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Who’s on First

Butch Hendrick

An 8 year old girl has fallen through the ice, a 10 year old boy is caught in moving water, or a family’s small boat has capsized in the middle of the lake. Since the victims are all presumed to still be at the surface who gets called out first? Will it be the surface rescue team, the moving water team, the surface ice team, or is it a general rescue call? Who will be dispatched first?

When do we call out the dive team if they are not part of the standard water operational rescue call, or if they are not part of the all encompassing water rescue team?

All too often it is not until after the girl, the boy, the family, a portion of the family, a bystander-would-be rescuer, or worse, a rescue team member has left the surface and is descending to the bottom, do we have a realization of the need for the dive team.

In fact, the dive team should have been called out in the beginning as part of the first response! If the call is water related, the dive team should be on the scene, just as EMS is called to most scenes, such as structure fires, even if there are not any known patients needing medical care. At worst the dive team can be turned back, in the least they are another set of trained water rescue hands to help with the surface effort, and at best they will be there ready to immediately enter the water if any of the victims leave the surface.

With the dive team on the scene, members might be able to see the victim(s) submerging or have first hand information from the witnesses. It could be one of the first times the team truly knows where to search or at least begin the search. They are there, they are ready, the underwater rescue potential is now!

There are also surface incidents that are best responded to by divers, such as partially submerged vehicles and some surface ice situations. Divers are more likely to have the equipment necessary to enter contaminated water, even if it is only 2 feet deep.

And again, never forget, if one of your surface rescuers drowns, how would you feel if you had to wait for the dive team to be dispatched? Wouldn’t you much rather have the team on the scene and ready?

As we prepare to leap into the 21st century, let us try to change the perception that the dive team only needs to be called after the victim has, or is thought to have, submerged. Congratulations to those of you who have already made the leap.

Safe diving always.


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