Buddy Separation: What To Do and How To Prevent?
How to prevent buddy separation during a dive?
1. Plan your dive with your buddy
Properly getting ready for your upcoming dive can significantly reduce the risk of getting separated from your dive buddy. It’s important to plan your dive thoroughly together and establish clear guidelines for communicating underwater. Make sure to specify the dive route you’ll follow and the maximum depth you’ll reach to prevent any confusion once you’re beneath the water’s surface. By taking these steps, you’ll greatly enhance your chances of staying together and enjoying a safe dive.
2. Stay close to your buddy
As a general rule, aim to maintain a distance of no more than 2 seconds apart from your buddy. If visibility underwater is good, it’s recommended to stay within a range of 3-5 meters from your dive buddy. However, if visibility is poor, stay within 1-2 meters of your buddy as low visibility increases the risk of getting separated.
3. Underwater Communication is important
It is crucial to maintain regular communication and keep a close eye on your dive buddy. Develop a reliable routine of checking on each other every 2-5 minutes and asking if they are doing ‘okay’. During the dive, ensure continuous communication with your buddy using hand signals. In situations where there might be a change in the dive plan or any other important information you need to convey, utilize underwater slates to effectively communicate with your buddy.
4. Distraction leads to separation
If your dive objective involves activities such as underwater photography or any other task that requires one buddy to be actively engaged, it is crucial for the non-acting buddy to maintain close contact. This means staying in proximity to each other and being readily available for assistance or communication. By doing so, the non-acting buddy can provide support and ensure the safety of their buddy while they focus on their specific task. This close contact allows for quick response in case of emergencies or any unexpected situations that may arise during the dive.
5. Leader and follower
When one diver takes the lead while the other follows, it’s important for the leading diver to never assume that the follower is keeping up. It is crucial to maintain constant visual contact with each other throughout the entire dive. By doing so, the leading diver can ensure that the follower is close by and following their lead. This practice helps prevent any miscommunication or separation between the divers.
What to do if separated from your dive buddy?
Unfortunately, despite thorough preparation, divers may occasionally find themselves separated, emphasizing the importance of having a well-defined separation protocol in place. If you ever encounter such a situation, it’s crucial to stay calm as the first step. Afterward, follow these steps:
1. Stop and 360-degree turn
Stop your movement and conduct a slow, thorough visual examination in all directions, making a 360-degree spin. Be sure to scan both above and below you. Look out for your buddy’s bubbles or any distinct colours that might stand out underwater, such as yellow fins or dive lights. Remember, there is a possibility that your buddy could be behind you in your blind spot, so you might not be truly separated.
2. Use your signalling device
To attract your dive buddy’s attention, utilize an audio signalling device like a tank-banger or any other noise-making tool. By creating sound, your buddy may be able to locate you by following the direction of the noise. However, it’s important to pause and listen for any signals from your buddy in response. Continuous noise can become distorted, making it difficult for your buddy to determine its origin.
In low visibility conditions, if you have a dive light with you, use it in conjunction with your slow spin. The light can serve as a way to catch your buddy’s attention, particularly if they are positioned behind underwater obstacles such as large rocks. By shining the light in different directions, you increase the chances of your buddy noticing it and re-establishing contact. Remember to use these techniques cautiously and in accordance with your training to ensure the safety of both yourself and your dive buddy.
3. Search for one minute
Before the dive, it is essential to establish and agree upon the leader in the buddy team. The leader will take on the responsibility of retracing their steps and bringing the pair back together in case of separation. The other diver should remain stationary and maintain observation during this time. It is crucial to thoroughly discuss and clarify these roles during your pre-dive planning to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities.
After one minute of searching, both divers will begin to acsend. Continuing the search for an extended period can potentially pose risks to your safety. Therefore, if you are unable to locate your buddy within that timeframe, it is crucial to deploy your DSMB and start to ascend. It is advised to ascend slowly directly to the surface without making a safety stop.
4. Return to surface
Upon reaching the surface, it is important to scan the area for any nearby bubbles or the presence of a DSMB and check below you. Call out to your buddy multiple times to attract their attention. Once surfaced, it is crucial not to descend again. If you and your buddy had a pre-dive plan, your buddy should be following the same protocol and will likely surface close to your location. In case the water conditions are unfavourable or you cannot locate your buddy, return to the boat and report your missing buddy.
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