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Reducing PSD fatalities and searching the "3rd Dimension"

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  • Reducing PSD fatalities and searching the "3rd Dimension"

    At the annual International Assiciaiton of Dive Rescue Specialists (IADRS.org) conference an interesting topic was discused that is worth sharing with this forum.

    The topic: Where victims are not found on the bottom and they are not on the surface either.

    This scenario presents the most challenging recovery operation and at least two Line of Duty Deaths (LODDs) involving PSDs had extended recovery times because the victims were not where we typically look for them. We typically find victims floating on the surface or laying on the bottom, and just like people think of coins only having two sides (heads or tails) we often forget there is a third side to a coin; the edge.

    Victims in mid-water present the most challenging operations to public safety divers. For those who study LODD for public safety divers, think Paul Jolliff and Frank Carriere. Both accidents were recognized within moments of occurring yet it took fellow team members more than two hours to locate Jolliff and more than 12 hours to locate Carriere (no currents).

    I know of other situations where teams have been baffled when they have been unable to locate a victims on the bottom. Lake Lanier (GA) has the challenge of standing trees on the bottom on the man made lake. The Tennessee Valley Authority has similar challenges.

    In the case of Constable Frank Carriere, he was conducting a search under the hull of a ship. He ran out of air and ditched his weight belt. He did not come to the surface so members of his team frantically searched the bottom under the ship. The next day Constable Carriere was located on the underside of the ship. It is easy to use hindsight 8 years later but I can easily understand why the divers would search the bottom for their teammate. Isn't that where we normally search if the victim isn't on the surface?

    FF Paul Jolliff, had a similar but different circumstance. He was unable to surface because the search line that was attached to him via a carabiner became fouled after he accidentally tied his search line to a weight on the bottom (as opposed to the second line he was carrying that was similar in diameter) He could not reach the surface because the search line held him under the water. When his dive buddy surfaced and asked the boat crew if they has seen Jolliff, they knew they had a problem. More details are online at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face200215.html

    The bottom line is, not all victims will be found on the bottom/surface and it is prudent to think of the "third dimension" after you have done the obvious.


    During the International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists (IADRS,org) annual membership meeting we reviewed the Line of Duty Deaths (LODDs) for Public Safety Divers (PSDs) and found two glaring statistics.

    - 9% of the PSD LODDs can be attributed to divers doing work that is clearly outside the scope of public safety diving. They were doing work that should have been done by commercial divers (inspecting dams, drainage pipes, locating buoys, etc)

    - 13% of the divers would have survived had they not been clipped to their search line via a carabiner or had they used a "quick release snap shackle" and been able to bail out of the entanglement. The International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists is strongly encouraging public safety divers to use "quick release snap shackles" when attaching search lines to chest harnesses so with one hand, they can release should an emergency arise. (Note: This does NOT apply under ice or similar environments and snap shackles should NOT be used in overhead environments)

    In some of the above mentioned cases, "high use connectors" on the comm ropes would also be required so when the diver ditches, he can keep his full face mask in place.

    If WE (the PSD community) want to reduce nearly 20% of the Public Safety Diving fatalities, we need to stop doing "commercial work" and we need quit tying ourselves to search lines via a carabiner only. We know from numerous accidents in the swiftwater community that a rescuer can not release from a carabiner when it is under a "loaded" condition. Charles Hartman (MO), Frank Hut (SC), Art Schumacher (OH), Paul Jolliff (IN) and others may be alive today if they could have taken one pull on a quick release snap shackle and been released from the search line that held them underwater.

    If we don't learn from history we are doomed to repeat it... (George Santayana, 1905)

    Safe diving!

    Blades Robinson, Ececutive Director
    International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists

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