Manta Divers November, 2009
I remember in my open water diver class the instructor saying, “Panic is your enemy.” I wondered what causes panic and how can a diver stop it once it starts? Many people think that a singular event or trauma triggers panic, but panic is almost always a culmination of a series of missteps and mishaps. By following a couple simple rules predive, many difficulties may be averted and if, despite your efforts, bad luck presents you with a situation, you can stop, think and act your way to safety.
Rule 1: Keep up with gear maintenance! The set up for panic usually starts well before a diver sets foot on a dive boat. It starts with poor gear maintenance. Regulator manufactures recommend an inspection and overhaul schedule. Even if you do not dive often, and you think your reg. cannot possibly need cleaning, remember that the o-rings and popets can dry out over time. It is well worth the visit to the dive shop to keep your equipment in top shape. BC’s can also benefit from a good pre-trip cleaning and inspection. Check that the Velcro closures are clean and still gripping tightly. Inflate the bladder and check for leaks. Inflate the bladder again and check that all dump valves are functioning. Inspect your wetsuit and booties for holes and check seams. Wetsuit repair goo is much cheaper here than on a remote island! Finally, carefully examine your mask and fin straps for weaknesses and evidence of stress. Put your mask on your face without the strap, just like you did when you first tried it on at the shop, and breathe in through your nose. It should still seal around your face. If it does not, it could be that there is a small leak around the lenses. If the mask was an inexpensive one, or not properly stored, the silicone may have stiffened up, decreasing its ability to hug the structure of your face. A final possibility is that you have lost (or gained) enough weight to change the shape of your face and you may need to do a little pre-trip shopping. Again, it is better to find these things out before you get to your destination.
Rule 2: Make sure you are in shape to dive. Are you in good health? Make sure you have all prescriptions filled before leaving the country. When was the last time you dove? Get into a scuba review class to make sure you still remember how to set up your gear and perform the skills you need for diving. Review the dive charts, even if you rely upon a dive computer, in case of battery failure.
Rule 3: Perform a predive safety check. If you read the last newsletter, you know the steps: W-weights. Check that you have them on and that you have the right amount. B-BCD. Check with your buddy that your BDC is adjusted for maximum comfort and streamlining. Connect all gear to clips and straps to decrease drag, make sure tank is secured, and make sure the low pressure inflator is connected and functioning. Make sure you know how both your and your buddy’s BDC inflate, deflate, clip and unclip. A-Air. Turn on each other’s air and then check it personally by taking a hit from your regulator while watching the pressure gauge. The needle should not move it the air is on. R-Releases. Familiarize yourself with your buddy’s releases and confirm they are secure. F-final OK. Make sure you are clear on the dive plan, signals, return time or air pressure and you both feel confident about the dive, then dive your plan!
That said, things can still go wrong and you may find yourself in trouble. Your first thought should be how much air do I have? Unless you are not OUT of air, you have time to think things through. It is merely a matter of how long you can think about it. Suppose you become separated from your buddy and he was navigating? Remember the rule for buddy separation. Look for 1 minute and if you don’t reunite, slowly ascend to the surface to rejoin your buddy. If your buddy was in front of you, he may notice you’re gone and retrace his route to find you. If the visibility is poor, you can scan the water toward the surface for bubbles. Their “shiny” appearance makes them more visible than a diver’s suit or fins. What if you suddenly find yourself sinking, unable to counteract the descent by finning? Stop. Try to grab something to stop you. Check air. Think. If your inflator is not functioning, and you have air, you can orally inflate your BCD. Try that. If that fails, it may be that your dump valves are not seated correctly or there is a large leak on the bladder of the BCD. Take note of your depth. Think. What made you sink in the first place: your weights. You can dump your weights. If you do this, be sure to continue to monitor the rate at which you ascend. You may have dump any air that is still in your BCD to slow you, and as you approach the surface, you may have to flair yourself out to increase drag. Once on the boat, monitor yourself for DCS. Knowing some diving first aid is a good way to short circuit panic caused from injuries from marine plants or animals, or other diving related causes. The Rescue Diver course is an excellent way to help you gain this knowledge. Again the best way to cope is to prepare, think and act.
There are thousands of scenarios that a diver could think up, but the bottom line is that survivors don’t panic. Survivors have prepared themselves so as to prevent a mishap, but keep a cool head if something does happen. They use their experience and training to keep them safe. The key is “Stop, Think and Act”.
In Other News….
Don’t forget to get your deposit in for the Spring (April 11-17. 2009) Cozumel trip.
- Roundtrip Air from Chicago
- 7 nights accommodations, double occupancy
- All meals and coffee at breakfast
- 5 days, 2 tank boat dives, unlimited shore diving
- $2060 for single occupancy
- $1655 for non diver
All in stock Deep See and Aquaflex wetsuits (’07) models
All in stock Diva XLT, Latitude, Pro and Malibu BC’s
WHILE SUPPLIES LAST!
Take a little time to browse around the website and see what’s new. We’ve added a “Links” page, expanded our gear info, added to our class descriptions, and reorganized our certified diver page. In the next weeks, we will have a “Find a Dive Buddy” page, too, so check us out! www.mantadiveshop.com
Congratulations to newlyweds, Megan Singer, our dive shop helper, and Craig Murdock! Best Wishes for many happy years together!