First aid, CPR, defensive driving, and lifeguard training. All of these have one thing in common. They are designed to teach a person how to deal with urgent or emergency situations.
Let’s face it, many of us do not want to think about how we would react if faced with an emergency. The truth of the matter, however, is that every day, we automatically deal with emergencies that vary from small, almost unnoticeable situations to catastrophic tragedies. It is because of our experience and training that we don’t even really think about it—we just react.
The same should be true in scuba diving, but all too often elementary emergency training is taken for granted. These skills (regulator clearing, regulator recovery and mask clearing) are learned at the beginning of training and are then repeated until proficiency.
As training progresses, so does the level of emergency skill training. An out-of-air situation may require an air-sharing procedure with your buddy that allows you to make a near normal ascent to the surface. When air-sharing isn’t an option, a diver must perform either an emergency swimming or buoyant ascent depending on the training the diver received. Emergency ascents are normally learned in the later stages of entry-level training and are not repeated as many times as the self-help skills.
Here lies the potential problem. Skills that are not repeated or reinforced aren’t likely to make an impact. When divers are faced with a situation they are unfamiliar with, they may panic.
Even individuals who dive regularly should periodically practice not only self-help skills but also air-sharing and emergency ascents—the sort of things with which one wouldn’t ordinarily bother. Divers out of practice should complete a skill review with a qualified instructor before diving again. Doing so will diminish the apprehension level before diving and reinforce what to do in the event of an emergency.
Nobody’s saying be a fuddy-duddy, but with standard emergency preparedness under your (dive)belt, you will have greater confidence, and thus, a more enjoyable diving experience. You will also become an asset to your partners, buddies or significant diver. Wouldn’t you expect the same from them?
Dennis Pulley is Director of Training for Scuba Schools International.