WHY ERD – What is it?
Mermaids, were lucky enough to have a well regarded PSD training company run some exercise programs for us to really see the part of an ERD. Mermaids get requests for commercial, recreational, conservation and many other marine jobs – the ERD came up a lot. When we at Mermaids were given the opportunity to take part in this experience we grabbed the chance.
ERD – Emergency Response Diving is very unique in many ways for other diving environments and diving activity. Recreational divers are trained in such a manner to ensure maximum enjoyment from diving activities that involve minimal risk. If we were to dissect the recreational Open Water Scuba class for its content it would be a dive training program designed to teach divers to avoid dangerous situations and common emergencies. ERD (Emergency Response Divers) lack many of the common luxuries afforded to the recreational diver – It is a dive job. A recreational diver gets to choose the ideal weather and water conditions, looking for maximum enjoyment on the dive. If the dive conditions are not desirable then the diver might move his recreation time to another enjoyable pastime until he can dive, maybe later or a different day. However, the ERD is expected to resolve life threatening situations or other situations where diving conditions might be considered less than ideal. Boats are more likely to sink in bad weather, people are more likely to drown in hazardous water conditions, cars are more likely to enter water where roads are icy etc – the ERD is expected to respond where and when these tragic circumstances arise.
Emergency Response Diving also differs from Technical diving. Many in the scuba diving and diving industry strive to separate technical diving from recreational diving however there is very little difference. Technical divers may push dive depth limitations and bottom times, they dive caves and shipwrecks (we have some great ship wreck dives here in Pattaya, Thailand – Hardeep) – but they are still diving for pleasure and in situations which are ideal to them and having very controlled and calculated amounts of risk. The divers decide to dive or not.
Commercial diving is possibly the area within the dive industry that most closely reflects emergency response diving. Commercial divers find themselves in adverse circumstances, very dark water, on dive schedules that are dictated to them; however, at this point the similarities end. Commercial divers have the benefit of on-site chambers, adequate support personnel, and various other factors that the ERD can only dream of.
Emergency response dives are made from equipment on the back of a truck, with the shortest amount of notice possible and these factors combine to dramatically reduce the potential support structure. None of the above is to say that the ERD is a tougher kind of diver or any better – we just need to be clear that the dive and land based training should match the requirements of the job…
….do you have what it takes to experience what it is to be an Emergency Response Diver?
Recreational Vs Emergency Response Diving – why ERD training?
Recreationally trained divers even to Rescue level with Search and Recovery skills are NOT Emergency Response Divers. Well meaning recreationally trained divers responding to water emergencies can often cause more mayhem and life threatening situations than if they had been an observer. This is not belittling recreational diving but the training MUST match the demands of the task at hand.
The recreational Rescue diver provide excellent dive training in teaching self-sufficiency and buddy assistance. The search and recovery diver program will teach a diver to locate a weight belt, mask or other commonly lost piece of equipment. However all of this training still prepares divers for these activities in water where the conditions are preferable and hazards are minimal. The recreational diver programs provide a very good basis of learning but do not compare with the normal diving that an Emergency Response Diver must undertake. The Mermaids experience took the experience even further into ERD.
When considering, “Why ERD?” – one must also examine why fire, police and rescue agencies all have a requirement for dive teams to begin with. With the world being 2/3rds water (and rising) “the bad guys” discovered long ago that water is a good place to dispose of evidence, unwanted stolen property, vehicles and even bodies. A smart criminal will not leave things that they do not want discovered in the easiest of locations either … for the ERD, this means that generally water conditions can be very bad indeed. As an ERD your dive environment is likely to be found in rapid moving, dirty and or deep water, and other conditions that a recreational diver would never enter. Unfortunately these conditions are only the observations that can be made from the surface. The result is that the ERD will frequently dive in visibility so poor that the hand disappears in front of the face, many entanglements abound, possible pollutants can cause a hazard and even the temperature can be a danger. Does this sound like your typical diving holiday?
There are other factors also – the collection of bodies for example. Generally speaking, and ERD is not a rescue diver – the chances are that by the time and ERD is in the water it becomes a body recovery dive – does this sound like a dive vacation? It takes a very special mentality to deal with the stress when dealing with a victim’s family members. Have you really thought about this?
If the above is not enough to deal with, what about limited time constraints of an ERD? Recovery dives are almost never on a convenience schedule. Evidence might be damaged by longer exposure to the elements and legal cases might be damaged by a lack of timely evidence recovery. How about closure for the family of a victim in an accident – do you wish to be the one that tells the family that you are to wait for nice sunny and calm conditions prior to the recovery?
As we are all taught (PADI), recreational dive training is all about the buddy system. We never dive alone. ER Divers very rarely dive with a buddy. The ER Diver has a tether attached to a harness or held in their hand and swims a pattern determined by the onshore support prior to the dive. The shore based person is referred to as the ‘tender’ or ‘shore technician’ and this tender is considered the diver’s buddy. The tender must maintain constant communication with the diver via the tether via pull signals or other underwater communication equipment that is used. (Mermaid’s uses the FFM – Full Face Mask underwater communication systems – both diver to diver and diver to surface).
Alone and attached to a tether, the ERD must be comfortable diving in zero visibility conditions, avoiding or dealing with entanglements whilst performing a search for the desired object within this dive assignment. The ERD must be able to search, locate, document and recover the objects as the dive mission dictates.
Again, do you have what to takes to be an ERD? Take the experience to find out…