The scuba teams of the Fire and Rescue Services Department has been a much sought after force as monsoon turned increasingly furious and water level rose in dams.

Even as over 50 scuba teams have been assembled for rescue teams in Idukki and Ernakulam districts in connection with a potential release of water from Cheruthoni dam, the fact remains that the situation is far from ideal for their training and service.

In fact, there wasn’t even a proper training centre until a scuba training school was inaugurated at Fort Kochi last week though the training had been under way since 2011. Instead, members were sent to different stations for training.

“Ideally, members should be given at least a month-long training. However, currently, the training is being compressed into 10-15 days, a fire force official told
The Hindu
on condition of anonymity.

Facilities available for their training remain nothing to write home about either. A run-down ambulance van; four scuba sets with each set comprising a buoyancy control device, an air cylinder with the capacity to last depending on the depths under which the rescue operations have to be conducted, a diving regulator adjusting the release of pressurised breathing gas, mask and diving suite; a 3,500-pound per square inch compressor for filling the air cylinder and two additional cylinders round off the facilities at the disposal of the scuba training school.

A portable compressor enabling on-site filling of cylinders remains missing so as a regular maintenance arrangement for the available equipment. Spares are not easily available either driving home the necessity of having writing a clause on annual maintenance and supply of spares into any future agreement for the purchase of equipment.

“The compressor oil and air filters need to be replaced after every 50 hours whereas they have been in use for over 1,000 hours compromising the safety of divers. Non-replacement of these vital parts releases a nauseating odour making it near impossible for divers to breathe under the water,” the official said.

The irrational allocation of travelling allowance with a monthly ceiling of Rs. 1,200 for scuba team members both during their training and days-long field operation remains another disincentive.

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