Divers with the Dawson County Underwater Search and Recovery Team completed training last week that certifies the entire group at the technician level.
Made up of Dawson County sheriff's deputies and firefighters, the team can now perform advanced search and recovery missions thanks in part to a Homeland Security grant received through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
The grant allowed the team to purchase new, state of the art equipment, a luxury the team had lacked since it was established years ago.
"I was the dive team for quite some time several years ago. We started out with me and my personal equipment, and it kind of morphed along with us addressing the need that we had because we do have quite a bit of water here in the county," said Greg Rowan, dive team commander.
The team received its level one profession training certification in 2010, but even then, the equipment was a "hodgepodge," including some personal gear divers brought from home.
Among the new equipment are dry suits allowing divers to go in the water despite cold temperatures, hazardous materials gear for missions involving fluids like gasoline in the lakes, rivers or ponds, and communication apparatus for those on the surface to talk to the divers underwater.
"There's no way we would have got all that without this grant," Rowan said. "Now our dive team is much more competent and capable. It's much safer for the divers to participate and go out there and function on a mission."
Previously, Dawson County relied heavily on the dive teams in Forsyth and Hall counties for assistance.
"ERDI [the Public Safety diving agency] is the same group that trains Hall County and Forsyth County," Rowan said. "Our training is under the same umbrella as these folks, so our divers are equally trained as the Hall and Forsyth County divers."