In 2018 the PADI Asia Pacific Quality Management team continues to bring you tips from PADI staff in the field on how to maintain and improve safety in your professional diving activities. This month we heard from Donny McFadden Quality Management Consultant – PADI Asia Pacific.
Emergency Action Plans
As PADI Professionals there are many split decisions we may need to make on the job, some with very little consequence and others with far greater implications. To dive or not to dive? Backwards roll or giant stride? Do I eat the last cookie from the box or not…?
One important decision dive professionals may find themselves faced with is whether or not to enact the Emergency Action Plan for not so obvious barotrauma injuries. Enacting the Emergency Action Plan will in many cases mean ending the dive trip. With the expectations of paying customers and the potential financial and logistical complications that may occur from ending a trip, dive pros may find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I can hear what you’re saying, and on paper it seems very obvious – it’s a choice between customer service or assisting a DCI victim. Simple right? However as we all know in reality not all cases of DCI are obvious, with many cases presenting symptoms in line with other conditions such as dehydration, muscular injury or seasickness to name a few. In some cases the divers themselves will reject the notion that they may be suffering from DCI at all. In fact one of the biggest dangers of DCI is actually denial itself.
In light of this it’s important to remember DCI is a hazard divers are innately exposed to, even though the risk is moderately low, DCI can happen to anyone, even on uneventful dives.
If there is even the remotest suspicion of DCI the diver should be assessed and appropriate first aid administered. The Emergency Action Plan should contain a symptom checklist and guidelines for a neurological assessment. Unless medically trained to do so, dive professionals are not qualified to diagnose divers for DCI, however knowing what you are looking for will help when you make the call to a diver emergency helpline (if available) and/or EMS.
Calling a diver emergency hotline such as Divers Alert Network, and/or the local hyperbaric chamber, and/or EMS is a very important part of the Emergency Action Plan. Organisations such as DAN have 24 hour hotlines with medical professionals on hand to provide advice. Calling for assistance also helps shift the responsibility of proceeding with evacuation procedures away from the dive pro and onto a trained medical professional. If an organisation like DAN says evacuate, nobody will question that decision. Even if the symptoms turn out to be unrelated to DCI, everyone will sleep better knowing that diagnosis came from a qualified medical physician.
Emergency Action Plans should be a stringent part of any dive operations Standard Operating Procedure. It should have a clear sequence, list of emergency contacts, evacuation details specific to the area and it should be as simple or extensive as the dive environment dictates. As a dive pro make sure you are familiar with your Emergency Action Plans, and if possible get the team together to practice a drill from time to time to test for efficiency. As PADI Professionals we all hope we are never placed in a real emergency situation, but if we ever are – we not only need to be prepared, but we also have a responsibility to be prepared.
Donny McFadden, Quality Management Consultant – PADI Asia Pacific.