Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Don't Panic!

Literally, these are words to live by. In many situations where people die, or become injured, panic is often a factor. Those who can remain calm under stressful situations seem to have a better chance at survival then those who “freak out” at the drop of a hat.

Scuba diving is a sport better survived by those people who can remain calm during times of stress. Many diving accident victims are actually found with plenty of air in their tank, and no known malfunction of their equipment. The conclusion then, is that the person simply panicked and the result was deadly.

That being said, studies show that the sport of diving is equivalent in safety to bowling. I believe this is attributed to the fact that divers must take a course to learn the proper way to do the sport, and become certified before they can go it alone.

Here is an excerpt from my dive logbook from October 8th, 1981 at which time I found myself in a potentially bad predicament.

“Comments: This was my first combination night dive and lobster hunt. It was great. I got a 3# or 4# lobster, but during the measuring process it got loose. Oh well. My second catch was too tiny so I didn’t even try. My new light (Super QXL-Lite, by Underwater Kinetics) worked really well. This dive demonstrated the need for the diver training exercises you learn in class. At 35 feet down, the entire class was watching our instructor measure a lobster. When it was done, everyone turned one direction to continue on and my dive buddy, Tracy, accidentally fin-kicked me in the face. This knocked my mask loose and my regulator out of my mouth. Without being able to see, I reached around and got my regulator back with the sweeping movement that was taught in class. Now that I could breathe, I then began to reposition my mask and clear it of the water that had completely filled it up. After all of that, it took me a little while to locate, and catch up to, the rest of the class. After all, it was pitch black under the water. The way I located them was to turn off my light and look for the glow of someone else’s light. The dive ended well, but the potential for a panicked ascent was high. Remember, keep calm, regain breathing, then fix other problems...”

Last night I had another experience that those with claustrophobia may not wish to read about.

We were doing darkness and entanglement training at a local lake. Even though the visibility was about 6 inches to begin with, we also placed black covers over our masks to ensure we could not see a thing. My turn came, and I was headed out on the simulated search. When I arrived at a certain point, a safety diver “entangled” me in a rope. And I’ll have to admit, he did a great job getting me tied up!

Next, I gave the signal on the line that I needed assistance, and another diver (also blacked out) came down the line to assist. There the two of us remained, in the dark, and untangling the rope strictly by feeling where our equipment was, and where the rope was tangled up. Time seems like it goes by slowly when you’re trapped in the bottom of a lake in the dark.

Since I am here to relate the story, you know everything went well. I have been a part of training many dive students that this would have just sent them to a rubber room if they lived to tell about it. Night diving is not for everyone, and plenty of fun can be had diving in the daylight, in fairly shallow water with supervision. This is the type of diving you get on vacation at a resort for example.

As we go through life we rarely get to experience situations that call for us to summon our mental strength to survive. So far I am doing pretty well, but I try not to be overly confident because you never know when your limits will be stretched to the breaking point no matter who you are.

When someone has reached theirs, I hope the Water Rescue Team will be there to make sure they live to tell the tale to their grandkids!

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