With the approval of a FEMA Port Security Grant, the Greenwich Police Department coordinated Regional Ice Dive Training over the last several weeks. The training focused on continuing a foundation for training as a regional unit between police, fire and other public safety dive teams in the Region 1 ESF-20 Bridgeport Area Marine Group. Numerous public safety divers from the region attended this advanced training. Participating departments included the Greenwich Police Department, the Milford Police Department, the Norwalk Police Department, the Bridgeport Police Department and the Stamford Fire Department.
Public safety diving is specific work conducted by law enforcement, fire departments and search and recovery dive teams. Public safety diving is very different than recreational diving in many respects. Unlike recreational divers who plan their dives in advance and rarely “work” underwater, public safety dive teams must dive and work effectively in conditions frequently not suitable for recreational divers.
The training was taught by Ed Hayes and his staff of Scuba Shack in Rocky Hill, CT. Scuba Shack is the only Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) training facility in the Northeast. The GUE courses along with their instructors have a set of standards and training methods much higher than the norm of any of the current available training in the scuba world. They offer classes and curriculum that other agencies do not and cannot offer. There are currently only nineteen instructors for GUE in the United States and the standards and training to become one is the highest in the underwater realm.
The dive environments that our public safety dive teams encounter are amongst some of the harshest conditions and usually where some bad event has already occurred. GUE and their classes have evolved from the most difficult diving in the world, technical cave diving. With this development have come the most advanced techniques in propulsion, buoyancy control, team protocols and equipment configurations ever seen in diving.
Scuba Shack and its staff have taken the standards and training philosophies of GUE and adapted them to create a rigorous and intense training method for public safety divers in our area. Our region’s public safety divers have worked closely with Scuba Shack and participated in several phases of diver training. The most recent phase, Phase #4, focused on Ice Diving and Overhead Environments.
Ice Diving and Overhead Diving Operations is physically, mentally, and logistically challenging. Proper education in this diving environment is the key to a safe and successful operation. The training focused on planning and implementing an ice diving operation so our divers can safely conduct below ice rescues and recoveries. The intense, 40 hour training program introduced the techniques of diving beneath the ice and the proper planning of ice operations in rescue and recovery modes. Divers participated in operational planning sessions, equipment considerations and recommendations and made several dives under the ice ranging from 12” to 24”.
All of the diver training was conducted at Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park in Portland. The training facility is a privately owned quarry consisting of numerous depths and diving environments, with several underwater training platforms. The quarry also contains several submerged vehicles, vessels, airplanes, etc. This training environment allowed the course to be taught in a controlled open-water environment.
With a limited number of dive teams in our region and each team having different levels of training for their specific departments, standardized training and equipment becomes a critical layer in the region’s ability to respond to any incident. Multi-agency responses during major events — manmade or natural — require the different dive teams to work together in a coordinated effort. With the training Greenwich Police are currently receiving, they are one step closer to that goal.