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November 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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No Diver Left Behind: Part II

what works, what doesn’t, to get divers back aboard

from the November, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Some dive boats, even in First World countries, still don't have foolproof systems to count divers before departing dive sites. In Part I, published in the October issue, we shared Undercurrent readers' stories about being left behind and/or near-misses. They also noted dive operators that had good counting systems, and others that needed work. In this issue, it's the dive operators' turn to say what systems work best, which ones don't, and what divers can do on their own to ensure they're not left behind.

So, What Doesn't Work?

Divers Alert Network sells DAN tags, key-chain-like pieces, to individual divers for attaching to their dive gear. It also offers dive operators its Diver ID System free of charge to be used in combination with a diver roll call. Each diver is assigned a numbered tag to attach to his BC, and a dive crew member logs his name and tag number on the roster as each diver enters the water. After the dive, the diver removes his tag and returns it to the board.

Unfortunately, many dive operators don't think the DAN system is adequate. Clay McCardell, president of Explorer Ventures, says, "We've tried systems such as the DAN ID tags, but with limited success, because divers have to remember to take a tag, and then to put it back." He says Explorer boat methods vary from region to region -- log sheets in the Caribbean, head count in the Galapagos -- but it's more based on the diving method used. In the Maldives, a combination of systems is used, since all diving is conducted from the smaller dhoni and we can more effectively count tanks."

Surely, some divers may forget to hang up their tag or to log in (we heard a story where a crew was missing a tag and started a search for a diver, who was asleep on his bunk, tag in his hand), but in any system, the crew must make the final check, as well as the final double check, to ensure everyone is on board. A DAN tag system can work if the crew is vigilant, the boat doesn't move until all tags are accounted for, and the crew then takes a head count. But it can be far slower at identifying missing divers than a system where a crew member hovers at the stern and logs in divers as soon as they exit....

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