Self Sufficient: “Taking Care of Number One”

Self-SufficientRecently in a discussion about solo diving and how it fits or doesn’t fit into recreational diving, a colleague mentioned that public safety divers were far removed from solo diving, given that PSD divers have the support of a team, a backup diver, communications and a whole host of support systems. Well, that is a fair statement. However, that is not to say that divers should not have to worry about self-sufficiency.

While ERDI divers depend on tethers, communications either via hard-wire or wireless, and even possibly surface supplied air, developing self sufficient skills is an enormous additional tool that can be available to the public safety diver. Let’s take a quick look at some of the various components that add up to increasing self sufficient skills.

  • Redundant Air. We’ll start with one of the most obvious pieces of equipment and that is a bailout bottle or pony bottle. Any dive team SOP should include this as a mandatory item for any diver that enters the water. Regardless of depth…3 feet/1 meter or 33 feet/10 meters, a properly mounted and easily available redundant air source must be on the diver. Certainly how this is deployed is dependent on your team’s protocols and training. This would also include surface supply air utilizing a switch block.
  • Equipment. This surely is a consideration and a topic that could easily go on for several pages. It is worth briefly mentioning that in addition to a redundant air source of at least 18 cf/3 liters, deploying with two cutting devices that are mounted in appropriate places should be part of your dive kit. What is an appropriate place? A knife/rescue shears/line cutter should be within arm’s reach. Leave the “twelve inch shark killer” in the dive locker, and not on the outside of your leg. If you are using brighter and more powerful primary lights, deploy with a smaller, easily mounted backup light. Like a cutting device, it should be within arm’s reach.
  • Awareness. Insure that your situational awareness skills are good and pay attention. Of course at times, it will be impossible to ever see your SPG; still, you can get a sense of where you are in terms of remaining air by knowing the depth of the operation and an estimate of the time at depth. Now, I realize this is a very broad statement, and at times, impossible to know. However with training and practice, it can become an acquired skill. If the diver is using electronic communication with their tender, then it becomes much easier to havethe tender monitor both depth (with knowledge of the dive site) and time.
  • SAC Rate. Both the diver and the tender should become proficient at calculating the diver’s surface air consumption rate. While I won’t go into the actual methods to calculate this as there are plenty of resources available to do so, learning how to calculate your SAC rate will not only give yet another tool, it will also go a long way in boosting your air consumption “awareness”. Knowing how we, as divers, consume air gives a greater understanding and appreciation of the dive plan needed for a given mission at a given location.
  • Training. There is no substitution for a well-oiled machine…a well-trained team…to keep everyone safe so that everyone gets to go home. Training for and in the conditions your team will encounter is necessary to insure favorable outcomes, whether the dive is rescue or recovery. Repeated actions, realistic scenarios and post critiques of previous operations provide the foundation of training. And oft-repeated actions lead to muscle memory which is part of being self sufficient.
  • State of Mind. Without a doubt, your state of mind plays a big role in self-sufficiency. You can have the tools i.e. redundant air source/spare mask/multiple cutting devices and a secret decoder ring, it won’t make a difference if your head is in the wrong place. Focus on the job at hand, rely on your training and be the professional that you are. If you aren’t focused, perhaps it is not your day to dive.

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