Utah Department of Public Safety

Dive Team - Frequently Asked Questions

What is involved in a Dive Team tryout?



The DPS Dive Team finds it valuable to maintain a list DPS officers who have expressed interest in becoming members of the Dive Team.  Occasionally, an "assessment" is conducted to identify officers who have not only the interest, but also the dedication and the necessary comfort level in the underwater environment.  A series of underwater stress tests are administered to interested officers.  These tests are created to assess diving ability, the ability to deal with stressful underwater problems, and personal attitudes toward this unique DPS function.  See an actual assessment at Dive Team Assessment.

What types of diving does the DPS Dive Team do?

The DPS Dive Team is first and foremost a counter-terrorism measure to protect sacrosanct underwater infrastructures in the State of Utah, and to investigate any suspicious underwater circumstances.  Additionally, The Dive Team provides support to any government agency needing assistance with an underwater investigation. 

Our primary function is to be a counter-measure for terrorism enacted upon the aquatic resources in Utah.  For example, we check suspicious circumstances at the dams and other water sources?  We have also assisted numerous Sheriff's Offices with investigations of drownings, etc.  We have also assisted other State Agencies in assorted underwater functions.  We have also assisted the federal government in scientific research in the Great Salt Lake.

Do you ever do demonstrations for organizations?

We have conducted demonstrations for several large organizations.  For example, we have put on displays and lectures for the International Sportsman's Expo and also the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.  We have also given presentations for Citizens' Academies for several law enforcement agencies.  Contact Sgt. Jason Kelsey for more information.

How does a person become a member of the DPS Dive Team?

Only employees of the Utah Department of Public Safety may become Divers on the Dive Team.  It is possible to become a "support" member, however, if a person has unique or specific skills, such as medical, scientific, or military training that benefits the Dive Team.  Presently, the support members consist of a Hyperbaric Doctor, a Military Chem/Bio Expert, and a Military EOD Expert.

Are you guys the ones who found all those bodies in Strawberry Reservoir several years ago?

Yes.  The Utah DPS Dive Teamused Side Scan Sonar to locate these five victims, although we were only looking for two.  This was a huge operation and was only possible through the selfless cooperation between the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office and the Summit County Sheriff's Office, along with hundreds of civilian volunteers.  Wasatch County SO was the agency of jurisdiction.  Summit County SO provided invaluable assistance via their underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).  Closure was provided to multiple families as a result of this seamless interaction between agencies.  It was also an optimal deployment of various technologies.  This incident is an example of how things are supposed to work when a tragedy like this happens.

How does the sonar equipment work?

The sonar equipment works just like "bat sonar."  The bat squeaks and then listens for an echo.  When it hears the echo, its brain determines the size, shape, and distance of the object.  The DPS sonar units imitate the bat's sonar.  If you look at the sonar image on the left, you will see a fishing boat just down & right from the center, and also a diver just left of center, being guided to the boat by an officer on the surface watching the computer screen image.  Using this technology, the sonar operator on the surface can locate and identify images on the botton and then guide a diver to the object ... even in the blackest water.

This technology has aided the DPS Dive Team to search an area on a lake botton that was 12.5 square miles over a period of 11 days.  To watch the sonar in action click here   Flaming Gorge Angler.

Is it fun being on the Dive Team?

There is an exciting and adventurous aspect to being a member of the DPS Dive Team.  Make no mistake, the diving conditions are almost always dark and cold and deep.  Recovering deceased persons tests the mettle of even the most experienced divers.  At times, a DPS Diver experiences true fear as a deployment unfolds.

Yet, the experience of watching loved ones as their family member is brought back to them from the bottom of a lake or river is something that is indescribable.  It is not a fun experience, but rather, the feeling of achievement and also knowing the family's gratitude is the overwhelming drive to do the job.  Is it fun?  No.  Is it gratifying?  Absolutely!

What is the most interesting thing you have found while diving?

The most interesting thing found by the DPS Dive Team would have to be a scientific instrument in the Great Salt Lake.  It was interesting from several points of view.  First, it was extremely valuable ... six figures we understand.  Second, it is unique in that it was created to track several kinds of data, i.e., water temps, salinity, current, and numerous other scientific aspects of this unique body of water.  Third, the Great Salt Lake is so salty that it took the Diver wearing 60+ lbs. of weight to even be able to submerge.  That is twice the normal amount of weight.  Lastly, the Diver had to penetrate the "Deep Brine" layer of water, meaning that on the bottom of the lake is a super-dense layer of water, even more salty than the upper layer.  The Diver satated he could actually feel the Deep Brine layer, sort of like runny jello, as he penetrated down into it.

What is the scariest thing that has happened while you were diving?

The Dive Team was searching for a drowning victim on Bear Lake some years ago.  The water was 38 Fahrenheit, which is dreadfully frigid.  One diver had submerged to the lake bottom, which was 85' deep at that point.  An 80 cubic foot tank of air had been hung on the line at the 50' depth, in case of an emergency.  When the diver was finishing his dive, his breathing regulator froze up and air began gushing onto his face.  He immediately went up to the redundant tank at 50' and attempted to breathe off it.  It also failed.  He was able to make it to the surface safely, although he said it was the scariest moment in his life.  This is one reason why the DPS Dive Team trains extensively and even practices for emergency scenarios like this incident.

Is it allowed to dive or train with the Dive Team?


The DPS Dive Team participates in joint training exercises with other Utah government dive teams.  These are often exercises that allow the teams to become familiar with each others' abilities and procedures.  It is not normal that a citizen diver is allowed to participate in a training session.
[Last Update - Monday, 03-Mar-2014 16:00:02 MST]