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   Diver Communication -Part Two

    When, How, and Why it is important

 

         Do we find another buddy, change the dive site, or depending on how far outside their level, we may decide to do the dive and just be more conservative.  All of this is now part of our dive plan and we haven’t even left the house.  During this we are now communicating with our soon to be dive buddy and the process has begun.  How effective this process is now is dependent on both divers being open about their needs and goals.  In order for neither to be surprised they need to start going over the plan in more detail and consider many factors. (click title to expand to full article)

             Regular communication between the team is now a critical part of the plan.  They need to discuss the actual logistics of the trip.  Who drives, who brings food if any, will there be an overnight stay, and who is paying for what are just a few items in this line of discussion.  Next they will need to start considering the dive itself.  What gear will they need?  What kind of gas will they be diving?  Will the rent gear or do they have their own?  Will they need any special equipment such as extra lights, reels, strobes, or extra exposure suits?  To determine this they will need to jointly develop a dive plan that may require some homework.               

             They will need to decide who is responsible for what.  This by the way is also the title of an article available at my booth that was one of the first essays on training and safety I did.  But to get back to this decision; there are a number of items that may require research such as weather, water conditions, route to the site, etc. .  When divers are effectively communicating all of these items are taken into consideration and nothing is left to chance.  Leaving items to chance has often resulted in me having to fix someone’s high pressure spool, loan an octo, or even an entire reg set when divers forgot or had problems with these items.  They did not plan for a failure.  They did not communicate with their buddies or group that a gauge has been leaking, an octo free flowing slightly, or did not go over their gear as a team when packing.                

            Divers who are communicating effectively do not leave anything to chance.  They meet and go over each other’s gear while packing.  They also decide at this time to start communicating about the dive itself and researching it if necessary.  This is also a team effort.  As an instructor I often plan checkout dive sites.  But one thing I have done with all my students is get them involved in the process and make them an integral part of it. I give them as much info as I can about the site, the resources there, the water temps, the entrance and exit details, and the times we will leave.  We then discuss what they will need in the way of equipment, exposure protection, weights, and any other items they may want or need.  I do not decide for them what these needs are.  They have been well trained and it’s time to put that training to use.  I do not tell them how much weight they will need, they tell me.  We discuss what they used in the pool, what type of suit they will be using, and what they think they will need.  This is one of the ways I feel reinforces the need for divers to communicate effectively.                 

              Instructors who plan every aspect of the dives do no favors for their students.  In fact I would venture they do them a disservice by doing this. Divers need to learn very early that they alone are responsible for their dives and to communicate with their buddies to insure the dives are safe and fun. Once we have planned the dives on the surface and arrived at the site we continue with our exercise in communication.  Now we start to discuss the dives themselves, the site conditions, the gear we will need, and safety concerns and procedures.  In addition we now go over how we will communicate in the water. Many times the sites we dive allow for a number of methods of communication.  Hand signals, slates, wetnotes, and perhaps lights on dives in low visibility or at night.  But what if we are diving in conditions that do not allow for these?  Diving in extremely poor vis often necessitates communicating by touch.  Just because a site has zero vis does not mean we cannot dive it!  In many freshwater quarries it is common for vis to get bad and even go to zero.  If we know the site we can still dive it in relative safety but with modified methods of communication and staying together.  Some will use buddy lines and if doing so communicate with them by using a series of pulls or tugs that they decide on before getting in the water.                 

             My own preferred method of communicating in low visibility is by touch and not just with the hands.  In extremely low visibility I want my buddy in constant contact with me.  Usually we swim elbow to elbow but will at times interlock arms and swim.  When swimming like this and it’s not possible to see hands and fingers we rely on pressure applied by hand to communicate.  Push down on the arm and we descend, pull up slightly and we start to go up.  A squeeze on the elbow means stop or slow down, and a thumb pushing up into a buddies palm means “this is nuts” lets go up!  The key though is that even in zero vis we are effectively communicating. How you choose to communicate is really up to you and your buddy.  The important thing is that you do.  And you do so early in the planning process.  The benefits of carrying on good communication and the dangers of not doing so are numerous.                 

            First let’s look at the dangers that may result from now communicating.  Most obvious is having a problem and not being able to tell your buddy what it is.  Next is not being sure what to do when a problem occurs.  A mistake, improper action, or no action could be fatal.  We need to have a clear picture of the “what ifs” and what to do if they occur.  We obviously cannot foresee every problem.  But we can have general guidelines such as when one diver signals up, the dive is over and the whole team goes up!   This avoids any confusion such as was experienced by our original example at the beginning of this presentation.  Another risk of not communicating effectively is diver separation.  Divers who do not communicate effectively risk separation to a greater degree than those who are in regular contact throughout the dive.  Diver separation has been a factor in too many diver deaths to ignore the danger of it.                 

            On the surface before the dives even take place the chances of not having enough gear, the right gear, or no gear at all may be the result of poor communication.  Frustration may be the result of poor communication when it comes to times that divers were supposed to meet, where they were to meet, and who was bringing the most important item on early morning dives – coffee and donuts!               

             The benefits of good communication are just as numerous and range from the essential to just plain nice and fun.  Good communication is what keeps divers alive.  They know what to do when a buddy signals a problem.  When she needs help her buddy knows what to do and why.  When buddies are effectively communicating there are no surprises when it comes to gear, gasses, and goals of the dive.  The needs of the site are understood by all parties as well as the limitations of each diver.  There are no “I can’t do this dive” or “ I don’t dive deeper than 80 feet” as you are about to step off the boat on a dive to the well deck of the Spiegel Grove which bottoms out at 120 plus feet and you are with someone you never met before that day.                 

             You also do not get to the dive site and realize you can’t dive because the vis is too bad or water is too cold.  You’ve planned and discussed these items with your teammate and taken them into account.  Consequently you have lights, a reel and line, your 3 mil and your 5 mil suit and, since she may get cold easily, she has her dry suit in the bag.  A dive day stays a dive day and not a wasted trip there and back.  But you have also discussed the possibility of not diving so when you arrive and there are three huge classes of poorly trained divers tearing up the bottom it’s ok to say screw it and turn around and head for the hotel and nice relaxing afternoon kicking back and reading "Deco for Divers" by Mark Powell or Steve Lewis’s " The Six Skills".                 

            Finally along with all the safety considerations there is the assurance that the dives will be fun, relaxing, and that your buddy has not forgotten the double chocolate cake to have after dinner.   Thanks.

 

Posted by jimlap212 on Saturday November 03, 2012 8:31 am

 

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