Going on a Dive Trip?
Recently on Facebook we posted four questions that divers should ask to gauge an operator’s level of preparedness to help you in the event of a diving accident. These centred around availability of oxygen, appropriate equipment, supply of oxygen and staff trained in oxygen provision.
Here, DAN AP’s General Manager, Scott Jamieson, discusses Oxygen Preparedness in the context of a recent diving incident.
Is Your Dive Operator Prepared?
DAN AP has always advocated that all dive operators should not only have the correct oxygen equipment and training in how to use it, but they must also have enough oxygen to enable a diver to breathe good high concentration oxygen (via demand valve or non-rebreather mask at 15 litres per minute) until ongoing care is available. Given that a lot of diving takes place in remote destinations, this can often mean an overnight supply.
Whilst it is a good start to have a portable oxygen kit with a small cylinder, the reality is that in the Asia-Pacific region it may take many hours for transport to be organised, it may even be the next day. In cases where these delays occur it is important that the diver continues to receive good high concentration oxygen right through to the time they can be assessed and treated (if necessary).
In cases where divers have milder symptoms it has been shown that many of those who received prompt and sufficient oxygen first aid avoided the need for recompression, as their symptoms often resolved after several hours breathing high concentrations of oxygen.
In a recent case a diver in Truk contacted the DAN funded Diving Emergency Service (DES) hotline with symptoms of a skin rash that occurred after two dives to around 30 metres. He breathed oxygen when the symptoms first appeared and they mostly resolved, but then slowly returned when he stopped.
The diver was advised to return to breathing oxygen for at least 4-5 hours and to contact DAN if the symptoms worsened or any other symptoms appeared. DAN contacted the diver after the prescribed time and were advised that the symptoms had almost completely resolved.
This diver avoided a trip to the chamber because:
- He stopped diving as soon as he noticed the symptoms (although he should have called DAN or the Diving Emergency Service (DES) hotline at this stage so that arrangements could be made in case the oxygen was not effective in resolving his symptoms).
- He was given oxygen first aid via a non-rebreather mask by the operator’s team at the first onset of symptoms and this continued for around 5 hours.
- When the symptoms returned he contacted DAN for further advice.
The operator in this case should be commended for having sufficient oxygen available, appropriate equipment and trained staff to provide oxygen first aid to this diver.
Provision of prompt and effective high concentration oxygen first aid is essential in the management of diving accidents. If you are planning a trip, before you book make sure to ask:
- Do they have O₂ available on all their dive boats?
- Can their O₂ equipment give high concentration oxygen to a breathing and non-breathing diver?
- How many hours O₂ supply do they have? Is it enough to get the diver to appropriate medical care?
- Is their staff trained in O₂ first aid?
- Do they have an Emergency Plan?
Oxygen Preparedness & Awareness Campaign
DAN AP is running an Oxygen First Aid Awareness and Preparedness Campaign in an effort to get more operators equipped to help their divers should they need it. We encourage operators to visit danap.org/oxygen.php. DAN AP is here to help all operators get oxygen prepared with advice, training and equipment.