Rely on Your Emergency Planning

When a real emergency occurs, its already too late to think about how you’ll respond and whether or not your emergency action plan (EAP) is up to snuff. An effective EAP is critical to your ability to safely control and respond to emergency situations in, on, and off the water.

As a busy dive professional, you have to keep track of students and their individual needs, organize training logistics, evaluate water conditions, and keep track of an endless list of safety related minutiae. Adding the burden of responding to an emergency is task loading, but with an entire class of students in the water you need to make sure that your emergency response plan is second nature. Knowing the dive site and having the appropriate equipment to deal with an emergency are necessary for keeping your students safe, but when was the last time you took a moment to review how you’d manage a real emergency?

Know the Plan in Your Sleep

Having a plan on paper is great, but you need to know your plan by heart, and be ready to put it into action under pressure at a moment’s notice. Use DAN’s guidelines for creating an EAP to create and customize your plans and practice them until implementation is automatic. By the time you identify the need to respond to an emergency, you shouldn’t have to think about what to do — your EAP will dictate your responses, and you’ll be able to evaluate the situation further as you begin to respond.

Manage the Scene

Once an emergency occurs and you’ve begun to respond, it’s vital to your safety, and the safety of the injured diver, that you effectively manage the scene. Bystanders, boat or car traffic, or well-meaning but ill-prepared divers attempting to interfere with your response can put you and your diver in harm’s way. Controlling the scene requires firm but respectful commands, and keeping a cool head yourself can do a lot to control the attitude of a concerned crowd. Make sure that any crowd or vehicle traffic nearby is managed so you have a sufficient perimeter in which to provide care and prevent further harm to anyone involved in the incident. Use direct orders to get specific bystanders to contact emergency services, block traffic or help you move a patient. Talking to a crowd can be confusing in the best of situations — task specific people with clear duties to get effective responses.

Communication and Logistics

Effective communications between all parties involved in an emergency can decrease stress and improve patient outcomes. Improving your communication with emergency medical personnel can increase the effectiveness and speed of their response, and help relay valuable patient information to the receiving physician. Whether you supply handheld radios to your staff, carry a satellite phone on a remote expedition, or have a fluent native speaker translate information to healthcare personnel to avoid language barriers, make sure that your communication is short, and that it gets to the point as quickly and clearly as possible.

If you would like to consult DAN Safety Services about creating custom emergency action plans for your dive operations, send an email to . See Operational Safety Resources for more information about emergency action plans, and learn more about DAN Professional Membership.