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Topside Newsletter: May 2017

May 2017

In this Issue: Report from the NDCSB Annual Meeting, NDC upcoming classes, NDP T-Shirt Design Contest open to NOAA Divers (you could win one!), wanted: NOAA Diver photos and stories.

NDCSB Annual Meeting

The NOAA Diving Control and Safety Board held its annual meeting at the end of April. RADM David Score, Director of OMAO, attended the first day of the meeting and announced that he will be retiring in September 2017. He stated his support for the mission of the NOAA Diving Program and the work of the NDCSB. Here are some of the salient discussions from the meeting.

Board Election

The NDCSB elected NMFS DLODO Ray Boland as the new Chair of the Board for the next 2-year term.

Andy David and Ray Boland

Former NDCSB Chair Andy David hands over the gavel to Ray Boland. 

Local Training Option

The Safety Board came to an agreement on a list of guidelines to restart the program that will certify Field Trainers, as requested by a majority of Unit Diving Supervisors at the April UDS Workshop. Certified NOAA Diving Trainers will be able to prepare and certify divers with previous Rescue Diver certification as NOAA Divers. The NOAA Diving Center will be offering the first updated NOAA Field Trainer Course on August 21-25, 2017 in Seattle, WA.  All candidates need to be Board approved and recommended by the UDS/LODO prior to enrollment. Candidates can contact to begin the registration process. Information about the course was sent on May 4th to all Unit Diving Supervisors.

First Aid/CPR/O2 Certification Expiration Dates

The Board decided that all First Aid and CPR certifications will be valid at NDP for 2 years. For Oxygen Administration, divers must participate in an in-person class every 2 years and complete the online NDC refresher course every other year. Class certificates must be e-mailed to NDC at, but online refresher completion will be monitored at the unit level by the UDS.

Fitness to Dive

NDP does not currently have a fitness test that would allow Diving Medical Officers to assess divers’ fitness to dive. CAPT Joel Dulaigh has been in touch with University of Tasmania researchers that are currently studying various ways to determine diver fitness to prevent injuries. He is planning to develop a NOAA study to begin collecting data about what may work best with the NOAA community.

Lifting diving bottles while being timed.

NDCSB Chair Ray Boland and NMFS LODO Andy David try potential fitness tests for divers during the NDCSB's 2017 Annual Meeting.

Air Testing Requirements

The recently published Navy Diving Manual Revision 7 (NDM Rev7) reduces the allowable carbon monoxide (CO) in air from 20 ppm to 10 ppm, and has new moisture content and dew point standards. The NOAA Diving Program’s air content to date has been tested to Navy Standards and is now undergoing testing based on the NDM Rev7standards. Although CO historical results consistently pass the newer stricter standards, moisture and dew point have never been tested before opening up the possibility that some compressors may fail the new tests. The Navy’s additional requirements were reportedly added in order to prevent regulator problems in cold weather, however, the NDP has already taken preventive measures with regulators by adopting the Mares Abyss 22 Navy II, which is in the approved for Navy use for extreme cold water list. NDP will continue to use NDM Rev 7 standards to collect test results for the next 6 months in order to find out if the new standards will become a problem for the Program.


In order to give proper notice to all divers, the NDCSB will send notification of NDP policy changes prior to implementation via e-mail. The information will also be relayed in the Topside Newsletter and on the NDP website. Topside Newsletters will also be available in the Topside blog of the NDP website. 

In the past, NOAA Divers have requested the ability to listen in on NDCSB monthly conference calls. Although some of the meetings need to remain confidential since they may involve diving incidents or other sensitive information, the Board agreed to allow divers to call in for a period of time at the beginning of each meeting. Meeting dates are published in the online NDP calendar as they are scheduled. Contact if you are interested in listening during a scheduled meeting. The next scheduled meeting is on June 1 at 11 am Pacific Time.

Diver Database will change its name to “NOAA Dive Log”

The new Diver Database currently being developed will be named the “NOAA Dive Log”. UDSs overwhelmingly voted for this name in an online survey in April. The DMS will be used until the NOAA Dive Log is officially rolled out. The name was causing some confusion at OMAO because their Document Management System is also referred to as “DMS”. The NOAA Dive Log is basically an update of the current DMS system that will run on HTML rather than Microsoft Silverlight and will be accessible through any internet browser.

Ship Diving Officer Roles

The Board acknowledged that Commanding Officers in NOAA Ships often appoint the least experienced NOAA Divers to the Ship Diving Officer role. This leaves many Ship Diving Officers without enough information about NOAA administrative procedures to effectively manage the position. The Board decided that the NDP needs to be proactive about educating Commanding Officers (COs) about the importance of this role and are planning to reach out to them during the next CO/XO seminar. Plans include making contact with every Ship Officer to provide guidance, mentioning potential issues to NOAA Corps Officers during the NOAA Diver course, and drafting a Ship Diving Officer Manual that can be adopted and catalogued in the OMAO Document Management System.

Alpha Flag

With the help of a NOAA Attorney Advisor, the Safety Board was able to determine that flying a 1 meter by 1 meter rigid Alpha flag (as required by U.S. Coast Guard regulations) on board a vessel are the responsibility of the vessel operator. If you find anything amiss and feel that your safety is being compromised, please speak up! Any diver can refuse to dive under unsafe conditions.

Operational Risk Management

The Safety Board was briefed by Navy Diver Chief Gray Ladd about the recent changes to the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Operational Risk Management (ORM) process. Navy Diver Chief Ladd helped craft the changes after the Aberdeen diving incident.

Archaeology and UXO

In order to accommodate instances where divers need to work closer to unexploded ordinance than is allowed in the current NOAA Diving Standards and Safety Manual (NDSSM), in particular during archaeological surveys, the NDCSB voted to allow the creation of a new Archeology and UXO Special Task Endorsement (STE). The STE is currently being developed. The list of STEs will also be updated and the changes will be reflected in the new NOAA Dive Log.

DUSA Checklist

NOAA Diving Safety Officer Roger Mays and the NDCSB will be working together in the coming months to revise the DUSA checklist to streamline the list and better reflect the safety needs of the field. Please continue to use the current checklist on the NDP website until further notice.

Annual Refresher Training

Due to a backlog at the NOAA Diving Center, there are no longer any Annual Refreshers available that include a quiz (except the Oxygen Administration course in the Commerce Learning Center (CLC)). All divers should work with their UDS to review the latest PowerPoint slides that are being used in the NOAA Diver classes at NDC to complete their annual refreshers. UDSs can contact if they need assistance gaining access to the PowerPoint Slides.

Diving Code of Federal Regulations

The work the NOAA Diving Program completes is unique in that it conducts both scientific and OSHA-subject dives. It has been historically difficult to obtain OSHA waivers for work that applies specifically to NOAA diving, and this has led to a desire to start exploring the possibility of writing a Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) specific to diving. The Board will begin exploring this option in the coming months with help from legal counsel.

Other topics covered

Here is a list of other topics that were discussed: Changes to Tech Diving Supervisor and Tech Light procedures, updating and cataloging Special Task Endorsements, Overhead Environment Training, Long Term Health Monitoring of CCR divers, Coordination with the Small Boat Program, Equipment Service Periodicity, Dive log suggestions, Diver recall systems, Snorkeling, how to turn a reciprocity diver into a NOAA Diver, Certification for NOAA Chamber Operators, and clarifications to the NDSSM.

If you have any questions about the items that were discussed please contact your LODO or DLODO.

The NOAA Diving Control and Safety Board members

The NOAA Diving Board posed at the NOAA Diving Center with Jake, the Mark V diver. From left to right: DSO Roger Mays, SECO Advisor Joe Duran, OMAO LODO Bill Gordon, DMO CAPT Joel Dulaigh, NDP Manager Greg McFall, NMFS DLODO Ray Boland, NOS LODO Brian Degan, NMFS LODO Andy David, NOS DLODO Joe Hoyt, OMAO DLODO LCDR Faith Knighton, and NDC Manager Dave Kowalick. 


The NOAA Diving Center just concluded their May NOAA Diver and Divemaster courses. Additional diving courses are scheduled as follows:

Aug 21-25, 2017 – NOAA Diving Field Trainer (Seattle, WA)

Sept 11-29, 2017 – NOAA Diver modules 1, 2, and 3 (Seattle, WA)

Sept 18-29, 2017 – NOAA Divemaster (Seattle, WA)

Oct 16-27, 2017 – Physicians Training in Diving Medicine (Seattle, WA)

Dec 11-15, 2017 – Diving Medical Technician (Seattle, WA)

Jan 29-Feb 16, 2018 – NOAA Diver modules 1, 2, and 3 (Key West, FL)

Feb 5-16 – NOAA Divemaster (Key West, FL)

Please contact for more information on any of these classes.


NOAAA Divemaster graduates

Four new NOAA Divemasters graduated on May 26: (L to R) Eric White, Kristin Leefers (EPA), Stephen Matadobra, and Alex Helphrey (Everett Police).

NDP T-Shirt Design Contest

Open to All NOAA Divers:


NOAA Design Contest postcard

T-Shirt Design contest open to NOAA Divers.

Field Stories and Photos

Field season is now in full swing! During the UDS Workshop, many mentioned that it is of great benefit for everyone to know more about what other diving units are doing. We would love to hear from you about your projects! Please send any photos and descriptive text to We can post them on the NDP Facebook page, on the NDP website, and in Topside.

A Diver with a small net underwater

A NOAA Diver from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center conducts herring spawning research.

Keep up the good work!



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