Typical Problems With Divers

At every dive site there are situations that arise which can result in an accident befalling. No site is immune, not even the Rescue Team's site. When divers start believing that they are immune then dangerous situations arise. Learn to recognize and correct potential problems before they happen. Accidents occur in six problem areas.

Accidents Problem Areas
Pre-Dive Problems
Surface Problems
Descent Problems
Problems During the Dive
Ascent Problems
Post Dive Problems

By watching for conditions in these areas, and correcting them, divers will be practicing problem prevention. As with surface rescues, the victims present themselves the same four ways and the situation has to be continually assessed. The objective of an underwater rescue is to get the victim to the surface, and establishing his buoyancy.

Pre-dive problems are situations that occur before a dive. They consist of everything from unloading equipment, to entering the water. The BUDDY CHECK is the practice of divers inspecting each other before entering the water, many divers do not do it. If the site has a Divemaster, he is to double check the buddies as they enter the water, but most of the time he is to busy, assuming that each buddy has checked the other.

When divers rush to get in the water, as with rescue divers, they sometimes forget a piece of gear. This may require another trip to the equipment site, or transcends into problems later during the dive. As divers enter the water, one buddy may be weighted incorrectly. When this transpires the buddy without the weight problem typically waits for his buddy in the water. While waiting, he can develop cramps while treading water on the surface. Sometimes the incorrectly weighted diver will try to dive without adding more weight. This results in having to abort to dive after several attempts to go under and surface swimming, thus adding added fatigue.

A good buddy averts many situations that arise on a dive that can be potentially dangerous, but are corrected by him. A feeling of security about a buddy goes back to the first dive class, when each diver helped everyone else under the supervision of the Instructor and Divemaster. In class everyone is watching each other to see if they spot a mistake before the Instructor does. This instills in almost every diver that his buddy can resolve any possible predicament

When a diver picks a buddy he is in effect, putting his life in his buddy's hands. Many divers grow with their buddy, meaning they started together in their first dive class, and have dove together ever sense. As they dive and grow together, they note how each other reacts under various situations. When one desires to take an advance or a specialty course he convinces his buddy to take it with him. This type of buddy is indispensable, they stop accidents from happening.

A good buddy team works together in planning a dive and assisting each other. They decide who will be the decision maker. They help each other in donning equipment and preform a pre-dive check. They go over emergency procedures and buddy separation before every dive. While making the dive they are within touching distance, and dive side by side. These procedures apply to every dive team including the rescuers.

When a diver has a problem and his buddy is not there to correct it, injury may result. Why is not the buddy there? One speculation is the "one time dive buddy". This is the buddy assigned to a diver on a dive trip, when his usual buddy did not attend. When a diver takes on a buddy he has never seen before, as they get ready, but before they step into the water, a bell should go off in his head. This bell should flash WARNING! When this happens, the divers should sit down, and go over emergency procedures, buddy separation, and signals.

A diver from St. Louis is paired with a diver from Houston, on a salt water reef dive in Mexico, are they well suited? In this situation the chance of the Houston diver, being a salt water diver is very high. The chance of the St. Louis diver being a salt water diver is very low. This may even be his first salt water dive ever. While the Houston diver may be ready to jump in the water and go, the first time salt water diver may be apprehensive. Even if the St. Louis diver has many underwater hours, there is still a fear of the unknown. Many first time salt water divers worry the most part of their first dive about sea monsters, not watching their buddy. Sharks, barracuda, moray ells are not fresh water inhabitants, JAWS was not made in a lake. What this scenario is to demonstrate, is that buddies should work together. You place your life in your buddies hands, be sure he can handel it.

At resorts without your regular buddy, check out who you are paired with. Look at his C-card and log book, go over emergency procedures and separation. Insure that he can operate your equipment, and you his. Practice buddy breathing. Most importantly plan your dive together. This is practicing problem prevention.

Surface problems occur when the divers are surface swimming to a marker or after a dive, when swimming to shore or a boat. They can transpire anytime after the diver leaves shore or boat, to the time he starts his descent, or from ascent to the time he reaches the shore or boat. Collectively the most classic surface problem is fighting to stay afloat, or lack of positive buoyancy due to insufficient air in the BCD. Remember that upon reaching the surface, fully inflate your BCD. Problems occur from trying to fight negative buoyancy, especially following a dive. Most surface problems are corrected by first establishing buoyancy, and then resting a moment before proceeding.

While surface swimming, one buddy may swim faster than the other. This may lead to buddy separation. In a group a Divemaster, or safety diver should be the last one to leave the shore. His job is to insure that all divers stay together, and no one wonders off. While in a group or even in buddy teams, the divers must listen to directions while on the surface. When leading a group swim in a restful manor, do not rush. Exhaustion can develop anytime surface swimming is involved. One way it can manifest is by the diver just giving up and stopping. When leading a group try not to swim fast. Descent problems occur most commonly from not enough weight. However, it may not be a weight problem but too much air in the BCD. Many dives do not know how to properly dump a BCD. Opposite of not enough weight, the diver may have too much weight. This can lead to the diver sinking out of control once the BC is deflated.

Sometimes the diver cannot equalize. Failure to equalize can occur from descending to fast, or attempting to dive with a cold or flu. When someone is sick forbid them to dive. When a diver has to abort a dive because of equalization problems it poses the biggest problem to the buddy who decides to dive alone because his buddy could not descend. If any problem occurs he will not have help.

The most common problem that occurs during a dive is buddy separation. It can occur in low visibility or when one diver descends faster than the other. To prevent this buddies should maintain good eye contact while descending. In low visibility or night diving use a buddy line. When the water is clear on top but clouds up on descent, buddies should hold hands to avoid separation. The prepared diver, carries a short piece of line at all times for just such a predicament.

Mask clearing difficulty can occur to any diver anytime during a dive. When the water is cold the sudden rush of cold water on the divers face can cause vertigo, and some novice divers may panic.

With divers having equipment problems make sure he has adequate air. Make any corrections as needed. Common problems are, the diver is to heavy to be buoyant, a lose tank, exhaustion, or the diver is dragging something heavy. When the diver needs to surface, accompany or assist him there. Never send up a diver who is exhausted or having equipment problems alone, a rescue diver must go with him.

Failing to establish neutral buoyancy, floating up or sinking, causes the diver to get frustrated. Once this happens he is likely to make progressively worse mistakes.

Running out of air is a problem that should never befall any diver. As drivers try to get one last mile out of a tank of gas, divers try to get one more minute underwater. Sometimes the diver forgets to ever look at his pressure gauge. When diving teach your buddy to show you his SPG every time you show him yours, this way you can monitor each other. Every diver should know how much air his buddy has.

On ascent some divers fail to control their buoyancy. This can lead to a rapid ascent. Make sure the left hand is on the BCD dump valve before starting any ascent. Release air as needed. A proper ascent rate also must be maintained of no more than 60 feet per minute. Buddy separation also can occur on ascent, but if both are coming up at the same time, they should meet at the surface. Do not stop an ascent because you lost your buddy.

Post dive problems occur from the time the diver is exiting the water, to putting away the gear. Exits can always be hazardous. On shore mud can make you stick, and clay can be slippery. Always help each other out of the water. At steep exit points hand up your gear, or use equipment lines. Do not play mister macho, and have your tank pull you back into the water. Remember the easiest exit is the safest exit.

One of the best things a diver can use, but fails to, is the equipment line. This is a line you tie to a tree, or a cleat of a boat and let dangle in the water. For steep entries or exits the gear is lowered to, or raised from the water.

Boat entries can be some of the most menacing. When the water is calm there is little problem, but in swells entry problems increase. If the boat has a platform, the roll or pitch of the vessel will cause the platform to roll or pitch. Roll is the sideward rock of the vessel. A wet platform can throw divers off or cause them to slip, especially when wearing a tank. If the roll is excessive to YOUR thinking, hand your gear up or down, or use an equipment line.

Pitch is the bow to stern movement of the vessel and is the most dangerous to the diver. A condition called SLAP can occur. Slap is when the diver believes the platform is safe to get on and as he reaches for it, the boat pitches, causing the platform to hit him in the chin, or some other part of the body, thus the term slap. On the other side of the coin, the diver may miss the platform due to its sinking as he went for it. When this happens the diver should get out of the way quickly because the platform is coming right back up. Many dive Instructors in their classes skim over boat diving and forget to mention how to board a dive platform. Before getting on, one must always take a moment to judge the roll, and pitch of the vessel.

At the end of a dive operation is when divers get careless, and dropping tanks can occur. Do not let your guard up because the diving is over with. When people are tired, the most accidents occur.

At most dive sites, many of the divers partake of beer and wine. The hotter the day the more consumed. The prudent diver abstains until after diving and eating, but there are those who have a beer during the surface interval and sometimes on the boat ride to the site. Alcohol depresses mental function slowing reflexes, and on cold days can give a false sense of warmth leading to hypothermia. Do not let your buddy drink until all diving for the day has been concluded. For those warm days take Gatorade and on cold, take hot coffee or tea. Beware the diver who only has beer in his ice chest.

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