Rescue / Recovery Diver Course
(or How to spend your holiday trying not to damage a perfectly good corpse)
One of the
interesting aspects of the cave diving community is the opportunity to be
trained by experts in the field. When was the last time you took golf lessons
from Tiger Woods or David Duvall? How about a basketball camp with Michael
Jordan or Shaq? Not recently? I had the good fortune to take the IUCRR
(International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery) First Responder course and
the Rescue/Recovery Diver course on May 26 and 27 as part of the annual
The IUCRR was
formed in 1982 and it's Mission Statement is to support all Public Safety
Agencies in the Rescue and /or Recovery in an underwater environment with a
real or virtual overhead obstruction. The first Program Director was the late
Henry Nicholson of whom so much has been written recently for his
contributions to the cave diving community.
and in-water portions of the course were taught by Lamar Hires, the IUCRR
Training Coordinator and Larry Green the IUCRR Assistant Director and Regional
Coordinator for Florida. That is where my previous analogy to training by the
pro's came in. OK, so maybe I laid it on a little thick, but as you know it
never hurts to kiss up a bit around here! Cave Instructor John Jones and Debra
Green were the surface coordinators for the accident scene. Debra also
captured us for posterity as the photographer. Bob Janowski was gracious
enough to be the victim. Many kudos to Bob! How can you have good training
without a great victim ?
participants in the course were George Evans, Kent May, Jeffrey Miller, Scott
Peters, Dawn Stewart and Al Taylor. The classroom work took place the morning
of May 26, 2002 at the Gainesville Sheraton with the in-water work the
following morning at Orange Grove in Peacock Springs State Park.
I went into the
course with the expectation that it would be a great learning experience. I
was not disappointed. Obviously the Instructors are very qualified to teach
the material and have the benefit (for lack of a better word) of first hand
experience in rescues and recoveries. The class was interesting, challenging,
and as fun as you can make a course dealing with the subject matter. I walked
away with something I was not expecting, primarily because I had not thought
the matter all the way through. That is the gravity of the situation I could
find myself in by being at the scene of an accident or coming across a victim
in a cave. Who spends their time thinking about recovery situations anyway?
Fortunately there is an organization that does.
By using their
personal experience of past accidents to relate the material to the class, the
instructors painted a very clear picture of what the responsibilities of a
Rescue/Recovery Diver are. Thankfully some of the incidents had happy endings
for all, but never the less it is not an activity to be undertaken lightly.
There were several points that were made repeatedly to make sure we
1 - "The
guy with the gun is in charge" The IUCRR is there only to support the
Public Safety Officials. The Authority in charge of an accident scene varies
from region to region, but if there is a death involved it is almost
assuredly becomes the province of Law Enforcement. The situation has to be
treated as a crime scene until the cause of death is known. So as a reminder
if you do come across a victim in a cave with no hope of a rescue, do not do
anything to disturb the scene. By disturbing the scene you could be
interfering with a criminal investigation and destroying vital information
that the IUCRR requires to do an accident analysis. Take note of anything
you can visually even if it is just the location and the condition of the
area, then leave and activate the local Emergency Response system be it 911
or contacting a Park Ranger. They will activate the IUCRR.
2 - Do not do
anything to endanger yourself or any other divers. Let the IUCRR organize
the divers for the recovery based on location and conditions. They will
choose an appropriate and qualified team(s) to respond.
3 - If you
are an IUCRR Rescue/Recovery diver do not assume responsibility or respond
to the scene unless you are prepared to commit to the entire operation,
including completing the Accident Report. You may be in for a long stay and
your commitment is vital to the continuity and the safety of the operation.
respect for the victims family, friends, and dive partners. Do not speculate
out loud on what "might" have occurred.
OK, now for the
fun stuff. We all met at Orange Grove on Monday morning for the in-water
portion. The instructors set up an accident scene consisting of a lost Open
Water diver in Orange Grove. We were taught how (and how not) to bring a
victim out of a cave after we had gathered all the pertinent information we
needed for the Accident Form. They stressed how difficult it is to bring a
victim out of a cave and the importance of communication and cooperation
within the dive team (and darn it if they weren't right again)! Lamar Hires,
Larry Green, and Bob Janowski entered the water to assume their roles as
Evaluator/Safety and victim. John Jones and Debra Green coordinated the two
person dive teams from the surface recording the logistical data of the teams
and testing our observational and data recording abilities.