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Emergency

Posted by Silverback on 06 November 2007 at 01:51 PM

Are you prepared for an accident or an emergency?

On a recent trip to Scottburgh, my son took ill and I had to rush him to the nearest emergency centre. The trip took almost half an hour, late at night, with little traffic. In the cold light of day, I started considering scenarios involving a freediving accident or emergency. Just how well prepared are we, when we head out to sea?

1. Do you leave a well conceived plan of your day’s activities with some-one who is dependable e.g. we are launching from Umkomaas and heading to the following GPS co-ords. We should be done by 14:30 and if we have not called you, you can reach us on the radio or at the following cellular phone number. Better yet, make arrangements to provide regular updates throughout the day.

2. Have you got all the necessary emergency telephone numbers? NSRI in the event that you require assistance at sea. What about a freediving accident? Who would you contact? DAN SA would be the obvious choice, their emergency number is: 0800020111. DAN will provide advice and assistance even if you do not have cover.

3. Have you considered the various scenarios? You should have a spare buoy on the boat, ready to be deployed as soon as you perceive a problem. By marking the spot you have a point of reference to work from. This is especially relevant with a lost diver and could provide the edge for saving a diver who has experienced a SWB/drowning. Have you thought about how you would search for a lost/missing diver? Frightening thought isn’t it?

4. Sadly, South African law, as it now stands, does not allow freedivers access to SCUBA gear on their boats. Narrow thinking like this has probably resulted in a greater loss of life than SWB alone. I have taken the risk of carrying a small SCUBA cylinder together with a vacuum packed emergency regulator. There can be no doubt that the regulator must be removed from the packaging before it can be used. I hope we never need to use this kit but it is available in the event of a problem. You cannot rely on excited/stressed divers to make repeated deep dives to search for and rescue a buddy when the time frame you have to work with is probably less than 5 minutes.

5. Ever wondered how long it would take to get a rescued/injured diver to an emergency centre? There is not enough time to achieve this by trying to rush by boat. Every person on the boat should be proficient in CPR and first aid. It is evident that in the event of a freediving emergency, the fastest route to an emergency centre will be by helicopter. Have you made the necessary arrangements for this e.g. Netcare911: 082911. Apart from a cardiopulmonary emergency, the next most likely event will involve some form of haemorrhage. While most people think sharks, fish like barracuda/wahoo may cause severe lacerations but the most dangerous animal is a skipper who is not concentrating. Propellors cause horrendous injuries. All people on the boat should have a working knowledge of controlling blood loss. Limbs can be torniqued with speargun rubbers and large wounds can be staunched with sustained pressure, either directly or by pinching major arteries.

I often believe that we Spearos lead a charmed existance, often taken for granted. It is in our best interest to take a moment before our next dive to think about the possible emergency scenarios and PLAN TO SURVIVE.

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