Designers like Dick Long, with Divers Unlimited International, and companies like Hunter Gates and Trelleborg Viking, began developing suits made from vulcanized rubber. Further, each of these companies began performing permeation tests to determine how long suits could perform surrounded by certain chemicals and hazards.
Trelleborg Viking recently created an additional dry suit design, referred to as the Haz-Mat Diving System, to minimize exposure and maximize safety. The HDS suit is made from a newer material called NITEC that boasts a more durable fabric than other suit types, and longer permeation times. Trelleborg also added specially designed inlet and exhaust valves that have double seals to keep leaks from entering the suit.
Inhalation and ingestion
Protecting divers from inhaling airborne particles or ingesting droplets of contaminated water is another concern when constructing dive equipment. Standard regulators that use a mouthpiece violate the exposure protection protocols necessary to dive safely in contaminated waters. These regulators are often removed and replaced from the mouth, and often come in contact with the water while diving.
Imagine a diver performing a body recovery and surfacing to ask for a tool or body bag. The diver would have to remove the regulator from his mouth, which would then hang down, potentially coming in contact with the water. When the diver replaces the regulator mouthpiece and takes a breath he would inevitably aspirate small droplets of water. These drops of water could contain small particles of necrotic skin, bacteria and viruses from the deceased.
To better protect divers, designers began developing special full face mask designs. When used with a dry suit, full face masks completely surround the diver's face and keep the water from coming in contact with the diver's skin and respiratory tract. Full face mask designs have improved through the years, and the implementation of silicone skirts, positive pressure and balanced air delivery regulators have vastly improved on the safety and comfort of previous designs. The Interspiro Divator MKII is a prime example; this mask has rapidly been adopted as the industry standard for public safety, commercial and military dive units.
An added benefit of full face masks is the addition of underwater communication devices. Full face masks can be outfitted with either wireless or hardwired systems that allow divers to talk to one another underwater and communicate directly with surface support personnel. This single addition drastically improved safety via direct communications between all parties. In addition, dives can be better directed, dive times shortened and exposure times limited.
More useful diving tools
Other specialized equipment like side scan sonar systems, remotely operated vehicles with underwater camera systems, magnetometers and surface-supplied air delivery systems have increased the overall effectiveness and abilities of these dedicated professionals.
Side scan sonar systems were originally designed for military and scientific diving communities. However, as technology has advanced prices have dropped dramatically and placed these units in the hands of divers worldwide. Side scan sonar units are either mounted to the hull of a vessel or towed behind the boat. The device transmits sound waves beneath the boat and reads the response. Images are displayed on either a computer screen or a paper printout with exceptional clarity. The newer sonar systems are even capable of reading the raised lettering on radial tires at depths exceeding 30 feet. The utilization of this single device allows divers to pinpoint a target before entering the water, and minimizes the in-water time necessary to perform complicated and dangerous search patterns.
Remotely operated vehicles are unmanned submarine units that house simple to complex navigation and camera equipment. The units are connected to the surface via a tether or wire, and are controlled by a joystick or keyboard command device. The ROV's camera system transmits video back to a topside control system and allows users to view underwater images through a monitor or television. Teams can conduct a search for evidence, vehicles and bodies without endangering the lives of divers.