ORGANIZATION AND PLANNING
Divemaster Procedures Slide Show
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The success of any
search and rescue (SAR) operation is directly related to efficient
organization and thorough planning. Organization begins with the
first responding SAR member to arrive on the scene. That Member
must act as the operations leader or "Divemaster" unless or until
he or she is relieved of that responsibility. Normally there will
be a law enforcement, fire, or other official on the scene who can
provide information to the SAR Divemaster. However at times the
Divemaster may have to sort order from chaos and begin organizing
the SAR operation with nothing more than the initial call out
information that he or she received.
Establishing a PLS
Establishing a Grid Pattern
Diver Entrapment Protocol
Divemaster must manage the search and recovery effort according to
the scope of the operation which is determined by four factors:
The search objective(s)
Recovery of drowning victim(s)
Locate/remove hazardous objects
Recover personal property
The magnitude of the search area:
Broad area/vague location (e.g.,: surfer disappeared in surf zone,
Confined area/localized (e.g.,: object fell off end of pier,
fisherman missing from anchored boat, etc.)
Search locale (ocean, lake, stream, etc.)
Dive site base (beach, boat, pier, etc.)
Time of day (night/day, remaining daylight)
Water conditions (tide, current, surge, depth, visibility)
Surface conditions (wind, waves, visibility, temperature, presence
of watercraft etc.)
SAR divers responding (number, qualifications)
Transport vehicles (boat, barge, helicopter)
Assisting agencies (Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol, Fire Dept., etc.)
Although the Divemaster must assume control and leadership of the
operation, he or she will normally be assisted or even directed by
an official from the Sheriff's Department who will assume the role
of Incident Commander. The Incident Commander may be the SAR
liaison or other Sheriff's official. As operations manager, the
Divemaster's basic functions are:
of the situation
of the operation specifics
of the plan
of the SAR operation
basic functions are always performed within the scope of the
operation as defined by the previously mentioned factors of search
objective, magnitude of the search area, site environment, and
first SAR diver arriving at the scene must report to the law
enforcement official or other person in control (fireman,
lifeguard, etc.). As Divemaster, this diver must interview the
official and any other appropriate persons (witnesses, etc.) to
determine exactly what the objective of the SAR operation is.
Notes should be made regarding the statements of all parties. It
is critical that the following concept be adhered to:
first SAR team member on the scene must not enter the water
or otherwise leave the scene. He must fulfill the responsibilities
of Divemaster until relieved of that function.
cases where there is a reasonable feasibility of effecting a
rescue, the Divemaster may "suit up" but must await the arrival
and "suiting" of a second diver prior to entering the water.
the objective is clearly understood the Divemaster then seeks out
the best person(s) on site to obtain information and data that
will lead to the determination of the "most probable location" of
the search object. Especially in the case of an accident,
eye-witnesses are infinitely better than those who talked to the
witness, or those who talked to those who talked to the witness.
the directions of a present eye-witness to identify the "point
last seen" (PLS), will significantly reduce the area of
uncertainty. The Divemaster should consider immediately deploying
a marker buoy if such a maneuver is possible and practical.
the situation calls for knowing what the water conditions are,
such as depth, visibility, current, etc., the Divemaster will
deploy a diver or dive pair (with or without SCUBA, depending on
the depth and other apparent conditions) to make this assessment.
Divemaster need also assess the local terrain features such as:
water entry/exit locations, amount of beach at high tide, ease of
access to site for equipment required, etc.
Communicating with the Deputy Sheriff, or other official, enables
the Divemaster to assess the availability of resources (SAR
personnel responding, SAR equipment and assisting agencies) that
are, or will be, at his disposal.
Divemaster must then conduct a risk/benefit assessment, in other
words: an evaluation of the benefit to be gained from the
operation vs. the risk involved to personnel.
Divemaster selects the most practical base site from which he and
the SAR team will conduct the operation. The Divemaster then needs
to organize his or her resources based on the scope of the operation and availability and/or limitations of personnel and
Depending on the scope of the operation, the Divemaster will
appoint SAR personnel as required, to assist at the base site.
Normally, these assistants will be team members who cannot dive
because of health problems or who are not qualified for the type
of dive required. However, if such persons are not immediately
available and the Divemaster needs assistance, he/she should not
hesitate to appoint healthy and qualified divers to assist, at
least on an interim basis, until others arrive.
the responsibility of the Divemaster to ensure that necessary
equipment and supplies are present. If the base site is accessible
to the public, the Divemaster will need to assign the
responsibility of securing the area. On most occasions the
Divemaster will need help in sorting-out and bringing certain
equipment to the base site, then in the preparation and placement
of the equipment, and finally, with implementing the operation.
small-scope operation, the Divemaster may not require anyone out
of the water to help. On a large-scope or complex operation he/she
may require any number of assistants.
Divemaster can organize his/her assistants as "Squad Leaders,"
depending on the scope of the operation and organizational
concept. Squad leaders don't dive. They are responsible for
the various tasks that the Divemaster may assign, but,
additionally, they are each responsible for supervising a dive
team consisting of any number of divers.
the assistants and/or Squad Leaders are fit to dive they should
have on wet suits and be available to exchange roles with divers
who have made a dive or with later arriving team members who are
not fit to dive.
summary, the purpose of organization is to establish order
and eliminate chaos. The resources available to the Divemaster are
the personnel and accessible equipment at his or her disposal. It
is the Divemaster's duty to organize these resources while
all SAR personnel have an appropriate assignment
the proper equipment is prepared and ready for use
form of organization should be in place prior to planning and
implementing the operation, otherwise the chances of the operation
having a successful outcome are greatly reduced.
the Divemaster has assessed the situation and organized the
available resources, he or she then directs his/her efforts in
planning the specific actions to be taken. PLAN THE WORK.
First, the Divemaster formulates his/her best-effort concept of
how the operation should be conducted. He/she may, or may not,
solicit ideas from others at this initial stage. It is important
that a concept has "birth" and the Divemaster must take the
the Divemaster presents his/her conceptual plan to participating
personnel inviting comments, questions and criticism. The
Divemaster should be a good listener during this briefing. Some
good ideas may be presented that should be incorporated into his
plan. Or, quite possibly, a different and better approach to the
problem might be introduced, which could result in the Divemaster
adopting a new plan. It is imperative during this briefing, that
personnel express any pertinent concerns.
Divemaster must then make a final decision regarding the plan to
be implemented and inform all participating SAR personnel of the
plan and various assignments. If appropriate, the Divemaster
should formulate a contingency plan in the event that
implementation of the original plan proves to be ineffective.
implementing the operational plan the Divemaster should:
First and foremost always be alert to the safety and well being
of the divers. Be on the lookout for potential dangers to the
divers. Assure that the divers' entry, exit and the bottom times
are being logged.
Act decisively according to the plan. Make decisions and give
direction, otherwise coordinated team actions will deteriorate
into uncoordinated individual actions.
Keep on top of what is happening. Supervise. Assure that
assignments are being properly carried out in a timely manner.
Mistakes will probably occur. Correct them quickly to minimize
Be alert to changes in conditions which may affect the plan.
Examples: one hour of daylight remaining, current is picking up
or changing direction, etc.
Be flexible toward changing or modifying the operation.
Information obtained during the ongoing search may indicate that
a change in plans and/or implementation is called for. If a
change is required, make it and inform team leaders and/or
When the object is recovered notify the responsible official on
scene. Make sure that a coordinated effort is made to inform
team members, both in and out of the water, of the find. (The
Divemaster should not get careless by neglecting divers in the
water. Those divers are still at risk and must be attended to by
signaling them to the surface and watching over them until they
are out of the water. The Divemaster must make sure that the
Squad Leaders and/or assistants attend to the divers after the
Maintain an accurate log of the area searched. In the event of
multi-day operations, this information will assist in avoiding
deployment in areas already searched.
Be responsible for having the object inventoried and tagged. If
practical, have this done at the waterline.
Be responsible for delivering the object to the appropriate
official - Coroner, Deputy, or other official on the scene. Be
sure to obtain a receipt from the official after delivery.
terminating the operation, the Divemaster should:
Assure that the Sheriff's dispatcher is informed that the
operation is terminated. The officer-in-charge at the scene
should be able to call this in at the request of the Divemaster.
Retrieve, clean, and store equipment.
Poll all SAR personnel to determine if any injuries and/or
equipment losses have occurred. If so, report them to the SAR
Critique the operation before SAR personnel disperse.
Information about conditions at the site may prove to be
beneficial for future operations in that area.
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