Dr. Thomas Powell
The modern scuba world is one of excitement, adventure, exploration, and enjoyment. Every day people take to the water to see new things or enjoy a different environment from the norm. Despite this trend, there are a select few individuals who choose to dive in order to serve their communities. These divers are willing to get wet despite harsh conditions, limited or no visibility, and dangerous environments. Essentially, when a truck containing hazardous materials experiences an accident in the middle of a snowy winter night, there are people out there who are willing to attempt to rescue or recover the driver. These problematic diving conditions suggest that public safety divers must work to remain safe and protected as much as possible. One of the primary items that can add to a public safety diver’s protection is the full face mask. Within the public safety diving community, full face masks have largely replaced the standard recreational scuba mask in both training and operational settings. The following factors suggest why all public safety divers should love the full face mask and seek to utilize them to improve safety and operational capabilities.
- First, the full face mask is an item that allows for the encapsulation of a diver’s face. If worn with a latex hood, the head and the soft tissues around the mouth, nose, and eyes will be protected. On those difficult days when a diver must submerge into unknown conditions and potentially hazardous materials, the chance of injury or ailment is reduced. This factor can provide protection from chemical contaminants, hazardous biological materials, and even cold. Similarly, fitting attachments such as spider straps ensure that a full face mask can be securely attached to the head of a diver and remain more secure when compared to a traditional mask with a single strap. The fact that a diver’s head is better protected can help to improve confidence, capability, and even response time.
- Improved Field of Vision
Second, the full face mask provides an increased field of vision when compared to a traditional scuba mask. The large lens structure found in many full face units provides a wider, clear surface area than traditional masks, and therefore improved visual capability. In most scenarios, public safety divers may not have the luxury of clear, high-visibility water, but when an individual does have the ability to see, the greater the field of vision, the better a diver can search or make observations.
Perhaps more important than anything, full face mask units provide a resource that has not always been available to the public safety diving community. In years past, divers have relied on rope, hand, or tactile signals. Communications systems found in full face masks allow divers to communicate to not only other divers, but to the surface support team during an operation. This factor allows for complete discussion relating to scenarios, the provision of guidance, and the possibility of improved recognition during problem situations.
Finally, a full face mask allows for unique and improved breathability. Essentially, a diver can breathe from his or her nose. During intense or difficult scenarios, a diver on a full face mask unit can take deep breaths through both the mouth and nose into the lungs. This factor can improve the ability to relax and remain calm during problematic situations.
The full face mask is a unique tool for any public safety diver. It allows a diver to communicate, gain improved visibility, and protect soft tissues. There is no reason that a public safety dive team should not use, care for, and promote the use of full face mask units in operational settings and training environments. A resource of this type can help to protect the life of an individual who works to assist others. Programs such as the ERDI Full Face Mask Operations Course can help any dive team learn to better utilize and employ full face mask units during operational activities.
-Dr. Thomas Powell
Air Hogs Scuba