Abandoned Divers, What to do, How to Prevent

The Boat

Check out the boat and boat captain before diving
Ask questions about rescue action plans
Ask about the history of the motor
Ask about the credentials of the crew
Ask about the system for counting heads (Names!)
The best method is preventative: Not only are head counts good, but a log with names to check off is added protection. There’s a (free) ID Tag setup called Diver Identification System that may prove useful (go to the DAN website and search using the keyword “DIDs”). Thanks to Renee Duncan for this information!
Find out if the boat has a functioning radio
Request to see and hear it function
Ask who they call for assistance
Be alert to location of the nearest land

The Dive

If a drift dive, listen carefully for instructions, stay with the group
Check for current, tide and wind conditions; imagine yourself out of sight of the boat
Always start your dive by swimming upcurrent after orienting yourself
Develop navigational skills. 

Equipment possibly helpful

Inflatable Sausage
Whistle or other noise maker

Hazards of being left behind

Dehydration and thirst
Severe sunburn and immersion injury
Marine animal injury

Things to do

Inflate BC
Drop weights, preserving belt
Inflate sausage
Flash reflector (Someone might see it, even though you can’t see them)
Blow whistle
Write time, approximate location and speed of current on your slate
If you swim, swim diagonally with the current toward any known dry land.
Stay with others involved. Use a tie up method using empty weight belt or other straps. This gives a larger target for searchers.
Remember that there will be rescue attempts and searchers.

‘Seven Steps to Survival’

Survival at sea depends on the recognition that you are in danger of losing your life. There are commonly described “seven steps” to survival that may make a difference in the outcome of some rather terrible situations. Even an accident fairly close inshore in cold water can quickly lead to hypothermia and drowning. The seven steps to survival are: recognition, inventory, shelter, water, food, signals and play. Of course, flotation is a prerequisite for any survival after only a short time in the water. Other factors come into play, the most important of which is unmeasurable, “the will to live”.

The seven steps to survival include recognizing that you are in peril and realizing that what you are wearing constitutes a form of shelter. Use signals in the form of mirrors, flares, colored objects or waving arms, suits or objects about to attract attention. Finally, “play” comes into action as you have memories, fantasies, prayer, tell jokes and get rid of your anger.


Ernest S. Campbell, M.D., FACS

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