompression arena that a PSD working deep should carry with them: a good personal dive computer (PDC).

The models available today (so-called fourth generation PDCs) are a boon to PSD since they are downloadable (offering a decent audit trail for tracking and logging missions), programmable (allowing the use of different gases AND the setting of decompression tracking to be at conservative levels), reliable deco management tools (they do not lock the diver out should the NDL be exceeded), and highly visible (new screen technology means critical information is available at a glance).

In murky water, dive lights are often more of a nuisance than a help, but at greater depths, even in relatively clear water, a good dive light is a required tool. During the past few years, the technology behind dive lights has undergone a similar revolution to PDCs. Gone is the need to carry an expensive canister light, as there are now handheld models that offer burn times in excess of three hours on one charge and as many as 1200 lumens of light. Some of these lights are small enough to fit into a tool pouch and carry a price-tag that will keep most accountants happy. When diving deep, the usual procedure is to carry a strong primary light and at least one backup. This has never been easier to conform to.

The last items on the list for deep PS diving is thermal protection and personal comfort. As with contaminated water diving, most deep operations are carried out in drysuits and thermal underwear. These pieces of kit are particularly important when water temperatures are moderate and several dives may be required to get a job completed. Hyperthermia is dangerous, and anything approaching it has the potential to cause serious problems. Not only are drysuits warmer at depth, but during surface operations and surface intervals a drysuit significantly helps keep divers comfy.

And while on that topic, let’s talk hydration and the pee factor. If we are going to spend an hour or more zipped into a suit, an off-board dump (a pee-valve) can greatly increase a diver’s comfort. If we borrow from the technical dive community, off-board dumps are commonly used by male and female divers and can help to keep a working diver’s mind focused on the job at hand and not the “Johnny on the spot” back in the parking lot.

Dive safe and thank you for your service.

Please email omnidive@omnidivers.com if you are interested or want additional information.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Procedures for Conducting Underwater Searches for Invasive Mussels Training

Procedures for Conducting Underwater Searches for Invasive Mussels

Hosted by: U.S. Geological Survey, Columbia River Research Laboratory in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Noah S. Adams
509-538-2299 ext. 254

When: July 13, 2012.

Where: Hood River, Oregon

What: - Classroom instruction and discussion from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm at the Hood River Inn
            - Dry-land and in-water training from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm (see dive site photos attached)

Who should attend:

SCUBA divers on established dive teams from county, city, state, federal, and tribal agencies are encouraged to attend.

Non- divers are also welcome. This is a great opportunity to learn what divers will be asked to do if you are the person organizing the search. Non-divers can participate in the morning classroom instruction and observe the divers during the afternoon.

You will be responsible for any travel, lodging, and food, but the event is free. You will need to provide all SCUBA equipment including at least one full SCUBA cylinder. Please note that there is no local dive shop that can fill SCUBA cylinders. For those of you traveling by air, USGS will provide a limited numbers of tanks for your use. If you anticipate needing USGS to provide a tank, please let us know in advance.

Training is limited to 30 divers
Please reserve your spot as soon as possible. Reciprocity agreements and liability waivers will need to be in place before you can participate in the training. Once you have confirmed your participation, we will send you reciprocity agreements and registration forms.

Zebra mussels were first detected in the Great Lakes in 1988. In 2007, Quagga mussels were found in the Western United States in Lake Mead, Nevada; part of the Lower Colorado River Basin. State and Federal managers are concerned that the mussels will continue to spread to the Columbia River Basin and have a major impact on the region’s ecosystem, water delivery infrastructure, hydroelectric projects, and the economy. The transport and use of recreational watercraft throughout the Western United States could easily result in spreading mussels to the Columbia River Basin. Efforts are being made to prevent the spread of mussels; however, there is great concern that these efforts will not be 100% successful.

If prevention efforts fail, early detection of mussels may provide an opportunity to implement rapid response management actions to minimize the impact. Early implementation of containment and eradication efforts requires getting reliable information to confirm the location of the infestation. One way to get this information is through the use of properly trained SCUBA divers. The request to conduct a search for mussels will likely be urgent and may only allow a day or two to prepare for activities at the dive site. Advanced training is recommended to prepare the divers to conduct the search in a timely, professional, and safe manner.

Topics included in the training

Below is a list of topics that will be covered during the training. You can download a copy of the entire procedures for conducting underwater searches for invasive mussels at the following link:

USGS Publicationhttp://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1308/pdf/ofr20101308.pdf



How Mussels Move from Place to Place

The Importance of Preventing the Spread of Invasive Mussels

Dive Practices

Advanced Preparation

Dive Planning

Communication with Divers

The Buddy System

Identifying Mussels Underwater

What Divers Are Searching For

What Divers Are Not Searching For

Defining the Search Area

Methods for Searching

General Considerations

Arc Search Method

Circle Search Method

Jackstay Search Method

Dock Search Method

Collecting Information about the Search Area

Assessing the Probability of Detecting Mussels

Collecting Mussel Samples

Decontamination of Equipment