Whenever we hear of or lose a member diving, it hurts us and shakes us to our core. It seems that this has happened with too much frequency here in the PNW. Sometimes, it might scare us enough to think about giving up the sport.
I've been thinking about what can we do to decrease these deaths? Whenever I've thought about the reasons why, I thought initially it was primarily due to equipment failure, lack of air, DCS, or maybe even CVD (cardiovascular disease).
Well, I just read a great article by DAN http://www.diversalertnetwork.org/files/DivingFatalityCauses.pdf
and would like share some insight which will help us make better and safer diving decisions. I was highly surprised by what I learned. Note that the study was for OC diving.
The most prominent trigger for diving fatalities was lack of air at 41%. Entrapment as a trigger was 20%, equipment problems were 15%, and rough water was 11%. What does this mean? To me, it suggests that we are wise to place more education on air supply/consumption, getting untangled, and diving with a buddy to aid when one of us needs help. How many agencies really focus on this type of prevention? I don't know, but I suspect that unless your doing tech dives you might not get this type of education. I never got it with my OW/AOW training.
What's going to really disable a person that well lead to an injury? Well, 55% in DAN's study were due to an emergency ascent, 27% due to insufficient gas, and 13% to buoyancy problems. I can imagine how easy it is for someone to get scared when they're out of air and feel the need to hold their breath to the surface - this can easily lead to an arterial gas embolism (AGE). Maybe we need a little more education in managing and controlling our ascents and with different equipment malfunctions?
I think it gets interesting at looking at the injury which leads to the bad outcome: 33% of fatalities were to do lack of oxygen (asphyxia), 29% for an AGE, and 26% for cardiac incidents
. These three injuries lead to 88% of all deaths, WOW! I thought there would be more injuries here. Note that DCS only accounted for a 2.5% of the deaths, which is where so much emphasis is placed. Do we need to change our viewpoint?? I think so!
How much do the fatality odds increase with each major injury?
- For Asyphyxia: entrapment
increases the odds by 30 times and insufficient air
by 15.9 times.
- For AGE: emergency ascent
increases the odds by 30 times.
- For a Cardiac problem: CVD (cardiovascular disease)
increases the odds by >10.5 times and being >40yrs of age
the odds go up 5.9 times. Cardiac problems is a huge problem not just for divers, as 1 in 3 will be succumbed to this disease.
So what can we do??
- learn better air management and be conservative with air.
- learn how to get and help others get untangled
- be an aware diver
- dive with a buddy - DAN notes that 57% of those in the study begun their dive with a buddy and were separated.
- learn and practice emergency ascent procedures and controlling them.
- get checked out CVD risks, if you have risks get them managed by a physician, or better yet a functional medicine/nutrition expert who can uncover the many underlying causes and address them. If you don't have someone, PM me and I can either find one for you or get you the testing you need as I frequently order blood tests and EKG's for my chiropractic and nutritional patients.
- definitely don't dive if you have CVD symptoms as 60% of those had lack of breath, chest pain, or didn't feel well before or during diving. (maybe we should add this to our buddy checks)
I hope this spurs some discussions and challenges us to improve our safety procedures.