The Importance Of Buddy Checks
I remember the dive site where this incident took place, it was at Sombreros, on the east side, luckily as it turned out, a pretty calm day in the ocean too, sometimes these things stick in your head.
From the beginning of our open water course we are reminded that buddy checks are really important. We’re going underwater, out of our element. To reduce any unnecessary risk it’s best to thoroughly check our equipment before we go in!!
There are different ways to remember it, depending on what your instructors preferences, but the PADI standard is Begin With Review And Friend.
(other popular ones are Burger With Relish And Fries, Beans With Rice And Fish, Bruce Willis Ruins/Rocks All Films)
BUT how many people actually perform a good buddy check before every dive? Even if you are reminded by the dive staff that you need to do it. Maybe it’s a buddy you dive with all the time and you think, well i know how their equipment is. What’s the problem. Maybe you’ve been buddied up with someone new and they don’t seem to bothered so you don’t push it, even though this is when it should be even more important!!
This particular day one buddy team didn’t complete a good buddy check. Also one of the team were diving with brand new equipment that they hadn’t even tried out in the pool so they were also unfamiliar with it.
Most people are familiar with a standard corrugated BCD inflator hose that falls over your left shoulder. There are newer BCD designs that do not incorporate this hose and instead have a button or buttons located on the bottom pocket area of the jacket and these are used for inflation/deflation. (see Mares Air Trim and Aqualung i3 for examples)
The buddy pair in question entered the water. The diver with the new equipment was not a particularly experienced diver but had received a full briefing onboard the boat. This diver on entering the water was not positively buoyant and started to struggle to stay at the surface. The buddy pair was close to the diver and tried to help, but unfortunately due to unfamiliarity with the equipment, could not find the inflator button to achieve positive buoyancy. The divers new equipment did not have a standard BCD inflator but had an Air Trim inflator. A staff member had also entered the water approached the diver, realized what the problem was and inflated the divers BCD. The diver returned to the boat and did not dive that day.
Could this problem have been avoided with a simple diving standard buddy check? Pretty likely! Remember when doing a buddy check you WANT your buddy to be able to help you in the event of an emergency. So make sure you tell them HOW to.
How to do a good buddy check:
B – BCD/Buoyancy: Make sure everything is connected and functioning properly. Test the inflator button and all of the deflate valves.
In an emergency it’s important to know how to adjust their buoyancy. Ask questions if you need to.
W – Weight: Ensure you both have weights and that they are secure. gently tug on BC weight pouches to confirm they’re locked in and won’t fall out during entry. If using a belt, check it is secure and correctly adjusted. Check rear BC weight pockets and any other places where weights may need to be secured.
R – Releases: Check all releases to confirm they are secure and make sure your dive buddy knows how open the release if needed in an emergency. Check the tank strap, BC shoulder and chest straps, weight belt, etc. Make sure there aren’t any hoses or other items in the way of any releases.
A – Air: A proper air check means physically verifying the cylinder valve is completely open. Taking multiple breaths while looking at an SPG/integrated computer, allowing you to ensure the tank valve is open. You can see how much air is available for the dive, verify the air monitoring device is functioning, and that the air tastes okay. Check your alternate air source and show your buddy knows where they can locate it in an emergency.
F – Final Check: As part of the final check you need to make sure you have all your equipment (mask, snorkel, fins, audible and visual signaling device, etc.) make sure there are no loose hoses or other objects that may dangle and damage the reef or get damaged. Do a head to toe check to ensure both divers are ready to go.
Written by Hannah Deighton