In the diving industry, certain types of accidents seem to go in and out of the media cycle. Cave diving accidents pop up once an a while, and for some time, dive tour operators around the globe were showing a disturbing inability to count divers before returning to port. A lot of these can be avoided by training, diving within your limits, and a basic level of competency. However, a new issue has raised its head, and its one that is, again, avoidable or at least one that can be mitigated. The problem is in emergency planning, or rather, the lack thereof.
It’s something that can happen to the best of us. You’re going out diving with your buddies to somewhere a bit remote or even somewhere familiar. Maybe you’re on vacation, and you’re out on a dive tour headed to a boat access only place, or even a really sweet shore dive. You hear the dive plan, conditions, max depth, safety notes, and then you get split into buddies. You do you buddy checks, and then hit the water. Assumed in all of this is the emergency plan. You know, the plan to evacuate you or another diver in the event of a serious diving accident. The trouble is, this plan isn’t often there, or known to the divers making the dive.
So what should an emergency plan look like? The key aspects are as follows:
- emergency transport: getting the injured diver from the point of the accident to emergency medical services, or to a rendezvous point with emergency vehicles
- the location of the closest medical facility
- the location of the closest hyperbaric chamber
- an on site medical care plan and equipment
- a sheet for information to give the emergency medical teams (depth, number of dives, length of dive etc…)
These may seem like fairly basic things, but when was the last time you made an emergency plan for one of your dives, or asked a dive tour operator what their plan was? Odds are, most haven’t. I know I haven’t always asked either.
On top of this, divers should familiarize themselves with the rudiments of dive medicine. It’s also a good idea to maintain insurance through groups like DAN, as a chamber ride can be a cost not covered by your normal medical insurance, or even by your trip insurance. The unfortunate thing is that, to my knowledge, this stuff doesn’t generally get covered until you do a rescue diver or equivalent course. To me, this is a mistake, since the idea that divers will only ever dive through their clubs or with dive operators is optimistic at best. Once certified, divers are free to dive as they please, and I’ve never seen any sense in not providing important information, especially when it’s the kind that can stand between life and death.
So, key takeaways here? Plan for emergencies. We all do the emergency ascents, buddy breathing, and pony tanks are gaining in popularity. But planning for the worst case, and knowing the plan, is just as important as knowing your maximum depth and the conditions of the area. So take care, dive smart, and dive safe.