Buddy System Breakdown & Safety Tips
In open water diving, the buddy system is critical for safe diving. For safety purposes, diving is done in groups, and this is the idea behind the buddy system where divers are placed in groups of two’s, and each person is supposed to watch out for the other. In a proper buddy system, buddies are meant to stick together, so situations, where one member of the buddy system is on one corner flirting with a turtle and the other in another corner engrossed with a boxfish, is very unsafe.
The buddy system is essential for the safety of divers so in a worst-case scenario like an out-of-air emergency; a diver can get immediate assistance from his buddy. Also, a dive buddy provides an additional brain to solve problems during emergencies. Buddy relationships are of different kinds, and there are those new divers who are so absorbed in this fun new experience that for a moment they forget their partner’s needs. There are also buddies who have been diving together for a long time and know each other so well that they may grow a little complacent and bored. There are also those buddies who are just familiar enough and have no real desire to stay together longer than is necessary. They may enter into the buddy system in good faith, in the hope that everything works right without actually discussing anything. Apparently, to keep your buddy by your side requires a lot of communication, understanding and consideration by all parties.
Before going for a dive, the buddies should establish some ground rules. These rules relate to maximum depth of dive, direction of dive, whether you would stay together always, how far apart you should drift, who decides where they go, what happens if you do separate, and some other factors to be considered. During the dive, it is customary that the more experienced diver takes the leader role and stays in front of the buddy system although some persons argue that the less experienced diver should be in front so he can take instructions from the experienced diver. Whoever leads or follows should have specific duties to the other which should be decided on and followed.
Sometimes, either due to negligence or by chance, diving buddies may separate. In situations like this, you may want to implement the standard protocol of searching for one minute and resurfacing. However, this rule isn’t etched in stone, and there are a lot of other factors to consider as it is possible that your diving buddy may be in grave danger and you may consider spending a couple of minutes extra to search for your partner before resurfacing. None of the options above is training-agency standard but whatever is acted on has first to be agreed upon, so both parties know what to do.
Also, in every buddy dive, there has to be preparations for solo diving if the situation warrants it. Whether it means surfacing immediately or continuing as planned. As a minimum, you would need specific equipment and sharper skills. When diving solo you need a second cutting tool, surface signalling gear, and an entirely redundant air source. If you prepare for the buddy relationship to break up, you’ll always survive regardless of what happens.
Diving buddies have to look out for each other, both before and after the dive but also to dive solo when the occasion demands. Diving buddies would also agree to help each other gear up before the dive, and until them, both leave the surface. After surfacing, they would also agree with each other’s gear and ensure that the other diver is accounted for. The key to buddy dive safety is practice and understanding, lots of it.