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Fairfield County's Water Rescue Team

Most people think of SCUBA diving as a pleasant excursion to the clear blue waters, watching and playing with fish. While this might be true in the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean, there is another aspect of diving that might not be so appealing. This type of diving is called Public Safety Diving (PSD), and entails diving for rescue and recoveries of humans, evidence collection and investigations, and some light salvage. It is mostly done in pitch black water, cold temperatures, and at all hours of the clock.

Water RescueDone alone to reduce the risk of entanglements, public safety diving can be stressful enough looking for a human body, but adding to the stress is the amount of gear divers must wear to provide protection from biological and chemical exposures. A well equipped diver in cold water will likely be wearing almost 100 pounds of gear, so it takes a physical effort as well as a mental effort to do this job. Divers face water contamination, biohazards from victims, and are equipped to dive under ice if needed. Shore tenders control the search pattern, time the dive length, monitor the divers respirations, and then assist the diver in getting out of the water and rehabbed.

The Fairfield County Special Operations Dive Unit is made up of 23 personnel, ranging from Instructor trainers to shore support people. Formed in 1987 as part of the Millersport Volunteer Fire Department to cover Buckeye Lake, the group was taken in by the EMA when the captain leading it decided to retire from the fire department to spend more time with his family. Some members have been with the team since it’s inception, and some have only been with them for weeks. Most have some sort of public safety ties, such as the fire service, EMS, or law enforcement. Many are full time firefighters or police officers, and this helps when dealing with the local AHJ on missions.

The team has several certified underwater investigators who work with local LE to deliver a properly packaged piece of evidence, normally weapons, or to investigate automobiles underwater. Every drowning is considered a homicide until proven otherwise, and the team plays a vital role in that investigation, from interviewing witnesses before the dive starts, to bringing up deceased victims.

October 2014, the Water Resuce Team (under the EMA) was awarded a State Homeland Security Grant award to add to the team's gear allowing it to increase its rescue ability. This also allowed the team to reach the Type II level rating from the state, making it a State Resource. See more details here.

For more information, contact Capt. Steve Treinish at diggerdpilot@me.com.