Diving with NOAA
NOAA Divers are at the heart of NOAA’s mission: Ocean exploration, research, and marine conservation require NOAA to use diving and diving technologies to collect data, maintain its ships, install measuring and monitoring instruments, revitalize ecosystems and test equipment.
The NOAA Diving Program uses the following diving tables to calculate maximum depths and diving intervals:
Requirements for NOAA Divers
NOAA Divers are required to maintain a high level of proficiency, both in practice (in the water) and in theoretical understanding (academic learning) in order to continue to dive at NOAA. In addition, NOAA Divers must be medically fit to dive and are required to send their diving equipment out for maintenance as scheduled. If requirements are not met, divers may become unauthorized to dive or suspended.
In order to maintain active NOAA Diver status, the following requirements must be met:
Annual In-Water Proficiency
- Each diver must log a minimum of three (3) dives per calendar quarter. Calendar quarters are Jan 1-Mar 31; Apr 1-Jun 30; July 1-Sep 30; Oct 1-Dec 31.
- Once 24 dives have been recorded, the diver will remain proficient for the rest of that calendar year.
- Successfully pass an annual watermanship assessment.
- Successfully pass a check out dive administered by the Unit Diving Supervisor, which includes basic diving skills and an in-water rescue drill.
- Adult CPR, including AED.
- First Aid (American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or equivalent).
- Oxygen administration.
- Recognition and treatment of diving accidents and injuries.
- Rescue techniques.
- NOAA Dive Tables for Multiple Air Dives.
- NOAA Diving Standards, Policies, and Procedures.
Since the following documents contain personal information, please use an encrypted method of transmission, such as Accellion or the Diving Medical Officer's secured fax (206-529-2759).
- An initial physical examination (NOAA Form 57-03-50, 51, 52) is required for all new applicants and for any former NOAA Divers whose authorization to dive has lapsed for 2 years.
- Annually: either an Annual Medical History (NOAA Form 57-03-54) or a periodic physical exam (NOAA Form 57-03-50, 51, 52) depending on when your periodic physical examinations are due.
- Report of Medical History – Annual Update (NOAA Form 57-03-54)
- Due on the years that you do not have to submit a periodic physical exam
- Should be submitted annually on the same month as your last physical exam was performed
- Report of Physical Examination (NOAA Form 57-03-50, 51, 52)
- For divers under the age of 47, the exam is due every 5 years.
- For divers age 48, the exam is due in 4 years (at age 52).
- For divers age 49, the exam is due in 3 years (at age 52).
- For divers age 50 – 59, the exam is due every 2 years.
- For divers age 60 and over, the exam is due annually.
- Report of Medical History – Annual Update (NOAA Form 57-03-54)
To check when your current physical exam expires, log on to the NOAA Dive Log and check your profile.
You may need to submit additional documentation if the Diving Medical Officer (DMO) requires it before declaring you medically fit to dive.
Please be aware that even when a medical form is not due, active divers should report any significant medical changes to the DMO, such as:
- Any surgeries
- Any illness that requires hospitalization or medical intervention
- New medications (they can affect physiological response to pressure and the changing partial pressure of gases)
A notice with the relevant information should be sent to the DMO's email address at DMO@noaa.gov. If you become temporarily suspended from diving for medical reasons, you will need to submit a clearance from your provider before you are re-authorized to dive. If you have any doubts about what you should report, please contact a DMO.
The following equipment must be returned to the Standardized Equipment Program (SEP) office annually to be tested and/or overhauled:
- Primary regulator first stage and second stages with pressure gauge, UWATEC, and LP inflator hose
- Reserve Air Supply System (RASS) regulator first and second stages with pressure gauge
- Alternate Air Source with Buoyancy Compensator connector (remove from BCD at shoulder)
Failure to have SEP service these items by the due date posted in the NOAA Dive Log will result in suspension of authorization to dive.
In addition to the above requirements, Divemasters must also complete the following annual refresher training:
- 5-minute neurological examination.
- Diving accident management.
Suspension of NOAA Diving Privileges
NOAA diving certifications may be temporarily suspended or permanently revoked for cause. Temporary suspension of NOAA diving certification is typically issued for medical reasons or minor infractions of NOAA diving regulations, policies, or procedures. Permanent revocation of diving certification is typically reserved for more serious medical conditions or violations of NOAA diving regulations, policies, or procedures.
To Become Re-Authorized as a NOAA Diver
NOAA divers whose diving certifications have lapsed due to lack of activity shall be temporarily suspended pending the completion of a recertification program.
3-6 MONTH LAPSE IN CONDUCTING A DIVE:
- The diver must perform a training-only, basic checkout dive with the UDS or designee.
- Based on the diver’s performance during the checkout dive, the UDS may require additional academic or practical training in order to regain certification.
- Once the diver has met the recertification requirements prescribed by the UDS, the UDS will notify the NDC and the diver will be reauthorized to resume on-duty diving.
6-12 MONTH LAPSE IN CONDUCTING A DIVE:
- Divers must complete, at a minimum, a training-only, basic checkout dive with the UDS or designee and a Checkout Dive Skills Evaluation (NOAA form 57-03-35) must be completed.
- The UDS will forward a copy of the Skills Evaluation and a recommendation to the LODO for consideration.
- The LODO will determine if the diver has met the recertification requirements and either authorize the diver to return to diving status or specify any additional requirements needed to reauthorize.
- Once the diver is cleared to return to diving, the LODO will notify the NDC and the UDS that the diver may resume on-duty diving.
MORE THAN 12 MONTH LAPSE:
- The diver must complete a refresher training program specified by the LODO.
Representative examples of situations and infractions leading to temporary suspension include, but are not limited to:
- Failure of a diver to maintain minimum diving proficiency;
- A lapse of CPR, including adult AED, first aid, and/or oxygen administration;
- Failure to pass the Annual Watermanship Assessment;
- The NOAA Diving Medical Officer has concerns about findings on the Annual Medical Status Form;
- Failure of a diver to pass a NOAA diving physical examination within the prescribed, age-based interval;
- Failure of a diver to properly use or maintain NOAA-provided diving gear or support equipment;
- Failure of a diver to comply with the policies and procedures of this Manual;
- Reporting to the dive station mentally or physical impaired due to alcohol or other substance abuse;
- An injury or condition that requires medical treatment beyond basic first aid; and
- Surfacing from a dive with less than 500 pounds per square inch (psi).
Diving certifications can be temporarily suspended for cause by the NOAA Diving Program Manager, Line Office Diving Officer, Unit Diving Supervisor, or on-site Divemaster or Lead Diver.
Representative examples of situations and infractions leading to permanent revocation include, but are not limited to:
- Flagrant violation of NOAA standards, regulations, and policies (e.g., diving solo without a tender, diving after notification of a lapsed physical exam without obtaining reauthorization);or
- A not-fit-to-dive determination has been made by the Chair, NOAA Diving Medical Review Board (NDMRB), following the conclusion of an Individualized Assessment (See NOAA Diving Medical Standards and Procedures Manual).
Permanent revocation of diving certifications shall only be issued by the NOAA Diving Program Manager upon direction of the NOAA Diving Control and Safety Board (NDCSB).
Suspension or Revocation Appeal Process
Suspended divers may appeal the decision to the NDCSB within 30 days of receipt of notification. Terminated divers may appeal the decision to the Director, OMAO within 30 days of receipt of notification.