Diving Safety Program trains students, faculty in underwater exploration, rescue and study
Program is among oldest and largest in nation
Oct 25, 2023
Sam Haskell from IU Environmental Health and Safety instructs divers at Sunset Park in Linton, Indiana. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University
Surrounded by trees and wildlife, the lake in Sunset Park in Greene County, Indiana, hides a few surprises beneath the surface.
Dive under the water and among the plant and animal life you’ll find a submerged school bus, boats, a car, and an obstacle course of hoops and other items. These objects support the work of Indiana University Public Safety’s Diving Safety Program, which annually trains about 500 people to dive safely, making IU’s program one of the largest in the country.
Haskell oversees diving training and safety for faculty, staff and students across every IU campus, whether they are snorkeling for fun on a study abroad trip, scuba diving to study sunken ships at archaeological sites or conducting biological research of ocean life in coral reefs.
Haskell’s job is to make sure any diving affiliated with IU is done safely. This may require training divers, checking safety standards at dive shops around the world, developing emergency plans for study abroad trips or diving with faculty to facilitate their research in places like the Dominican Republic. He ensures that all diving complies with IU’s scientific regulations as well as standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
A dummy used in rescue training is propped up near air tanks during diving safety training. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University
“Safety training is important and needed because diving is inherently dangerous,” Haskell said. “It’s important that we do it as safely as possible.”
The largest training operation Haskell leads annually takes place in October and involves about 90 divers who are trained over a three-day period at Sunset Park in Linton, Indiana. This includes a range of training exercises and activities for students and faculty, including underwater rescue scenarios, search and recovery, scientific documentation, and diving skill development.
It was a chilly 60 degrees during the dive training operation this year, and the lakeshore was strewn with wet and dry suits, air tanks, masks, snorkels, fins, dive weights, compasses and more. A dummy propped up near the water’s edge waited to be hidden under the water for a rescue training scenario.
Many of the divers sought certifications allowing them to engage in a wide range of underwater activities. Depending on the type of certification they earn, they will be trained to dive between 60 and 130 feet for recreational, scientific or teaching purposes.
IU senior Alexa Rand, who is studying biology and plans to pursue a career in medicine, was in Linton to train other divers. At IU, she’s taken rescue courses, ridden along in ambulances, and learned about dive medicine and hyperbaric chamber therapy.
“I hope my scuba training and my medical career cross paths in the future,” she said.
For Askar Mazitov, a junior studying biology at IU, taking part in the training will help him study underwater archaeology and ocean creatures.
Divers swim among submerged school buses, cars, boats and other objects that are connected to buoys. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University
“I want to improve my skills underwater as a scuba diver and scientific diver to be able to safely and effectively conduct research and outreach,” he said.
IU’s Diving Safety program, which began in 1963, is one of the oldest in the nation. It has drawn the interest of students and faculty from nearly every academic discipline, yet Haskell has a vision to expand it even further.
“One of my long-term goals for the program is to strengthen our integration with public servants in police and fire departments who aren’t university employees and broaden diving safety training to the wider community,” he said.
For now, the Diving Safety Program is an essential partner for the IU Center for Underwater Science as well as many other academic research, study abroad, recreation and safety programs at IU’s campuses across the state.