If you have taken a Rescue Diver course you are familiar with creating and having an Emergency Assistance Plan / Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Hopefully, any dive center or dive boat you are diving with will have one as well. Under ideal situations, the dive guide will include the information from the EAP in the dive brief or boat brief. If you are not a Rescue Diver, you may be asking what is an EAP and who should have one.
Your emergency action plan is a guide to what to do in case of an emergency. When creating a plan, you will research emergency numbers, transportation options and other information that should be at hand. Having a plan with all the needed information at hand can reduce the probability of panic and help start the process from victim to patient in an orderly manner. The plan would be in a quick action layout. You would be able to hand the card to anyone, and they should be able to start the process.
Dive operators, or at least their insurance companies, feel that having an Emergency Action Plan is very important. They know that putting a plan of action into effect can greatly improve the chances of saving someone’s life. If you are an Open Water Diver or higher, you are considered an autonomous diver. This means you do not require supervision to dive and you are responsible for yourself and a dive buddy. If the EAP is important to a commercial operation, should it not also be important when you and your dive buddy or dive club go diving? You may say I know all that, but the question is if you are the victim will those with you know?
Where To Start
When you start putting an action plan together, start with one dive site. Within the same area, most of your information and the plan will be the same. However, it is possible that the sites might be closer to different destinations to meet up emergency medical teams. Also, your ability to communicate that you have an emergency might be different.
In putting your plan together, think about the following points and try to incorporate them:
- Your first step in developing an EAP is to obtain and understand a Diving Emergencies Management flow chart. They are done as waterproof slates. Each training agency, DAN and many Universities have their own version. You should be able to purchase one at your local dive center. If not, search for one online. You will find different versions, select the one most aligned with your needs. If you download one, put it in a heavy laminate.
- How do you contact local emergency medical care? While many countries have a centralized number, not all do. Cell phones are the most common means of communications right now, but you could be out of range. Marine radios may be required on a boat. While shore diving, you might have to dispatch someone to a location that has cell service.
- How do you evacuate a patient to medical care? Is the situation dire enough to contact the coast guard or other emergency medical services for transportation? Would you transport the patient yourself to be a better option?
- How do you coordinate emergency hyperbolic treatments and other diver-specific medical information? It is important to contact Divers Alert Network as soon as possible. If there is a local hyperbolic chamber verify contact information and to they respond to emergency dive treatment. Many chambers have turned their time to other uses.
- What services can you expect and not expect from local emergency services? Emergency service may not be readily accessible.
- What special contact numbers do you need in an emergency?
- Where is the nearest communication, if not available at the dive site?
- What route would you take in evacuating a patient to care if you would have to do it yourself? Are some potential landing sites better than others?
- Injury and Lost Diver prevention plan. These standards should be developed as well but could be a separate item.
These are just some items to consider. DAN has a good video giving more details.
First Aid Kit
Every boat should have a first aid kit. If you are shore diving, you should also have a first aid kit may be adding a few items to your auto first aid kit and make it do double duty. As a part of your site evaluation, you need to look at the risk and what first aid supplies you should add.
Your first aid kit should consider the marine life you may happen across. Last year, a friend of mine was leading a wreck dive class. He reached out to tie off a reel and as he passed the reel around a pipe, he brushed against a lionfish. One of the spines punctured his skin on a finger. By the time he reached the surface his finger had swollen to the point that he could not move it and his hand had visibly swollen as well. The treatment for lionfish stings is to immerse the impacted area in hot water or apply heat in another manner. The protein in the venom of a lionfish will break down under heat. Sadly, there was no hot water available. The dive boat raced back to the dive center and it was over 20 minutes before treatment could begin. I will grant that this was not a life-threatening situation, however, the diver was in a great deal of pain. So much that he had to be taken to a medical facility to treat the pain. It took over 24 hours to reach the point that he did not need pain medication and another 3 days before he could use his hands. The first aid kit now has emergency heat packs that can start breaking down the lionfish venom before it can spread. Jellyfish are another marine animal that can easily disrupt your dive.
Do you Know First Aid and CPR?
I wrote another article, Can You Save A Life?, that gives some insight into first aid and CPR. Take a look at that article as well. It is good to dive with others who are well-trained. In case of an emergency, it much better if most people on hand understand and are able to perform First Aid and CPR.
When you dive, accidents can happen. If you are diving with a small group without professional oversight, you should prepare for the worst and an EAP will certainly help you with that.