Reef Awareness & Hyperbaric Safety

by E.R. Cross

Most divers continue to enjoy the coral reef environment, although, many don't realize that 1999 was the Year of the Reef. It served as a boost to the Coral Reef Initiative, in which many of the same people were involved. However, it also put various groups in touch with each other that normally do not interact on a regular basis (and, in my opinion, should).

Some of the special events probably helped raise awareness among the general public as to what they can do to prevent the degradation of the coral reef ecosystems. Kimberly Lowe, Fisheries Biologist, stated in Seawords, I think the greatest contribution of the Year of the Reef has been to raise public awareness of the complex nature, beauty and fragility of coral reefs and their importance as refuges of variation and coastal productivity.

This was done in the spirit of fun, science and open education for all age groups, making information enjoyable and accessible to anyone who cared to listen. The value of this achievement should not be underestimated.

A successful future for coral reefs can be built upon genuine concern for them, based on the public's understanding of what they are and how much we stand to lose without them. For the wider ranging diver, this program must encompass the broad spectrum of all seas.

Hyperbaric Facility Safety

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, I owned and operated the only hyperbaric facility between San Francisco and Panama. There were no certified hyperbaric medical personnel or diving doctors to treat bends or other hyperbaric medical problems. I brought with me more than 15 years of Navy diving, salvage officer training and experience and established an advanced commercial diving facility in Wilmington, California. I successfully treated 25 cases of bends, mostly in active commercial abalone divers.

Today, there are hundreds of hyperbaric facilities in the United States, and it is estimated they are staffed with well over 1,200 technicians, nurses, physicians and other certified health care pro-viders. They are certified by the National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology (NBDHMT).

A recently published book, Hyperbaric Facility Safety by Wilber T. Workman, has long been needed. The book details the many kinds and sizes of hyperbaric systems. It also covers the subject of safety, from health and safety personnel through the mechanics of the complete facility, and the legal aspects of hyperbaric facilities in each country covered. (Hyperbaric Facility Safety is available from Best Publishing Co., P.O. Box 30100, Flagstaff, AZ 86003-0100.)

Hyperbaric facility safety is a complex issue that covers an extremely broad range of topics. Tragic accidents in the international hyperbaric medical community have occurred. This has been partly the result of lack of training and experience of those who have used the facilities. Often, chambers and related systems are manned and operated by dive crews who have had inadequate training in the use of equipment. Since any diver may inadvertently become involved with the necessity of using a hyperbaric facility, it seems logical that all air or mixed gas divers should be familiar with hyperbaric systems. The book should be required reading for all divers.