A proposal has been put forward for a “Cayman Dive Response Network” to help prevent and manage incidents on the water.
The concept includes a team of trained volunteers ready to respond quickly and efficiently to dive accidents.
Kate Holden, a former dive instructor who now works for Copper Beech Communications, submitted the 15-page plan to the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency review of Cayman’s search and rescue capability. Matthew Forbes, head of the Governor’s Office in Cayman, said it was one of the recommendations from the report being considered for implementation.
Ms. Holden said the network would be a way of formalizing the ad-hoc volunteer response that happens whenever there is a diving emergency.
The proposed network would also provide training and create standard operating procedures for water sports businesses to follow in an emergency.
“The time has come to formalize a professional response network to support and mitigate water sports related incidents in the Cayman Islands,” she wrote in the proposal.
Part of the remit of the network would be to be ready to respond to water-related rescue and recovery missions in support of the emergency services.
The proposal was referenced among a series of other recommendations in the coastguard report, published in February.
Ms. Holden says she is waiting to see if there is any interest in progressing it further.
She said there are multiple incidents involving injured or missing divers every year, as well as boating or other water-related incidents that require the support of divers.
She said there is significant goodwill within the dive community and many professionals are happy to lend their skills and time in emergency situations. She believes the dive support network would help ensure they had the skills and the processes to do so effectively and efficiently.
Ms. Holden, who has personally been involved in three dive search and rescue efforts in the Cayman Islands, recalled one incident during a search where a volunteer diver got into difficulties and had to be rescued. She said, “The response we have currently is very informal, considering the number of incidents we have each year.
“Cayman has one of the most professional dive industries in the world and the network would seek to provide a unified body that supports and helps develop this local industry.”
Her proposal involves maintaining a roster of up to 200 trained volunteers with the expertise to participate in search and rescue dives, as well as a core leadership group to coordinate with emergency services in such incidents.
She said the network could also be responsible for providing ongoing professional development for all dive staff in Cayman and developing standard operating procedures for all water sports businesses when incidents occur.
Ms. Holden said Cayman follows the global trend of increasing dive fatalities, largely due to a growing number of older divers in the water.
She said it is important for the image of the tourism industry that the Cayman Islands does all it can to address the issue.
She wrote, “The local dive industry therefore needs to respond to the problem with a unified, coherent plan, not only to try and reduce the number of incidents and fatalities but to also give tourists confidence in the dive industry here – [that] Cayman is not just doing business as usual but is working hard to combat the trend in increased dive and water sports related incidents and deaths.
“This plan must provide the dive community and those professionals supporting the dive industry with better skills to prevent an incident and to ensure that when an incident occurs, the response is professional and to the highest caliber possible.”
Mr. Forbes of the Governor’s Office said the provision of new equipment to marine police and firefighters by the Royal Navy last week was the first recommendations to be implemented from the coastguard review.
He said, “There is wider consideration currently being given to the future of search and rescue services and this will include evaluation of all the recommendations in the [Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s] report, including the point about the possible establishment of a Dive Response Network.”