DAN Member Profile: Barry Olson

My title at The Seas is not really what I do,” says Barry Olson, animal programs manager and dive safety officer for Epcot and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

In reality, Olson does much more: He’s responsible for all guest pay-to-dive programs and “anything underwater” at The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot, The Ranch at Ft. Wilderness, Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, Ko Olina resort in Hawaii and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He also handles training for 175 divers and conducts a variety of diving-related programs outside of Disney theme parks. One day a call finds Olson in his office between meetings and planning sessions; on another day, a caller might interrupt him during sea turtle research south of Vero Beach.

DAN member Barry Olson poses in front of a tank

His career began shortly after he learned to dive in the early 1980s. Intent on learning more about the sport, he left his family’s farm in Minnesota to spend summers teaching diving in Florida. “One year I stayed,” he says. “That was thanks to Jim Hollis, owner of Orlando’s Scuba World.”

Olson worked there 10 years, learning the business, organizing dive trips and ultimately managing four stores. Next came a stint in commercial diving. When the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department approached him about starting a dive team, Olson attended the police academy and became a deputy, training his fellow officers and fire department personnel. Then Disney came calling, needing a senior dive tech to handle underwater repairs and film shoots. True to the form of his career, “things just happened,” Olson says. “When an opportunity presented itself, I took it, and I moved forward.”

In 2005, Olson was instrumental in the creation of DAN’s Diving First Aid for Professional Divers program, suggesting the idea of a combined training curriculum to Scott Smith, DAN Training programs manager. The program — which includes Oxygen First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries, First Aid for Hazardous Marine Life Injuries, AEDs for Scuba Diving, workplace CPR and first aid training — was tested with Olson’s staff and made public in 2006.

© Alert Diver — Q1 Winter 2010