Photo Credit OceanEdge Outfitters

Catch problems before they become emergencies

Technical dives can often be complicated adventures.  Complex dive profiles, task loading objectives, extensive equipment requirements, remote locations, and emergency procedures are all elements that need to be thoroughly discussed and agreed upon prior to the dive.  These discussions can often go on for days, weeks, or even months.  However on the actual dive day, the team will often assemble to run through all elements of the dive to be sure everyone is on the same page and all aspects of the dive have been taken into account.

Once the team has determined that site conditions are favorable for a dive, it is important to conduct a thorough pre-dive briefing.  If unexpected environmental factors require alterations to the dive plan, discuss this with the team and make the necessary modifications.  A dive briefing must include a review of the dive objectives, dive profile, gasses utilized, route, communication techniques, problem solving procedures, and team coordination.

Dive Objectives:  What is the point of the dive?  Does everyone in the team agree that the dive is worth making, and aware of their responsibilities and how to complete the objectives?  This is a very important discussion point, and it’s critical to remember that while it’s often the first topic that comes up (because if there was no objective, there wouldn’t be a reason to dive), it is always last on the priority list during the dive.  If all other elements of the dive come together, completing the objective should be the result of that. If any element of the dive fails, the dive is aborted and the objective may be left incomplete.  At no point is the safety of a single diver or the team as a whole to be jeopardized in order to complete the objective.

Dive Profile:  Depth, time, and decompression obligations for the dive must be agreed upon.  Is everyone comfortable with and have experience at the planned depth?  Is everyone willing to complete the required decompression?  Is the dive within all oxygen exposure limits?  It is also important to make sure all support divers and surface support are aware of and approve the profile as well.  In an emergency situation, where all the divers are at and their estimated decompression obligations can be vital information when deciding how to proceed.

Gasses Used:  What is everyone breathing?  It is critical that all divers verify their gasses are analyzed and labeled appropriately for the dive.  It is perfectly acceptable for any team member to request to analyze a teammate’s gas if they are unsure of a cylinder’s contents.  In an emergency, this gas may be donated to another team member, and everyone needs to be confident that they know what they may be breathing.  This is also a good time to discuss turn pressures and gas matching to verify adequate emergency reserves for all team members.

Route:  Make sure all team members are aware of the planned route.  Site maps are a useful tool during this phase, especially if the site is new to anyone on the team.

Communication:  Communication is extremely important on any technical dive, and confusion can create seriously dangerous situations.  Make sure all divers and surface support are familiar with all hand signals, verbal communication, and any other communication (such as surface marker/lift bag deployment) that will be used throughout the dive.

Problem Solving Procedures:  When everyone on the team is familiar with how any foreseeable problem will be handled, the issue can often be resolved before becoming a catastrophic emergency.  In the event of a true emergency, a fast and efficient response is critical; this is made possible by making sure all team members are familiar with how the situation will be handled.

Team Coordination:  Each diver needs to confirm they understand their role and position in the team.

Once this team briefing has been completed and all members are comfortable with each of the topics, it’s time to board the boat, get kitted up, and prepare to dive.  Once all divers are prepared to dive, we do one last safety check using the acronym START:

  • S- Safety Drill or S-drill: bubble check / air sharing drill
  • T- Team Equipment and Readiness Check:  Perform a head to toe assessment, confirming that each team member has the necessary equipment; it is functioning properly, and is properly stowed.
  • Air (all gases):  Ensure all primary cylinders are turned on and that secondary bottles are pressurized.  Check all pressures, validate all maximum operating depths.
  • R- Route:  Review the planned route and dive objectives
  • T- Tables:  Review the planned maximum depth, run times, and required stops

By conducting both thorough team briefings and pre-dive safety checks, we can often catch problems before they become emergencies.

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI
If you would like more information, please contact our World Headquarters or your Regional Office.

Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201

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