On Aug. 5, the Pierce County Metro Dive team visited Point Ruston to educate pier-walkers on water safety.
The dive team is made up of nine Pierce County deputies and two Tacoma Police officers. For all members, it is an extra-duty assignment. The dive team trains twice each month on average and responds to roughly 60-70 missions annually. Their primary mission is the safety of its personnel and members of the public.
“We’re doing show and tell for the public to encourage water safety. Specifically we’re encouraging children to wear life vests,” Metro Dive Team Member Brent Van Dyke said.
Though the focus is on children, the dive team was also reaching out to adults, reminding them of the importance of life preservers not just in the water, but around the water as well including piers and docks.
“Water in our area is always cold, and even if you’re a good swimmer, if you fall into it unexpectedly you can drown based on how your body reacts to cold water,” Van Dyke said. “We want to emphasize today that if you’re on, near or around water, always have a life vest near or on, under the age of 13 always wear one, on a boat, on a dock, anywhere.”
The team’s visit to Ruston on the warm, sunny day was much more relaxed than their normal water activities.
“We respond to all water related incidents, drownings, evidence searches, vehicles in the waters and rivers, people stranded on swift water rescue stuff, where someone will wade across a river and can’t get back, they’ll call us,” Van Dyke said.
‘The team spent the day handing out flyers and showing off various equipment they use during their dives. These high tech tools include a mini ROV video ray with a front and rear camera the divers can use to scope out below-surface situations.
“It reduces our risk to send [the camera] down instead of a diver. Multiple dives in a day can be dangerous. The more limited we are on our dives, the better off we are,” Van Dyke said.
Other tools include a Kronsberg Sonar System that will formulate a 360-degree image map when submerged in the water and various types of diving suits with various amounts of thermal retention and entry time.
The dive team has kept busy this summer helping out smaller counties in the area with their diving needs.
“We are called during the summer a lot more. Lewis county or other smaller counties will request us. We respond to rivers, lakes and ocean water here, and we do surface rescue, below surface rescue, recovery, evidence searches of vehicles when people accidently put them into the boat launch – that’s us. Or when people dump stolen cars or evidence, that’s us as well,” Van Dyke said.
The day was important for the team, as they realize more than anyone that citizens being informed can save lives.
“The more information we can get out to people here, is the less calls I have to go to in a year and the calls I go to are tragic. I don’t go to calls that are simple, they usually involve death, and if I can prevent one, just one, I’m a happy man. That’s why we’re here today,” Van Dyke said.