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Posted by Steve on September 06, 2001 at 14:51:58:

CEO’s Message
by Tom Mount
In recreational and technical diving there is growing emphasis on the term “Doing It Right”. In the simplest of definitions this means to use the correct training, equipment and technique for the style of dive one is undertaking. The environment and diving conditions will often dictate slight alterations in each of these.
First in recreational diving there are a few essentials that need to be discussed. Equipment configuration, although seldom discussed in Open Water courses, is none-the-less important even at the novice level of diving. The Open Water Diver should be introduced to the practical advantages of setting up their equipment correctly. At this stage the diver should be taught to set up equipment in a manner that prevents dangling octopuses and gauges. Indeed the equipment should be set up for ease of access and freedom from entanglement or contamination by being drug along the ocean, lake, quarry, wreck or cave floor. To facilitate this the pressure gauge or console should be secured by a snap hook to the BC or waist strap. This assures ease of use, reduces environmental impact and creates less drag for the diver. The octopus/regulator used for gas sharing should either be secured around the neck with a detachable strap or (ideally) be the regulator that the diver breathes from. If the handoff regulator is the one breathed from then the backup regulator should be attached by a permanent neck strap which is easily grabbed once the octopus is handed off. A second choice would be to use a backup regulator that also works as the BC inflator such as those offered by ScubaPro, Eagle, Sherwood and other manufacturers. Divers should avoid awkward placement of the octopus such as in octopus pockets. While these pockets protect the octopus it is also known that this configuration makes it difficult to access in an emergency.
Buoyancy control and body posture should be emphasized so that the new diver graduates with a reasonable degree of mastery of a streamlined dive profile. This reduces work load, produces less environmental stress, and does result in lowered gas consumption. As a result the diver is a safer diver than one who has not yet developed good posture and technique. In addition, the reduced workload from good posture rewards the new diver with a much more enjoyable experience underwater. Kicks should be analyzed by the instructor and corrected until the toes are pointed, kicks are extended from the hip (not merely the knee) and the “lazy leg” tendency is overcome. At the open water level the diver should develop a good modified flutter kick and have a reasonable understanding of the dolphin and frog kicks. The body posture should be a straight line parallel to the bottom.
The open water diver must be introduced to realistic emergencies that may be encountered as an Open Water Diver. For instance the IANTD Open Water course requires divers to be introduced to the psychological aspects of a real gas sharing emergency. At this level the simulation of the gas sharing situation features the out of air diver swimming 30 feet (9 meters) to a buddy who is facing away from them, get their attention and commence gas sharing. This would be comparative to being on a dive with ones buddy swimming 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) away. By the time one gets to the buddy they would have easily had to swim 30 feet (9 meters) or more. This is truly realistic training and provides the open water diver the confidence to deal with actual gas sharing situations. In fact there are numerous stress management exercises in not only the open water course but at all training levels offered by IANTD. As the difficulty of the dive style is increased, so are the training skills. Yes, it is true. This does place a larger work load on the instructor but the reward of confident divers who are therefore safer and less likely to become diver dropouts will almost always be worth the effort. Confident divers get hooked on the sport and are more prone to remain active. Confident divers also are more interested in further developing skills and abilities via advanced training (usually with you!). In short, realistic and practical training combined with an in-depth understanding of stress management in the water combined with the diving philosophy appropriate to the training level and the importance of correct equipment and technique for a given task form the foundation of the IANTD training philosophy. Some argue that the IANTD Open Water course is too difficult and time consuming to teach. In reality all agencies recommend 12 hours of lecture and 12 hours of confined water training with four SCUBA dives. IANTD likewise recommends these same minimums except with more stress management exercises. The courses can be taught effectively within the recommended class duration with complete competence in the skills required by the student. IANTD is dedicated to safety first and we firmly believe that many students value safety highly enough to dedicate more effort in a training program than may be required in other courses. While large numbers of divers is attractive to a certification agency, IANTD believes that safer, more confident and thus lower diver drop out rates is a more worthy goal than numbers alone. This approach rewards the student by gaining a higher skill level and the confidence to dive outside the supervision of an instructor and lays a foundation for continuing diver education. The instructor is rewarded by seeing more accomplished divers graduate from the course and by a higher number of students returning for advanced training. The facility actually benefits the most as confident and knowledgeable divers will purchase more and better quality equipment. Dive charters gain additional business with divers who have developed sufficient skill levels to go diving more often and who are capable of self rescue. Therefore it is our opinion that the IANTD program is a win-win situation for all aspects of the diving community and especially for the diver him/herself.
As the recreational diver gains experience they usually begin to dive in the 90 foot (27 meter) to 130 foot (39 meter) zone. At this level additional safety training and equipment is needed. For most these depths are beyond a practical, emergency-free ascent zone. Thus in the event of a gas failure a true backup is mandated. This may be either through the use of a dual outlet valve featuring two independent regulators or a standard valve and regulator accompanied by a pony tank and regulator. In this manner the diver not only has a back-up system for his buddy, but a redundant one for him/herself. The octopus provides absolutely no back-up for the diver personally. In fact, on deeper dives the octopus may be a threat to safety. If an octopus free-flows it can cause the dive to be called early or it may inhibit sufficient gas to surface. In colder climates regulator freeze up is a true threat to the divers safety when there is not a true redundant system. In addition, the deeper the dive the greater probability of becoming lost from the boat (or entry zone) there is, thus a need for use of lift bags or marker buoys. These are an essential requirement of the IANTD Deep Air and Advanced EANx courses. With the additional equipment the need for streamlining is even more important than in the Open Water Diver level.
As one migrates to technical forms of diving the emphasis on clean configuration, good technique and stress management is even more demanding. “Doing it right” becomes a significant factor for survival in adverse situations. While this article cannot touch on all aspects of IANTD training it will highlight a few of the more controversial points.
Stress management exercises are the most essential means of preparing divers for true diving emergencies. IANTD programs emphasize simulation of various situations allowing the student to gain confidence in dealing with these. An in-depth knowledge of the psychological aspects of diving is expanded once the diver enters the technical realm. As the physiological risk also increases the course materials presented explore a more in-depth understanding to the complexity of the human body’s behavior underwater.
Dive technique is elevated to new dimensions. The most demanding of the technique courses are those involving cave and wreck penetration. Ample amounts of in-water time is required to develop reflex incorporation of these techniques. For instance, although the IANTD cave course requires a minimum of 450 minutes of bottom time (in caves) most conscientious IANTD instructors average in excess of 600 minutes. All other IANTD courses require minimum in-water bottom times to build a safer diving foundation.
Emergency drills are repeated until reflex action occurs and total familiarity with ones equipment takes place. To facilitate this emphasis is given to a variety of correct equipment configurations and standardized responses. Mental drills, as well as physical ones, are incorporated to develope the appropriate reactions. The skills and responses have been developed by researching the causes of both accidents and “close calls”.
The programs use standardized texts enabling one to continue their diver education through IANTD anywhere in the world as the same materials and training practices are consistent. In other words, the program is designed to enable one to acquire a different segment of training in other parts of the world and still have the same foundation to build from.
Equipment configuration is emphasized to provide a safer diver. While it is true that no one configuration is totally complete for all environments, basic foundations are laid that one can adjust with each change in style of diving. Overall there is emphasis on reduction of non-essential redundancy. A Cave Diver does not need as much equipment as a Wreck Diver or an Open Water Technical Diver. For instance, in caves the essential needs are manifolded doubles, a proper harness and backplate or backpack, a long hose (seven foot, not longer), cutting tools (2) for gas sharing and reels as needed plus the correct exposure suit (wet or dry) for the locality the dives are made in. This is topped with a primary light and two backups. Open sea diving, including wrecks, requires a lift bag.
When diving a considerable distance off shore it is recommended that flares and EPIRP be carried. Some advocate two lift bags when doing mix dives. These are in two different colors with one designating “I’m adrift but OK” and the other designating “I/we have a problem and could use assistance”. While these items are recommendations, those who have evolved to twin lift bags, etc. have done so due to their experiences mandating the need.
While the majority of IANTD instructors, including myself, advocate breathing from the long hose and using the short hose as the backup some have strong arguments to support breathing from the short hose. In analysis of accidents there is no evidence to reflect that either is better. Due to opinions formed by the different approaches this has and will continue to be a heated debate. Hose storage is another issue that plays a major role in technical “conversations”.
The most popular means of long hose storage is the “wrapped method” as introduced in the ‘70’s with the advent of first five foot and then seven foot hoses. The Hogarth model, as well as others, emphasize this type storage. In this model, the hose is ran under the arm, usually behind the backplate/backpack and when wearing waist mounted lights is routed beneath the light the across the divers chest and then a 1/4 turn around the neck. A second method opted for many is to stow/tuck the long hose in loops along the side of the backplate/backpack. Both of these methods have about equal reaction time in securing the full length of hose to a diver who is out of air. In the stowed/tucked form the diver handing off the regulator must pull the hose free while doing the handoff. In the wrapped method the diver must remember to pull the hose free from beneath the waist light. Recently several instructors I have talked with have started routing the long hose by going under the arm and then tucking it in the waist strap. This reportedly results in quicker exchanges of the full length of the long hose.
Either of these methods is acceptable in IANTD programs. The one method IANTD is discouraging is tucking long hoses under tubing on the side of the cylinders. The reason is in this position the hose has a tendency to become entangled on wreck dives and get chaffed on cave dives.
Basically equipment should be redundant where primary life support is needed and reduced on non-essential items.
Divers in IANTD programs are required to label all cylinders with the appropriate mix and MOD. Cylinders with different mixes must be identifiable by touch, sight and labels. In open water dives where decompression cylinders will be dropped/staged at the same location, such as when wreck diving, IANTD policy requires cylinders with different mixtures to be placed on opposing sides of the diver. The intent is to incorporate an additional safety step in avoiding incorrect gas switching. This is a requirement on all open water dives. This assists the diver in identification of the cylinders and makes it easier for the buddy to verify proper placement and to quickly verify gas switches on decompression.
In cave diving where gases are staged at different depths per intended use the diver may elect to either carry the cylinders on opposing sides or carry all stages on the same side. In this instance the possibility of a wrong gas switch is remote as the intended mixture is staged (dropped & picked back up) at its operational depth. Of course to make certain the cylinders are correct they must be labeled with mix and MOD and be identifiable by touch and sight.
Part of the IANTD confined water skills when using different gas mixtures is to perform a blacked-out mask drill where the diver removes the cylinders, at which time the instructor may move them around and even intermingle them with other students cylinders. The student then while still blacked-out must be able to identify and correctly configure the cylinders where they belong by touch only. Amazingly I have not had one student fail to do this properly.
The training philosophy emphasizes an old concept known as “know your environment” and instills in the student recognition of the need to ask questions to others who may have more experience in a particular location or style of diving than themselves. It allows one to recognize that while the standard course knowledge, skills and equipment configurations develop a foundation, it is just that, a foundation from which to build and to adjust as new environments may dictate.
In Summary, The IANTD Training Philosophy Is One That:

1. Develops confidence
3. Produces thinking divers
5. Provides knowledge of the type dive being trained for
7. Develops stress recognition and management which emphasizes problem solving
9. Helps develop and evaluate a good attitude for safer diving
11. Develops an open mind to inquire about new environments
13. Makes one aware of alternatives in dive style and configuration due to varying environments
15. Educates one to be selective in whom they choose as dive partners
17. Develops a self-sufficient, non-dependent diver. This is the diver who makes a good buddy as he / she is confident and capable of assisting a buddy in emergency situations
19. Educates the diver to the fact that formal training is a foundation and the real training is done by oneself evolving from the formal setting to real life experiences. Training is a life long experience.

As always, do it right for safe diving, Tom.

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