Une personne au fond d'un bateau se demande quand il faut appeler les secours en plongée

Diving Accident, Call for help ?

A story in Marseille, summer 2018.  I dive with a nice little club with 4 other people on the boat. A young woman almost advanced scuba diver shows signs of obvious anxiety. Also I could say she looks pretty stressed. The second day, I discuss a little more with her about the reasons for her stress. This woman explains  that she is finishing her studies as a radiologists. She is on an internship in 3 different hospitals in the Marseille region. Over the past week, no less than three people presented bubbles after a dive. But is this a diving accident ?

“They were all sparkling,” she told me with anxious humor.

I try to reassure her so that she can have fun during her dive. I explain that the best thing to do when diving is to never go beyond the basic safety rules. We must keep in mind that even though we adore it, the aquatic world is not our natural environment. Sometimes we are a bit all guinea pigs.

Somewhere, in my mind, I still have the experience of a series of mistakes never to be made. It could have had dramatic consequences and this world of silence that plagues the world of diving and that I would like to see disappear.

However, in case of doubts about a possible dive accident, I am not at all convinced that we always act in the best way. This includes the triggering of the rescue chain.

Call for help if we suspect a diving accident, really?

It is common to hear that in case of doubt about visible signs of suspected decompression sickness (DCI) or diving accident and when the person is fully aware, we must give O². In the meantime the person must be monitored to see how the condition is changing before reassessing the situation after +/- 30 minutes and call for help, if needed.

In my opinion, in case of doubt it is necessary to give oxygen, monitor the victim and DIRECTLY call at least DAN to explain the situation and ask for advice.

DAN is an international insurance organization specializing in the world of diving. They provides its members with a call service with hyperbaric medical specialists. Who are available 24/24 and 7/7 days to meet issues related to diving incidents / accidents.

The international telephone number is + 1-919-684-9111

I am not sponsored by DAN, but the international line is free so do not hesitate. Call DAN, they can help us in the best way possible. However If we don’t do anything …

If the person is no longer (or not) completely conscious. Then we do not hesitate and we start the rescue chain IMMEDIATELY. This can be considered as a serious diving accident.

Sometimes, I wonder if in dive rescue courses, one of the pitfalls is not that you learn to react so “well”. That one might think that one can react alone and “forget” to trigger the rescue chain. Always keep in mind that we are only diving rescuers and not hyperbaric doctors.

Our role is to maintain the condition of the victim before help arrives.

A negative effect of rescue courses may therefore be that trained people think they can act alone. No one should ever substitute for authorized medical advice. It seems to me that trainers must strongly insist on this point.

First aid training is very important. However, it is not because you follow a first aid training that you become a doctor. And certainly not an hyperbaric and emergency doctor!

Do not wait to have an answer via social networks. Although it may seem incredible, I have already seen it. Someone asking advice via social networks to know if what he observes / feels just after a dive requires to trigger the rescue chain. I can only advise you to never do this and not to try to provide an answer other than “call a specialist”.

Someone does not feel good at diving? This is not NORMAL. Ask for advice without hesitation.  DAN, 911, 112, channel 16 or distress channel depending on where you are!

For diving accidents, every minute counts

However, in practice, when the diver with a problem is aware, even when there is an action, few people call directly the DAN line and / or the 112 or channel 16 if you are at sea.

It’s very simple to do. It does not cost anything and can have real effects.  At least that of reassuring the diver who presents a problem and the people around her/him.

But why such an hesitant attitude to call for help?

In my opinion, people are simply ashamed or afraid

Why are divers scared?

  1. To look stupid: what would I look like, … => and what will you look like if it’s really a DCI and you did not do anything?
  2. Not to be “legitimized” to call for help => whatever your level of diving, if you have a doubt you must call for help
  3. Financial consequences: and if I call for help for nothing, the diver will blame me for having to pay the bill, … => how to estimate the price of a life?
  4. What this will involve (ambulance, firefighters, …) => or not!
  5. The importance of urgency: yes but I will not monopolize the rescue team while they may have more urgent cases to deal with elsewhere => It is not up to us to determine if the case is a priority or not !
  6. Associated disturbances: who will take over the equipment, the vehicle, take care of the children,  => keep in mind point 3
  7. Consequences of diving: my trip is planned next week, the club event will take place soon, no one will want to dive with me anymore, … => miss one or the other dives is boring, never to be able to dive anymore is dramatic

However, in my opinion, we can not (victim or companion) begin to doubt. We have only one life. Our health or that of our buddy can not suffer from approximation.

To postpone the action is useless, we just risk seeing the condition of the person worse.

Call for help, really? Yes, REALLY, without hesitation

And above all … do not forget to be happy