"Under stress, 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 Exercise

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.

Call-Out Scenario

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.

Helo Ops

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.

Auto Extrication

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 Port Hueneme Harbormaster.

Dive Academy

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.

xplorer Dive Boat

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 skills.

Swiftwater Rescue Training in Laughlin, NV

Senior Deputies Tim Hagel and Frank Underlin are two Rescue 3 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 area.

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

2003    2002    2000    1999


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 teams. 

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.

Santa 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 Kirby 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).


Photo Gallery

Underwater Post Blast Investigations Course Article ~ Uncut version

Field Video From Underwater Post Blast Investigations Course


Main Events History Members Training Procedures Links

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