you will perform as you train."
Each month, the
dive team engages in specialized training to prepare for the many
different conditions that may be encountered on a search. The team
believes it is important to maintain a high level of proficiency in its
diving and search skills. For more detailed information and photos of each
training session, click on the underlined headings.
Scanning Sonar Demonstration, Compass/Navigation
Sergeant Jeff Morgan with San Bernardino
Sheriff's Search and Rescue provided a Kongsberg scanning sonar unit for
the team to evaluate. In conjunction with the demonstration, the dive team
practiced following compass headings in very low to zero visibility
conditions. The divers where directed to sonar targets via communications
with surface operations.
Keeping team members response ready in regard to
operational procedures requires regular review. Each member is issued a
call-out kit equipped with paper, clip board, pens, pencils, and documents
reviewing search management procedures. Frequent practice helps ingrain
important skills. Visit the link above for photos, training outline and
evaluation checklist from this training session.
Full Face Mask and Underwater Communications
In order to align to the
National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR) standards,
the Sheriff's Department has provided each team member with a full
face mask equipped with a wireless underwater communicator. This equipment
provides continuous open communication to the surface and diver to diver
communication, thereby increasing safety for the divers.
The Sheriff's Department is
able to get divers in the water regardless of high surf or inaccessible
shoreline topography. Under adverse conditions, the dive team will be
flown in to the location by helicopter and can enter the search area as
the helo hovers above the water.
VC SAR divers were allowed
the opportunity to practice diving a submerged vehicle in the Port
Hueneme Harbor. This experience enlightened members (under
controlled circumstances) to potential hazards present in confined
overhead environments such as those created by automobiles
underwater. Team member Larry Fuller set up this training scenario
with the help of
T&T Truck &
Crane Service, Oxnard Towing and the
When it is
time to recruit new members, the team conducts an "underwater
academy". The academy is 75 hours of training. The training consists
of classroom, pool and open water diving. It is designed to evaluate
diving knowledge, comfort level in the water, and to train
candidates in underwater search procedures.
Two training sessions, one
in July and one in November 2000 were held aboard the dive boat
Explorer. July's training objectives were to assess skill
level and document proficiency during a deep dive (130-ft) and cave
dive. The November session completed the open water portion of
nitrox training for members who were not yet certified for enriched
air nitrox (EANx), and also served as a refresher for bug-hunting
Swiftwater Rescue Training
in Laughlin, NV
Senior Deputies Tim Hagel
and Frank Underlin are two
Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SRT) instructors within the Ventura
County Sheriff's Department. Tim and Frank conduct SRT training on a
regular basis for the VC SAR teams.
Most of the
training takes place locally, but occasionally the deputies take the
training out of town to find more challenging conditions.
Thanks to Tim and Frank, the teams have come a long way in
developing their proficiency and confidence while handling the many
swiftwater call-outs within Ventura County. The strong current of
the Colorado River in Laughlin Nevada, provided rescuers with an
excellent training area, and at the same time, was a welcome break
from the insanity of the Kern River, our other out-of-town training
The Dive Team
systematically deploys mini-mother floats to work off of as an
anchor point for
circular search patterns. As more divers with mini-mothers join
the search, the pattern expands as a grid. The grid is set up to
cover 100% of the search area, plus some overlap of patterns. This
overlap has to be managed in such a way that divers are not fouling
each other's lines. The team finds this system to be very effective
when conditions allow, and practices setting up grids quite often.
This link shows the March 2000 training at Lake Casitas. Photos of
the actual finished grid pattern will be added soon.
Code 3 training allows SAR
volunteers to drive county vehicles equipped with lights and sirens.
This link shows highlights from the March 2000 Code 3 driver training
for the VC SAR teams.
All-Team Training is an annual event
where all the Ventura County Sheriff's SAR teams meet to work
together during a weekend on a selected SAR scenario. Teams take
turns hosting the event. The All-Team Training begins with an
optional Friday night social gathering. Saturday morning, members
are awakened by the sweet aroma of hot coffee and a hardy breakfast,
then on to a day of lecture series, led by the hosting team, and/or
expert guest speakers. After lunch the sessions continue, and may
have hands-on activities. These activities have included shoring
techniques, field first aid and Incident Command System (ICS)
scenarios. The day ends with the best BBQ in the county, along with
awards and raffle prizes. Sunday, the actual scenario takes place.
The theme is decided by the hosting team, the team captains/training
officers are responsible for coordinating their team's training for
the day. If a team does not have any specific training to work into
the scenario, the team members are used as victims for the other
Rappelling is a standard
part of dive team training. There are many areas of coastline and
mountain water environments in Ventura County that are made
accessible by means of rappel.
Barbara City College Hardhat Diving Introduction
When new recruits join the
VC SAR Dive Team, the team takes the opportunity to go to Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) and
give all members a chance to try hardhat diving. In the SBCC
Marine Diving Technologies program, run by Mike Von Alvenslaben,
the team experienced activities such as diving the
Morgan Superlite helmets and acting as surface tenders for
divers in the well. Responsibilities for surface tenders included
monitoring divers' air supply and hardwire communications. On two
occasions, the Sheriff's Department sponsored small groups of VC SAR
dive team members to go though the "Advanced Dive Rescue for Law
Enforcement and Public Safety Divers" class (MDT
178), that gives a national certification upon successful
completion. The California Office of Emergency Services (OES),
encourages teams in each county to have qualified individuals with
hardhat diving expertise who can be called upon to respond wherever
needed, in the event of a disaster. It is important to note,
however, that in addition to certification, to stay proficient and
qualified to respond, these divers must log many hours of hardhat
diving and they must practice the skills learned in MDT 178.
This link shows a team
diver going through the introductory program. (The training
session featured in this link took place in 1998, Mike has since
retired and Don Barthelmess has taken over as Program Director).
Underwater Post Blast Investigations
~ Uncut version
Field Video From Underwater Post Blast