Public safety diving is underwater diving conducted as part of law enforcement and search, rescue, and or recovery. Public safety divers differ from recreational, scientific, and commercial divers who can generally plan the date, time, and location of a dive, and dive only if the conditions are conducive to the task.
We respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and may be required to dive in the middle of the night, during inclement weather, in zero visibility “black water,” or in waters polluted by chemicals and biohazards.
Many members of our Spring Mill Fire, Dive, and Police units are certified swift water rescuers, which means we are trained to perform rescue techniques in a variety of water-based scenarios including but not limited to flooding emergencies from storms and our close proximity to the Schuylkill River.
We go through training to identify and avoid a host of hazards presented by swift water emergencies, and learn first and foremost how to self-rescue amidst performing rescues and recoveries. These rescue scenarios often require the use of equipment like ropes, poles, rigging systems, which we simulate both in pools and at the Schuylkill river regularly.
The Spring Mill Fire Company Public Safety Diving and Swift Water Rescue Team supports waterborne rescue and recovery along the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania from the northern edge of Manayunk (Philadelphia) to Norristown. Our growing team utilizes a fleet of 3 boats for Swift Water Rescue & Dive Rescue Operations, and we are also recognized as a Countywide incident response team for Montgomery County.
Our all-volunteer team is composed of engineers, scientists, medical professionals, finance professionals, consultants, project managers, and those from a host of other professions.
While we may come from many diverse professional and personal backgrounds, everyone on the team shares a common desire to contribute their time, effort, and varied expertise to the community!
Spring Mill Fire Company utilizes a combination of formal course training hosted by external partners and certified instructors, as well as locally based training coordinated and facilitated by the team’s officers.
As a team we primarily engage in locally based training in pools, and rivers located within our response area, or at the station. We meet on Monday nights at the Firehouse for training from roughly 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM, where we cover diverse topics including but not limited to line tending skills (Tender Operations), boat operations, and dive operations in our response area to train in simulated situations similar to what we may encounter in a call for service, or joint training with the Fire Brigade.
Spring Mill Fire Company works with individual members to design and navigate training plans on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the member is able to complete the training plan in a manageable way.
In June 2021, Spring Mill Fire Company’s Public Safety Dive Team completed their Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Incident Management System (NIMS) Typed Resource Status (509 Type 4 Diver) training program, a program that was developed to improve operational effectiveness and capability with experts in the industry, NFPA standards documentation, and FEMA NIMS publications.
The team eventually landed on a customized progression roadmap blending recreational training and more advanced public safety to improve capabilities in the real-world mission environment.
Divers completed equipment ditching and confidence drills, underwater tasks, and obstacle courses with fouling, entrapment, and entanglement, victim recovery and lifting, and live diver switch-outs, while their view was obstructed with mask blackout covers simulating what we encounter in the zero-visibility “blackwater” environment. Divers then put these skills into practice with simulated operational search and recovery activities, while managing mission requirements including personnel, diver to topside communication, tending, search patterns, switch-outs, mapping, logging, decontamination, and demobilization.
Each of the divers in this program completed 170+ contact hours of training across 15 certifications requiring both classroom and practical evaluation. This training and the roadmap that we have adopted represents a completely overhauled way of thinking about and approaching public safety diving and we’re proud .
Reach out to our team by clicking here, or stop by Spring Mill Fire Company Monday evenings at 6:30pm!