5 steps to handle a missing diver scenario
Scuba diving is an enjoyable and safe sport, as long as safe diving practices are followed. All entry-level certifications teach about proper diving procedures and after certification divers are allowed to dive (with a buddy) unsupervised. In the PADI Rescue Diver course divers learn to look after other people. It’s a great step towards professional diving certifications like Divemaster or Instructor. For the first time new concepts are introduced like rescuing an unresponsive diver or handling a missing diver scenario. Most people will fortunately never need their skills, but in case of an emergency it’s essential that Rescue Diver can stand up and take responsibility. So let’s discuss the steps to take when you discover a diver is missing.
- First, make sure that the missing diver is not on the boat already. If you share a boat with 30 or 40 other divers it can happen that divers or buddy teams return to the boat earlier than the rest. Have a look at his equipment bag to see if he’s packed up already.
- If you’re sure that the diver is still underwater then you want to assign spotters to look from the boat, or snorkelers who can search a marked area for bubbles. Alert EMS.
- If it turns out that the diver hasn’t been found yet, it’s time for somebody to get in the water. This could be you, but if there are other Rescue Divers present you can also send them out while you coordinate the search from the boat. Ask other qualified or Rescue Divers to prepare the first aid and oxygen kit.
- If you decided to go in, the most important thing is your own safety. You can’t rescue others if you’re not safe yourself. Find a buddy, and make a plan of action. You will want to get as much information as possible from the missing diver’s buddy, if possible. Where was his last known location? What was he doing? How much air did he have at that point? What are the conditions like? If you prepare to go in, agree on a search pattern and a way to recall other searchers to end the search.
- Finally, if you should go in. Don’t forget your buddy check and you’re ready to go. Execute the agreed plan and hope for the best. Look around while swimming the search pattern and make sure to check your own and buddy’s air supply frequently. Hopefully you’ll be able to find your victim and bring him safely back to the surface.
Again, most of you will never need these skills. However it is essential that you know what to do in these unpleasant situations. Safe diving! Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below! Or sign up for your PADI Rescue Diver Course today!