Proper OOA/comments

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on September 04, 2001 at 23:12:33:

I have some agreements and some concerns with the "proper" OOA procedures outlined in the thread below. (And I'll also contend that you get five different instructors with different backgrounds and experiences to review these procedures and you'll get five different answers. Bottom line, IMO, is that if everyone makes it to the surface, it's "proper.")

First off, I strongly AGREE that the absolute first consideration is to get a regulator in the OOA's mouth. And while I personally teach and will prefer the octopus as first choice, it really doesn't matter which one you give or how long a hose it's on as long as air/gas flows through it into the OOA's mouth.

Two regs, two divers . . . now you've got a chance to manage the situation.

I strongly agree with (and have taught for 20 years) about maintaining close physical and visual contact. It may or may not reassure them but it gives you, the rescuing diver, much greater control/leverage by being in physical contact with the OOA diver and by watching their eyes, you may get a better idea of what's going on in their head.

Now some things where my training, teaching choices, and experience give me reason to feel there are some problems with the underlying assumptions.

I think there's too much faith based on air and contact calming the diver down. I believe this assumes that a panicky person, acting irrationally, will start making rational decisions. It doesn't always work that way. It's nice if they do, but I'm not going to gamble my life or theirs by counting on it.

Remember the motto, "Expect the worst . . . hope for the best."

I don't assume they will calm down. In fact, I believe what you should assume and be ready for (ready to respond, for those of you who have heard this in leadership-level training or rescue classes) is that they will NOT calm down, and that air and contact merely buys you a little time, time that is best spent starting up to the surface, regardless of depth.

I think the mantra ought to be, "Get 'em air, get a hold of 'em, and get 'em going."

Your primary objective at this point should be to safely get you BOTH to the surface. You can spend a moment or two (but I'm talking 20-30 seconds here) getting the breathing going and see if you can get a "feel" for the situation, but you can also do that while you're heading up. It's nice to give an up signal if you can but I wouldn't waste time waiting for a response.

Michael was right when he said you make a "command" decision. But that means YOU are in command and that means you don't wait for an answer. Head for the surface. The sooner you get there, the sooner air (and potentially drowning from lack thereof) does NOT become a concern. And if you're having trouble kicking up, dump weights, starting with the OOA diver, then yours if need be. (Worst case scenario: One or both of you make an uncontrolled ascent to the surface.)

For those who would raise a concern about embolizing or bending from a rapid ascent, I say . . . so what?

We can treat the bends. We can treat embolism. We can't treat death.

If the OOA diver does stay calm and relatively controlled all the way up, you've merely gotten him to the surface quickly and safely. However . . .

If he DOESN'T remain calm and flips out again, which I feel is a real possibility you have to be prepared to deal with, you'll stand a better chance of getting him surfaced from 30' (because you started up) than you will from 130' (where you may still be if you're showing gauges, clipping regs, looking for a signal, etc.). It's nice to be tidy and polite but it's nicer to be alive.

This is an emergency. Abort the dive. Get the OOA diver to the surface . . . NOW!!!!

I also think the odds of a diver who's just run out of air, who's just had the bejeezus scared out of him, who just saw his life flash before his eyes, who just faced death, who was just saved by your regulator, whose heart is probably still going a mile a minute, and whose breathing probably still hasn't slowed down . . . I think the odds/hopes of getting that diver to voluntarily remove the life-giving regulator from his mouth to orally inflate his BC are pretty slim. Dump his weights. Quicker and more effective way to get positive(especially in CA waters since we're wearing wetsuits or drysuits).

Don't rely on the OOA to act rationallly. Don't rely on him to kick. In fact, be thankful if he keeps the reg in his mouth. (There are too many stories of OOAs spitting out donated regulators and taking off on their own.) As Michael stated, it's a COMMAND thing but YOU need to control the situation.

Bottom line, the sooner you can arrive at the surface, the better the chance there is to deal with this problem/enmergency. A diver at the surface, even when severely injured, can possibly (but not always) be saved. A diver on the bottom stands a greater chance of staying there, as the outcome this past weekend for the two divers at Farnsworth so graphically and tragically illustrates.

But the bottom line also (and this is where, at the risk of giving them a heart attack, I tip my hat to the tech community) is that you've got to enter the water mentally disciplined to deal with these emergencies and face the real possiboility that this can happen to you or someone you're diving with. To NOT do so is tantamount to playing Russian Roulette.

Ken Kurtis
NAUI Instr. #5936
Co-owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, Ca.

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