Every diver is taught from the beginning of training that the buddy system is the most reliable way to get you out of a bad situation and, for the most part, this works very well. Public safety divers don’t always have this choice but they are not really solo diving either.
Public safety divers are frequently called to dive in some of the worst conditions. Often times public safety dives are zero visibility, where even if the divers had a dive buddy in the water with them it would not help. On the other hand, public safety divers probably have some of the best redundancy built into their dive plan if the team is structured and equipped properly. The structure of the team should be such that they have one diver in the water with a designated tender on land and a second diver, often referred to as a back-up or 90% diver, also with a designated tender.
The diver’s equipment includes a lot of the same items a solo diver might use: redundant air supply, back-up cutting devices, back-up mask, etc, but one item really sets them apart: the tender line. This line is a direct link to someone on the surface who can render assistance right away. Sometimes this communication takes place with a series of line tugs and other times it is verbal communication. While this may sound like a minor difference, it is major. Nowhere in solo dive planning is there a check box for back-up divers or tenders.
So next time you get ready for a dive and you are thinking it is a solo dive, remember this, if your team is trained, equipped and structured properly, you may be in the water alone, but you are far from it. Before any dive, a risk-benefit analysis must be completed and only on very, very rare occasions is it acceptable to get into the water before the entire team has arrived on scene and is ready.
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