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Scuba Problems and Diver Emergency Priorities


Diving equipment can malfunction without warning.

The ocean environment can suddenly become unpredictable and overpowering.

There could be a missing diver situation. Divers get into difficulty most often because they fail to recognize and react to the hostile surroundings.

Surprisingly, the majority of diver emergencies are preventable. However the most common cause of divers getting into serious trouble is poor judgment.

Failure to identify a hazardous problem or making a bad decision can lead to a scuba emergency. In the unlikely event of an emergency situation, there are some steps that take priority over others.

We give you six invaluable steps of priority in a scuba emergency and we cover the correct procedures in dive rescue. The immediate use of scuba emergency equipment and implementation of your action plan is of most urgency.

We also have invaluable information about advanced training in emergency response and 'first person on the scene' rescue techniques.

Scuba Emergencies - 6 Steps of Priority

Being able to respond in an emergency means being ready and prepared. You should be mentally and physically able to anticipate and identify hazards, and then safely manage the situation.

You need to use good judgment, accurately assessing what is required and in what order of priority. Having diver emergency rescue equipment on hand and knowing how to use it is also part of a thorough scuba emergency action plan.

Step 1. Assess the Scene for Your Own Safety

Stop - Breathe - Think - Act. It is a diving cliché, but following these prompts will help rescuers to stay calm, assess the situation, and identify who is involved in the incident.

Remember, there is rarely one single correct way to make a rescue. Determine the best solution, what you have that will assist you, be flexible, adaptable, and then Act if you can remain safe.

Step 2. Formulate a Plan and then Act

Assuming that you are the most experienced diver available to manage the situation, you should use good judgment and immediately formulate and then implement your scuba emergency action plan. If you are assisting someone with more training in scuba emergencies, they will most often follow a flow chart - a diving accident management guide.

Step 3. Consider Delegating Action if Appropriate

If you are accompanied by additional rescue divers, dive masters, or instructors, you may be able to assign responsibilities to others. Bystanders and inexperienced divers may assist you under your direction.

Be clear and concise with your directions, and make certain that someone has contacted the local emergency medical services as soon as possible. Alert the diver's accident insurance company if appropriate.

Step 4. Attend to Injured Victims

Victims are people who need medical attention and a victim becomes your patient when you begin administering care. You should activate the underwater recall system to call everyone to the surface and then account for all divers.

Try to secure the victim's scuba gear if possible. This may be helpful later in determining the cause of the accident. Depending on whether the patient is responsive or not, you may need to provide basic Life Support until you can get to EMS.

If available, administer oxygen for suspected decompression sickness or lung over-expansion injuries and keep the patient lying down.

Step 5. Control the Situation

Your role may differ depending on the number of assistants you have and their qualification level. Your priority may be providing direct care for the injured divers.

Other important considerations include coordination with emergency personnel and administration of relevant information.

Try to record as much information as possible about the victim and the accident, and the contact details of any witnesses. You may also need to contact the victim's relatives.

Avoid making assumptions and media statements. Hand over any recovered scuba equipment to the local authorities.

Step 6. Arrange Evacuation to Medical Center

Arrange for the rapid evacuation of all injured divers to the nearest medical facility. Pressure related injuries usually need re-compression treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

Most reputable scuba operators have a dive center emergency plan for dealing with diving emergencies. They will have a list of diving emergency services international phone numbers and contact details, such as Divers Alert Network.

DAN has specialized medical doctors who can coordinate re-compression treatment and repatriation if required. Summary: Every diver should have adequate personal diving insurance.

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