With a variety of facilities and terrain available, members the “E” Division (B.C.) RCMP Underwater Recovery Team are in the Comox Valley for week-long training and recertification.
Eleven divers and one instructor from across the province are in the area to practise swift water rescue and recovery techniques, explained Sgt. Steve Pebernat.
The divers are staying at HMCS Quadra while they train and he noted diving for the URT differs significantly from recreational diving.
“It’s task-oriented underwater - we’re not there looking for fish. We want them to be comfortable in an underwater environment and then be able to perform the tasks as well.”
Pebernat said in order to join the URT, a member has to be a part of the RCMP for about one year, have an interest in scuba diving and have 25 hours of bottom time (which they can accumulate while practicing).
Last year, the team had 95 calls for service for the entire province.
“We have over 20 active members on the dive team right now and those members can travel throughout the province,” he noted. RCMP members are part-time divers while maintaining full-time jobs such as general duty or traffic section within the RCMP.
When a dive call comes in, a page will be sent out to see who is available, and depending on the location, the organization will try and get divers from the closest geographical area to muster a team. The team consists of three to five divers, depending on the call.
“Most police offers want to serve the community, and divers want to be able to perform tasks to help the community to bring closure to a tragic circumstance. A lot of reasons divers are on the team is to provide that service. Some people coach hockey, some people do Girl Guides, we just chose to be on the dive team to provide that extra service to the community,” Pebernat explained.
Corp. Steve Wells with the National Underwater Recovery Centre in Nanaimo said the Puntledge River is an excellent practice area for swift water training.
“We are quite often called to rivers around the province of B.C. to conduct recovery operations, and to do swift water safety for other members who may be working in and around the water.”
While the opportunity to join the URT is done on a volunteer basis, Wells explained it provides members a good opportunity to challenge themselves and to perform a task and obtain training not many people get to do.
“You get to spend a day our here doing river skills, you get to do dives, open ocean off the police boat and the patrol boat. It’s a nice variety and it gives you a chance to get away from the office and do something different.”