Manta Divers, May 2012, Stop the Panic cycle
One thing that I remember from my own open water class was my instructor intoning, “Panic is a diver’s worst enemy.” If you read the accounts of diving accidents and mishaps you likely have made the connection between fatalities and panic in a diver. Knowing that, how, when faced with an unexpected occurrence underwater do you keep hold of yourself and work though the difficulty?
The first step in averting panic is, of course, to prevent it all together. Panic is not the result of one bump in the road, but rather a series of small bumps that combine to make a mountain. Stressors can be as minor as using unfamiliar gear, diving with a new buddy or simply diving in water that has less visibility or is colder than you have experienced before, but put all of these stressors on one diver and you have a perfect set up for panic.
Owning your own dive gear is optimal. You will know where everything is, it will fit you and you will know that it has been properly maintained. However, in some situations, renting gear is unavoidable. In that case, once the gear is issued to you, take the time to check the fit of the BC, check that it holds air when inflated, and locate all the dump pulls. Assemble your set up and check the ease of breathing of the regulator. Check that the auto inflator works without leaking and sniff the air. (It should not smell like anything.) If you are renting a computer, be sure that someone takes the time to thoroughly explain how it works.
If your dive buddy is new, get to know him. Ask how many dives he has logged, where he likes to have his dive buddy, behind him, next to him or whatever. Let him know if you have ear problems or other issues, and discuss your descent strategy, downline, free descent, etc. Listen together to the dive briefing, then plan together, time, air and depth limits for the dive and review signals. Finally, familiarize yourself with your new buddy’s gear to prepare yourself in case of an emergency.
What if all your efforts to avoid panic still finds you in a situation where your heart is pounding out of your chest and you are starting to feel air deprived. In spite of how counter intuitive this seems, stop what you are doing and take a deep breath. Fill your lungs and then slowly exhale. This technique usually results in an immediate slowdown of the heart rate and restores regular breathing. Once that is accomplished, check your pressure gauge and remind yourself that there are many solutions to the problem you are facing and that you have enough air* to find the right one.
Then start thinking. Clearly define what the problem is; inflator hose leaking, entanglement, aggressive marine life, lost? Signal your buddy if you have a tank banger or other underwater noise maker to see if he can be of assistance. Think of solutions. Can I disconnect my inflator hose? Do I have a knife to cut myself free? Is the animal really aggressive or just curious? At least you know where the surface is!
Finally, act on your plan in a slow calm, methodical way. If your chosen solution does not work, then stop, think of another solution and act on your new plan. The Key to remember is that panic wastes air, dulls your problem solving skills and squanders precious time. In short, panic is your worst enemy!
*Even if at this point you are low on air, you are not OUT of air, so you may have to act quickly, but the key is to slow your breathing to economize on air consumption and act out of logic rather than blind panic.
In Other News………………
Remember that May 8th at 6:30pm, Manta Divers is hosting a Drysuit Night. Our new Bare rep, Bo Harper will be a hand to show the Bare line, discuss the various drysuit materials available, including the new SB System suit, explain the many advantages of drysuit diving and answer any questions you may have about drysuits. Just to sweeten the pot, we are offering 20% off your purchase on May 8th and a FREE Drysuit specialty course. ($119 value!) Light refreshments will be served.
Need a new Dive Computer? Well, do we have a deal for you!!! Trade in your old dive computer (even if it no longer works) and get $125 off on a new Suunto D9tx, D6i, and D4i, or $100 off on a new Vyper, Cobra 3 or Cobra! Offer good until July 31, 2012.
Announcing 2013 Team Manta Adventures!
January 12-19, 2013 Bonaire! Unlimited diving, unlimited nitrox (certification required) and unlimited adventure!
March 30-April 6, 2013 Cayman Brac. All inclusive, 3 boat dives per day!
Details coming soon!
Get your name on the roster for our summer dive excursions, sign up for Advanced Open Water, Night Diver, Search and Recovery, Peak Performance Buoyancy or any other Specialty course you are interested in. Make the most of your diving certification and sharpen your skills.
There is still room in the Rescue Diver Course. Sign up today!
Remember that Manta Divers can arrange for private Try Scuba experiences, Open Water Diving Courses and Emergency First Response courses for groups of 4 or more.