The Madera County Sheriff’s Search and Recovery Dive Team is comprised of ten sworn deputies. The dive team is responsible for responding to and conducting water based rescues and searches in both the underwater and swift water environments. Team members are all certified SCUBA divers, and are also trained in swift water rescue operations. The dive team conducts its’ operations in lakes, canals, and swift water environments throughout Madera County. The environments that the team must function in are both challenging and hazardous. The team frequently carries out missions in frigid, contaminated or swift water, often in zero visibility.
To become a member of the team, deputies must pass a series of physically demanding tests. The testing process includes a 1000 meter open water swim, 200 yard swim (using the four major swim strokes), 50 yard swim with a ten pound weight belt, ten minute water tread immediately followed by a 30 second water tread without using the hands. Deputies also have to complete a 25 yard underwater swim on a single breath hold. After completing the physical test deputies must complete an interview process. If a deputy is selected for the team, they then begin their open water dive training to become certified divers.
The dive team conducts monthly training operations which are planned by the dive team leader. One team member is certified by the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) as an open water SCUBA instructor. Training consists of no visibility search patterns, underwater navigation, deep diving, swift water rescue and evidence recovery.
To accomplish its’ mission, the dive team uses a variety of unique equipment. Each team member is supplied with a full face-mask breathing regulator and dry-suit to protect the divers from cold and potentially contaminated water. Team members use underwater lights, cameras and robots to conduct search operations throughout the County of Madera.