Funding for your PSD team (training and equipment)
Welcome in advance to the PSD community!
I understand your concern about funding and can appreciate SQUAD1LTs comment about the dive team being the "redheaded step child." Though I have red hair, I too have had to struggle to get good funding for our team. I am glad to say we are doing pretty well. Yes, it could be better but these are tough times. Our department is narrowing our training focus from 65 divers to 33. It makes it easier on the Marine Rescue FTOs (we have one Public Safety Scuba Instructor per shift) and allows the team members to get better gear and more specialized training. Each member is issued their own gear bag with exposure suit, weight belt, weights, mask, fins, snorkel, booties, knives, shears, glove, defog and sun screen. We "share" tanks, regulators w/Suunto air integrated dive computers, and BCs and we are working towards dry suits, full face masks, and UW communication systems (we have 6 sets total). I could "brag" a little more but that is not the point here.
Fifteen years ago we only had and assortment of wetsuits on the rescue truck, two sets of dive gear that were shared by on duty personnel, and divers with recreational dive training only. We have come a long way! It has taken some work to get where we are today and while we started out as the "red heads" we have advanced beyond that point today. With some work, you can do the same for your department and community!
We had several high profile incidents where our dive team's training paid of with huge benefits. In the community's eyes, we AND OUR CHIEF are heroes and the chief knows we would have taken a beating in the press if the team had performed poorly on past operations. He is appreciative of the dive team and shows his support by allowing us to submit a budget on an annual basis.
I will share some of the tips that worked for us...
1) GET GOOD TRAINING. Our divers are certified through Dive Rescue International. They not only learn how to dive well, they also learn how to operate as a TEAM. In the 25 years since I joined our department, I cannot recall an operation where we were not successful. In 1989 I was certified as a DRI Public Safety Scuba Instructor and today I sit on the DRI Board of Directors, so I admit up front to having some prejudice here towards the Dive Rescue International training programs. I say that as point of disclosure but I am proud of what I learned through Dive Rescue International and take pride in serving the PSD community though my affiliation with DRI.
2) WORK CLOSELY WITH YOUR LOCAL DIVE STORE. The dive store we work with allows me to hold a key to their shop so I have 24/7 access. If our department has a large incident, we have full access to any rental gear we need. We can also use this rental gear when we are training so we can keep operational gear in service. Our local dive store gives our department great pricing on our equipment too! Fifteen years ago, we might buy two regulators at a time. Because they have helped us grow and become a successful service in our community, we buy ten regulators at a time. We were an "investment" for the store and now we are paying "dividends." We also use a lot of equipment supplied by AQUA LUNG. They have a special pricing program for PSD teams and this program has saved our community thousands of dollars over the years. We buy their top of the line gear and it doesn't have to be replaced as often, saving additional tax dollars.
3) WORK CLOSELY WITH YOUR CHIEF and ADMINISTRATION. Remember you are all on the same team. You will be spending your citizen's money and you will need to be and asset to the community, not a liability. Explain to your chief how you will make a "return" on his "investment." Will you recover evidence for the local law enforcement agency? Our department does and the local law enforcement agencies appreciate what we do. Our one agency provides services to three municipal police departments and one sheriffs office, so our citizens pay for one well trained team cross trained in rescue and recovery instead of 1 "average" fire based rescue team and 4 "average" law enforcement based recovery teams. Our personnel are on duty 24/7 and respond to all requests for service. Also, when operating in the public we work to make the chief look good. He appreciates it and that pays dividends, if you know what I mean!
In summary, GOOD TRAINING, GOOD EQUIPMENT and GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIPS will make your team successful.
The only other thing missing from the equation is MONEY.
I mentioned that AQUA LUNG provides discount pricing their SCUBA brands including Sea Quest, Suunto, Apeks and Deep See (contact your local Aqua Lung dealer). Dive Rescue International offers discounted or free training to agencies who host their training programs (call 800-248-3483 for details). The International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists (IADRS) can help you find teams in your region who can advise you of other sources for funding your team.
One of the grants the IADRS has found helpful to teams is available through your local WalMart. For more information on the IADRS, a non-profit organization supported by fellow public safety divers, please visit www.IADRS.org or call 800-IADRS-911.
Best of luck!