Should you Complete a Safety Stop when you find an Unconscious Diver Underwater?
Ever thought of the answer to this? There’s a lot of different answers you can find online and when chatting with your dive buddies. We tried to This is by no means meant to be an answer that you always should follow to the ‘T’. Instead, use your common sense and follow your instincts and only do what keeps you safe!
The first reaction will be that you want to do anything to help that other diver. And the knee jerk reaction might be to take the diver and drag him or her to the surface. But, without thinking about your current situation like your depth, how long you’ve been under water, etc. you might put yourself in danger. Therefore, take a deep breath and think through your current situation.
There are a few things to consider should you come into that situation. First and foremost, your own safety and security is of greatest concern. It would help nobody if you end up as the second victim.
How could you end up in that situation?
All that aside, realistically it’s a scenario that never happens. First of all, neither you nor the unconscious diver should dive alone in the first place. That is if you’re not a rescue diver that is out searching specifically for a missing diver or one that had an accident.
For simplicity, let’s assume you are not such a rescue diver. If you were, you are specifically trained for these situations and certainly wouldn’t need to ask the question in the first place…
For others, it is pretty much common sense. Never do anything that you’re not comfortable doing and that would put you at risk. If you don’t feel that you have the ability to bring the unconscious diver up then don’t try.
What options do you have?
What you always can do is to check the unconscious diver’s air supply. If he or she has air in the tank and is breathing then there might not be an immediate danger for that diver. However, make sure there’s enough air in the other tank or otherwise you can use your octo or, if you have a pony bottle, you can use that.
The thing you always can do is to mark the location with a surface buoy. That way you can make a safe ascent and then get help to get the diver safely to the surface.
Another point to consider is that while you could bring the diver to the surface, what will you do then? If you’re not really close to your dive boat then how will you get the diver to the boat? It’s much easier to figure out a way to drag the weight of a diver underwater compared to on the surface.
You also have to think about that you probably won't be right underneath your dive boat but somewhere away from it as you were in the middle of your dive. When coming to the surface, you will have to assume that the crew is not right there and able to help you simply because you come up at a different location as planned.
In that case you will have to keep the other diver and yourself afloat with all your equipment. You could ditch your gear as well as the other diver's gear but then you end up in another quagmire. If you ditch the bottles then you could have to adjust both BCD's by yourself. Yet, that won't be easy either.
Coming to the surface with an unconscious diver also brings up another problem. How do you help that diver when you're still in the water? If the other diver had a heart attack you'll have a hard time giving CPR as you have no hard surface at that moment anyway. If the diver wakes up during your ascent or when on the surface and starts to thrash around you also might endanger your own well-being.
Ignore your safety stop?
There are opinions that you should ignore your safety stops or even your decompression stops assuming that you can fix any decompression illness when you're on the surface. While there might be some truth to that, you still have to consider that it can very well take a long time to get to the decompression chamber to reverse any ill effects.
In the worst case you can ignore a safety stop. They are what the word says, a safety stop. They are added to your dive to add safety but ignoring it should not put you into any real danger.
Decompression stops are a different story. Ignoring them can put you in danger of decompression sickness which can in the worst case have irreversible if not even fatal consequences. In any case you should check your dive computer and verify that you are safe to go up.
There's no 'one-size-fits-all' answer. You can only do what you are trained to do and what you feel comfortable to do. You should under no circumstances do anything that will put you in danger. It's bad enough to have one victim but it would be worse if there were two.
Now to you – what do you think is the right thing to do? Leave a comment below. We certainly do not pretend to know all the answers and as with everything there’s more than one way to have an answer that is viable and makes sense. Share yours with us the community!