Over the years I have come to realize that in this sport we all love so much every diver is responsible for their own safety and well being. The notion that anyone else will care about or protect you as well as you will do for yourself is flawed. It won’t happen, which of course begs the question; how does one effectively ensure safety?
You Don’t Need A Crystal Ball
You need a little common sense which unfortunately, is often times not so common. Most events having negative outcomes are usually highly predictable. They have signs that are like billboards once we learn to recognize them.
Advanced tech dive trips or projects that are in search of participants. They are always suspect. If it is such a good trip or project why isn’t it filled? The good ones fill up as fast as they are announced. If the only requirement to get on an advanced Tech trip or participate in an advanced project is a certification card you should be wary.
Right about now you might be asking yourself, “Why is this so?”
Well, the answer is simple. Tech trips and projects require larger numbers of qualified divers to make them viable. By industry standards the only requirement is that participants hold the appropriate certifications which of course say nothing about experience levels. It is only the level of human decency the organizers may or may not have that dictate how well they vet participating divers. A well organized, safely run trip or project will always incorporate some sort of vetting process before divers who are unknown entities are allowed to participate. Be happy when an organizer asks for a reference to vouch for you. It means someone cares about the project or trip, you and your family. They don’t want to make the phone call that all team leaders dread.
If you have no one to vouch for your abilities and experience level, DON’T LIE! There are not that many participants at this level of diving. Everyone knows everyone else and a good team leader will be able to vet you by who trained you and who you dive with. You will fare much better by telling the truth and saying that you’d like to participate and would be happy to go on a benign “shakeout dive” to demonstrate your abilities.
It Works Both Ways
Just as trip and project organizers should vet you, it is in your best interests to vet them. While anyone can have an accident or a bad day, if you pay attention you will find that whenever there is a negative event it is often the same people, places and operations that keep popping up. Learn to recognize them and judiciously avoid the “Ring of Death”. Don’t be afraid to question procedures and protocols. Review their track record. Is there a history of avoidable accidents? Is there a history of incidents occurring because participants are diving past their experience levels? If so, walk away. If they don’t seem safe they probably aren’t. The Wreck, Cave or whatever will be there for a long time. There is nothing worth losing your life or your health to see there.
If It Sounds Stupid, It Probably Is
Learn to listen to that inner voice we all have and don’t be intimidated by someone who is vastly more experienced than you if the proposition sounds stupid. You are probably right so don’t be afraid to ask questions and walk away if you don’t get satisfactory answers. Often times there is a desperation to fill a boat or run a project dive and when the organizers can’t attract their “preferred” participants they open things up to anyone with a certification and dollars. You might be tempted to think “Well I know I am experienced enough to do these dives so it’s not a problem for me”. Well, it is unless you have no heart or soul. I would like to believe that all of us would render assistance to a fellow diver in trouble even if we otherwise don’t know or even dislike the person. By default this puts you in harms way. The possibility of a panicked diver taking others to the hospital or grave is very real. It is in your best interests to recognize that fact. You don’t want to be surrounded by well meaning people who are diving beyond their experience levels. If they have a problem you are most likely going to render aid and be in jeopardy. The best option is to not be there. Twice in my life I “dodged the bullet” this way. Both times I was scheduled to go on a trip and when I heard who was going and what they were doing I suddenly had a scheduling conflict. Both times there were fatalities. My ego likes to believe had I been there those accidents would not have occurred; that I would have seen them coming and prevented them. The realist in me knows that is not so. You can’t save the world.
So, the next time you want to dive on a Tech trip or project, or do advanced dives with a group unknown to you, it is in your best interests to vet them first. If all you need is a certification or the necessary dollars, run away. If no one asks for your diving resume, run away. If the operation or group has a dismal safety record, run away. If you keep these “rules” in mind you will increase the odds of not being in or near the “Ring of Death” and enjoy many years of safe diving.