It’s a calm, cool spring Indiana night on a 3,200 acre lake during the 35th annual midnight fishing tournament when a report comes in that a contestant has fallen out of his boat half way across the lake and has not resurfaced. The lake manager calls 911 and the Dive Team responds, it’s 2:00am. As the units get to the last known location in Rescue Mode they deploy the tethered Primary Diver and start the boat based dive. 10 minutes into the dive and working in zero visibility at 65 feet the Primary Diver calls to the Tender “I am entangled, I can not see and i’m unable to move.” The Tethered Backup Diver is immediately deployed to assist. Suddenly, the Backup Diver calls to the Tender with a panicked voice “My line is snagged and I can not move!” 2 Divers are now rendered helpless and time is ticking with the air left in there 80 Cu Ft cylinders they are using. They are both entangled in Man Made Fish Habitats.
What will be your PSD Teams next move in this situation?….
Fish Habitats come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials which provide fish cover. In a sport fisherman’s eyes these are gold mines for harvesting big trophy fish. However, to a Public Safety Diver they cause major safety problems, compromises search pattern integrity and causes serious entanglement issues in low to zero visibility and could lead to worse, another Death Statistic to Public Safety Diving.
The Fish Habitats have been made during events and campaigns where hundreds of man made trees are made in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and materials and placed into local lakes, ponds and rivers. The materials range from 2” x 8’ PVC pipe placed in a concrete base to smaller 5/8” x 4’ rebar placed in a small concrete base with a chain and anchor attached. Others are made simply out of old pallets and scrap materials.
These Habitats are placed all across the US and in a multitude of areas within the bodies of water and at different depths, they have even been located in public beach areas. The only method of knowing how to mitigate these habitats are to be proactive during Non Discretionary time. Pre-planning with local waterway owners and local fishing clubs as well as sonaring these areas will best serve PSD Teams to ensure your team does not become another statistic.
I would encourage All PSD Teams to make your Divers aware of this type of entanglement hazard and work towards structured and safe training in a pool or controlled setting with a similar style man made prop and come up with solutions to overcome this hazard.
Man Made Fish Habitats can be found all over the internet.