D ive Team Organization

The day of the knight in shinning armor and the lone gunfighter is gone. Today's hero is a member of a team, not a solitary warrior. In our technological age, heroic deeds usually require back up. They require a new type of hero, one who combines the independence of the traditional hero with an ability to function smoothly in the modern world of technology and bureaucracies. Rescuers must have the makings of a modern-day hero. In general emergency personnel think and behave much like everyone else, yet they are able to preserve enough style and autonomy to rise above the ordinary when a great challenge presents itself. They work within the system yet are not hemmed in by it. They are not great risk takers. They are extremely cautious about checking and rechecking what to do. Acts that look risky to others are, for professional rescuers, merely the logical consequences of careful planning. They understand that if they are going to operate in uncertain surroundings, they better do everything beforehand to reduce the odds against them by learning to act, not react, to any situation, always expecting the unexpected.

Rescuers must have practical intelligence. They are not necessarily ''smarter'' than other people they just make better use of their talents and resources. They see meaningful patterns and connections where others see confusion. They instinctively exam more facets of a problem, and are better at seeing how past experiences help in new situations. They move wisely, knowing when to, and when not to act. People who lack flexibility and vision do not belong in rescue work. People in fire, police and EMS work display a level of caution associated with true practical intelligence, not a narrowness of vision. They make plans and set objectives but remain flexible enough to change them if circumstances call for it. They are not afraid to try solutions that appear downright impractical but, more often than not, turnout to be the best way to achieve results.

We all have instincts. The question is can they be trusted? We all like to think we make rational decisions, responding logically to the facts, statistics, and situations we encounter in the real world, that does not always happen. An awful lot of decisions, especially in an emergency, are made on the basis of pure gut instinct, and it is only after the fact that we round up enough evidence to support our decision and make it look logical. Good emergency personnel will time after time, solved problems correctly, even with little information. That is the key to intuitive thinking - being able to visualize the big picture when all you have is a few of the pieces. Trust your inner feelings.

Dive Team Organization:
Many of the Dive Team positions can be held by one person.

The Team Leader

  • Administrative Director

  • The Last Word - Sets SOP

  • Oversees All Training

  • Assigns All Task and Jobs

  • Sets up coordination with other units and departments

  • Responsible for how the Team Functions

The safety and effectiveness of the team is the responsibility of the TEAM LEADER. He should be experienced in all dive operations that will be conducted. He is responsible for insuring that all divers are fit, and properly trained in all aspects and scope of the team. Any pre-dive plans that are formulated are to be approved be the Team Leader. He sees to it that all other members know all dive plans. Any new techniques the team wishes to employ is to be tested by him during training.

The Team Leader coordinates all team activities with other units or departments, responding to any scene. He sees to it that all members are briefed about the operation, and that they understand all safety precautions, and emergency procedures. Making sure there is hot coffee or cold Gatorade is also his responsibility, this falls under seeing to diver safety. His post dive job is debriefing all other responders, and talking to the press.

Most likely his most important job is establishing a vigorous training program in continuing education and preplanning. There must be frequent drills in routine, and non-routine operations, as well as emergency procedures. Every member of the team must be able to perform every detail in the team. Finally the Team Leader conducts the postmortems. This is the meeting after an operation or training exercise to discuss team performance.

Beachmaster (Assistant Team Leader)

  • In charge of all operations (dive and boat)
  • Sets up dive (operations) site
  • Assigns all areas (units) of assignment
  • Divemasters report to the Beachmaster.
  • The Beachmaster maintains reports from all Divemasters.

The BEACHMASTER is second in command, acting as Team Leader when he is not present. He should be, as a minimum be a Divemaster and a Paramedic. He should have seniority on the team meaning he has been there long enough to know all the waters that the team operates in. He must be able to instill confidence in the other members by his abilities and experience. He assist the Team Leader in preparing for the operation, and sets up the step-by-step maneuvers the divers will follow. He sets the back up teams and considers all contingencies if an emergency arises and practices problem prevention by anticipation of problems that may transpire and preventing them. At all times he must know how many divers he has in the water, what their bottom time is, and approximately how much air they have (SAC Rates). He also follows all boat operations and directs it's search location.

The Divemaster
  • In charge of all dive operations.

  • In charge of all divers in the water under his charge.

  • A good rule is one Divemaster for every two teams.

  • Acts as Beachmaster when limited teams used.

The person in charge of the actual in water dive operation is the DIVEMASTER. The Divemaster should know all members well enough to determine their physical fitness and skill proficiency, in this way he can select the best divers for a particular task. Thorough pre-dive equipment inspections must take place. Once the operation begins the Divemaster is in charge. He monitors all bottom time and surface intervals. He must be able to keep all divers in a no-decompression status. He briefs all divers entering the water. Approves all equipment checks prior to any diver entering the water. At all times he must know how many divers he has in the water, what their bottom time is, and approximately how much air they have (SAC Rates). When boat operations are under way and divers are in the water, the boat skipper must take his orders from the Divemaster. The Divemaster keeps the Team Leader updated of progress and de-briefs all exiting divers as he gets their remaining air.
Post dive responsibilities include overseeing that all equipment is cleaned, tanks are filled, and properly stowed. He insures that all divers log their dives, and then computes the days SAC rates for future use.

S & R Master

  • The Best at search and Recovery

  • In charge of all search operations

  • Picks type of search to be performed

  • In charge of all lift and recovery operations

Boat Master (Skipper, Captain of the Boat)

  • Responsible for the working and maneuvering of the Team's boat.

  • Knows all about operation of a vessel in your AO

  • Any orders that affect boat movement while divers are in the water, can only be given by the Divemaster! However when divers are not in the water the Skipper is in charge of the vessel. Remember there can be only one Captain.

Training Officer

  • Maintains training records

  • Sets up Team training for all members

  • Reviews all members skills

  • Advises on who needs more training to the Team Leader.


The Team should have a MEDICAL OFFICER. He should have the highest medical certification, preferably a physician, or Physicians Assistant, if not then at least a Paramedic (if a R.N. then the nurse must be an EMT with ACLS). He is responsible to see to it that all team members are fit and provides a continuing education program in emergency medicine. He needs to insure that all members are up on all procedures used such as: oxygen equipment, traction splits, MAST, and all other medical aspects. He should insure that all medical supplies are ready and oxygen bottles are full. If a member of the Rescue Team gets injured he should go with the transport company to assist in care, and inform the Team Leader of the diver's status. If the member has a dive related accident then he is most likely the best person qualified to handle him in the transport phase. This requires a good working relationship with the transport units. At the hospital he can assist the attending physician by seeing to it that he is aware that the victim is a dive accident victim, and then call the Dive Accident Network for the physician as needed.

Some physicians work with teams in their area and can be of invaluable assistance. When using a physician or Physician Assistant, try to pick one who is also a diver. If not, see to it that he becomes one. The Medical Officer should have special training in the handling of dive accidents, such as DMT.
Equipment Officer
  • Responsible for all the Teams Equipment for operation except the boat.

  • Checks all members gear so that it is up to standards set by team

  • Makes anything that is needed.

Team Member

Individual Team members are called DIVERS. They are the work force of the team, and must be qualified in all techniques used. They must know also how to use all equipment, make field repairs, and take care of the cleaning, and stowing of all gear. When surfacing he must give bottom conditions to the Divemaster, and progress of the objective. He is responsible for his buddy, and performs equipment checks for his fellow divers. Buddies are jointly responsible for the assigned task. They keep track of each other's bottom time, depth and air. Watching for each other's safety is especially important, they should never leave each other's sight unless one is entrapped, or needs help from the surface team. In limited visibility a buddy line must be used. Duties include acting as a STANDBY DIVER or a TENDER.

As a Standby Diver, he must to be able to dive to the depth of the operation, ready to enter the water at a moments notice. He monitors the progress of the work, being close by the Divemaster so he can respond when needed. The wearing of tanks or not depends on the situation. For surface work tanks slow progress, and are not needed. At every incident SCUBA gear must be ready to be used if needed by the Standby Divers.

As a Tender, he must know all line signals and keep track of the divers location and bottom time. Communication is important not only between divers underwater, but also to the surface and when disseminating information. He must constantly make sure there is not too much slack in the line.

Every day that the Team meets, or at the dive site, check yourself and other divers to insure everyone is fit to dive. Is any member suffering from a cold, flu, sinusitis, ear trouble or chest congestion? If so, that diver should not dive. Check if anyone is overly fatigued, or emotionally strained. If any question as to if any diver is fit to dive, have him report to the Medical Officer for evaluation, before putting him on dive status.

Every diver on the Team must know what is going on at all times. This way they can protect each other by correcting problems as they arise. The team must know when to stop. If the weather is too cold, or the divers are fatigued, and decompression is creeping up, it is time to stop. The divers must have enough energy in reserve to react to unexpected conditions that may arise. Do not push to the point of endangering fellow divers.

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