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Did You Know? – Part 2

By Ken Kollwitz
The things I wanted to share with you that I didn’t in the last article are things you would think would be required by the Coast Guard for a dive boat to have and they are; Divemaster’s, O2 for dive accidents and crew trained for dive accidents.

Now it’s time for my disclaimer. I am not in any way, shape or form saying that the dive boats in our area or anywhere else are unsafe. Most all the boats I have been on are run safely and in a professional manner and have the things I think should be required. I would have to think not having these items could make for an easy lawsuit in the event something happened and running a dive boat is all ready an expensive venture. I would also think it would be in everyone’s best interest to have these items.

Most all of the things I mentioned in the first article are things that dive boats have to make divers comfortable and are what most divers ask about when booking a trip, my self included.

Divemaster’s, O2 for dive accidents and crew trained for dive accidents are things I feel are very important and usually are not asked about and I think they are not asked about because most divers would think they are required by the Coast Guard and therefore there is no need to ask about them.

The not so funny part about this is these things could make the difference between life or death for yourself, your buddy, friend, relative or just another passenger. One thing most people (myself included) will agree on is that most serious accidents are the result of smaller problems building up on each other until something serious happens or until the chain of events is stopped and/or corrected. Stopping the chain of events could be as easy as the Divemaster, crew or yourself noticing a problem and fixing it or just knowing when to say no. Prevention is always the best!

Now this leads me to why I think these things are very important for a dive boat to have.

Divemaster’s-First three stories

  1. My grandson Louie was working on a boat and the two Divemaster’s decided to go on a dive together leaving Louie in charge. Louie tried to tell them that one of them should be on the dive deck and they went anyways leaving no one in charge or to watch for anything that could happen. They said they would only be gone for 15 minutes and I guess they forgot it only takes a few seconds for someone to get into trouble and maybe die.
  2. I was on a dive boat and the Divemaster was in street clothes so I asked the captain about the Divemaster not being suited up and ready to go. The captain said the Divemaster had an option to be suited or dressed and he better be ready for anything. He also said he knew the Divemaster’s abilities and knew he could help out in street clothes even if he had to swim to assist someone.
  3. I was on a dive boat and there was no Divemaster, only a safety diver acting as a Divemaster. What kind of training did this safety diver have? Had he had training in dive accidents beyond a rescue course? Was he insured? I do not know

As you can see all Divemaster’s are not created equal. Also, what exactly is a safety diver? A safety diver could be an advanced diver with some rescue training or a highly qualified law enforcement diver on a dive team. The term seems to be used loosely at times. I was a safety diver for the Ventura College dive program, but then we were trained in more advanced rescue skills and techniques of which I think was more then most Divemaster classes have you do.

To become a Divemaster is not an easy task and requires you to be many things to many different divers. A Divemaster is a step below instructor and requires more training then a Masterdiver. Working as a Divemaster is a very big responsibility and requires you to be additionally insured. I have seen some Divemaster’s that I think have either become complacent or just don’t take the job seriously enough. Accidents only take a few seconds to happen and when they happen you need to be ready.

I enjoyed working as a Divemaster on the Sunfish and had a fun time doing so. I need to also mention that I have been on many different dive boats and most all have friendly and very qualified Divemaster’s and I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to have one on board.

Remember that a Divemaster is not a Coast Guard requirement and if you have any concerns about the Divemaster’s on the boats don’t be afraid to ask the captain or crew in private.

O2 (oxygen) for dive accidents-This is another item dive boats are not required by the Coast Guard to have and first-aid kits are. Well stocked first-aid kits are great, but for most dive maladies (DSC, air embolism, near-drowning, etc.) O2 is what is needed and the higher the concentration the diver gets and the sooner the diver gets it, the better the outcome will be for the diver. Generally with any accident, having what is needed and the sooner you use it is always the best choice. It is a matter of planning for the “what if’s” within reason. Again, most dive boats I have been on have a good O2 kit.

All O2 dive accident information recommends enough O2 for the time you think you will need it. At least 60 minutes worth is a good start. The other items that are recommended is a multifunction regulator that can deliver 15-25 Liters Per Minute (LPM) and can be used for 2 victims at the same time, a demand inhalator valve (like a scuba 2nd stage) and a good sealing mask. You want to administer as close to 100% O2 and the sealing of the mask is what achieves this. All this and more are in any DAN (or equivalent) O2 kit. I have my own kit that has 2 bottles with a manually triggered ventilator mask (MTV-100) which is a more advanced unit. This kit will cover most of the “what if’s” and is the kit I had on the Sunfish.

I mention all this because Zee medical (and maybe other companies) makes an O2 kit designed for land injuries and accidents and not for diving accidents. The kit has a small O2 bottle good for 15 minutes at a non-adjustable flow rate of 6 LPM , a non rebreather mask which is the least desirable mask to use for a dive accident and it is only good for 1 person . I have seen some of these kits on dive boats and almost all have added a DAN kit or equivalent for dive accidents.

I would have to think that the boat owners who do have a good O2 kit realize the importance of having the correct tool for the job and that it could be a lifesaver for the victim or possible lawsuit. Some people could argue that the 6 LPM unit is adequate if it is all you have and I would have to argue that in today’s world by not having a 15-25 LPM unit (the standard for dive accidents) you are doing your passengers and yourself an injustice. What do you think? Don’t forget when on a boat if you have any doubt’s, don’t hesitate to ask. You never know, you may be the one who will need it.

Crew trained for dive accidents-This is another thing the Coast Guard does not require of a dive boat and in my opinion CPR, First-aid and dive accident training are very important, especially when things can happen very fast and having someone with the correct training could be the difference between life or death. Sorry to sound so grim, but I think many others would think the same.

I have to again say that most all boats I have been on have divers for crew, have the necessary training and know how to work as a team when something happens. Of course, I also think that basic CPR and first-aid should be part of a basic open water course, but then that would require more time and money.

Remember, this is all only food for thought and no one needs to rush over to their favorite boat to see what they are or are not doing. Of course, it is not a bad idea to watch and observe things on your next boat trip and if you have any doubt’s about something or someone don’t hesitate to ask the crew , Divemaster or captain in private about your concerns. These are all valid things to ask especially when you are a paying customer and you maybe the one who will have the problem and need some help.

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