San Diego lifeguards have provided underwater search, rescue, and recovery services since the 1950s. All members of the San Diego Lifeguard Service are trained to perform underwater search and recovery using mask, snorkel, and swim fins. Approximately 90% of the staff is scuba trained and scuba equipment is positioned in all emergency vehicles and boats.
In addition to these general diving skills, a specially trained, 11 member Dive Rescue Team is maintained to handle more complicated or arduous searches. The Dive Rescue Team is composed of lifeguards who are certified as Advanced Divers and Dive Rescue Specialists. Like all San Diego lifeguards, Dive Rescue Team members must demonstrate the ability to swim 500 meters in 10 minutes or less at least twice each year, consistent with United States Lifesaving Association minimum recommended guidelines. Services provided by the Dive Team include:
The Dive Rescue Team is mobilized any time a person is reported missing and believed to be submerged. Dive Rescue Team members employ emergency search procedures in these circumstances and lead searches involving other lifeguards. By agency policy, the emergency portion of a search is limited to one hour after victim submersion. This is believed to be the maximum window of opportunity for successful rescue of a victim in San Diego waters.