14 October 2005

Review your skills, check gear, plan dive. Repeat.

It's very easy to assume we're diving safely, however, the possibility of something going wrong is very good. Willy at Divester has this to say...

For example, I've had the same gear for 16 years. I know exactly where everything is and how it works. I know what dangles where; what goes in which pocket; and what needs to be tweaked just so. I usually dive with my dad, and we've devised an excellent dive-buddy relationship, whereby we know what the other likes, dislikes, expects, and gets bored with, so we feel very comfortable diving with each other. But, although we perform a gear check before each dive, it's possible that it is our comfort level that could be our undoing.

Yesterday, I posted about diving Valhalla Missile Silo, a 130-foot-deep former missile silo in Abilene, Texas. Although your average rec diver can't dive it – it serves mainly as a training facility for tech diving – groups of 12 or more divers can "book" the silo and dive it. It sounds like a great, fun, unusual dive – something to brag about at the bar that night.

However, I just finished reading a very disturbing story about a dive in the silo. In it, the author, an advanced diver, and his buddy decide to dive the silo, and – largely due to his exceedingly high, yet misplaced, comfort level – had an experience that nearly killed him. The writer accepts full responsibility for the incident, admitting that, on this particularly tricky dive he (a) used a cheap, unbalanced reg; (b) tested new gear; (c) lost contact with his dive buddy; (d) forgot his signs; (e) did not plan a dive; and (f) did not dive a plan. He was over-comfortable with his skill and ability, and he nearly died. Pride, as they say, cometh before the fall (a rule that every reality show contestant who did NOT win has forgotten immediately prior to their expulsion).

Anyway, it's easy for us to assume that we remember perfectly our dive skills and are familiar with our dive gear. Further, since we have been on hundreds (or even thousands) of dives, we trust there’s no chance of a problem. However, it's impossible to control all the variables that go into an easy dive, not to mention a technical dive. When his primary gave out, the author in this story forgot to reach for his octopus, which seems like the world's most obvious solution. As an experienced diver, he shouldn't've forgotten that. But he did.

The author claims he's telling his "embarrassing" story to remind other divers of the importance of smart diving. Smart diving means being ultra-prepared and completely aware of everything going on around you, because no matter how much time you spend preparing, you never really know how you'll react to a particular situation until you find yourself in it. Panic is a crippling beast.

  • Review your skills, including your underwater signals.
  • Check your gear. Twice.
  • Check your buddy's gear.
  • Follow an agreed-upon dive plan.
  • Don't test new gear on a technically demanding dive.
  • Listen to the dive briefing.
  • Look around you.
  • Keep your buddy in sight.

    I bet you're thinking, "Oh, Dude, I know all this." And you probably do. But in the excitement of a new dive, with some special gear, on a cool boat, on the water, it's easy to forget just a little something and panic. Knowing how to dive smart and diving smart are entirely different.

    I don't like writing posts about divers that go missing or die on trips. Please help me not to have to write many more.

    Source: www.divester.com


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