CESA - why? I'll never run low on air!

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by Rick Murchison, Mar 29, 2007.

  1. Rick Murchison

    Rick Murchison Uncle Ricky Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

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    There have been a couple of threads on the CESA lately, with several folks declaring it an unnecessary skill, because with "proper" diving skills you'd never need it.

    Here are just two of many examples (I ain't pickin' on you two; y'all just said it clearer and in fewer words than the others :) )
    It seems many folks feel the only reason anyone would want to do a CESA is in an out-of-gas situation, and since any good diver will never, ever be in that situation then the CESA is not a necessary skill.
    I'd like to revisit that.
    What is a "Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent" and what are some of the reasons we might want to do one? The CESA is simply the means to make an emergency ascent to the surface. Are there reasons we might want to do that other than being low on, or out of gas? I say "Absolutely!"
    Because there are reasons other than "gas planning and buddy skills" that might lead to the CESA decision, the ability to do a safe CESA in the face of great stress, pain or distress or injury is an essential skill for all Scuba Divers.
    What are some of those reasons?
    1. CVA. A cardio-vascular accident - a survivable heart attack, stroke, etc often leaves little time for decision-making and action before complete disability to do anything useful, like informing a buddy you're in distress. An immediate CESA could give you a chance to avoid certain drowning, and to get to help on the boat in time to save your life. Every second counts.
    2. Bleeding. A severe cut or bite can start the blood-loss clock; your ability to do anything may be short lived and a CESA while you can do something can once again get you to a more survivable environment.
    3. Severe pain. Whether it be some internal source (sudden burst appendix or ovarian cyst or kidney stone etc) or from injury (poisonous spine, sea wasp etc), once again, pain of this magnitude may severely limit your time of useful consciousness; time to topside help is of the essence and a CESA may be your best choice.
    4. Impending panic. It is far, far better to do a CESA while still in control than to allow panic to take over and do a UPA ("Uncontrolled Panicked Ascent"). Indeed, just knowing you have the option and are competent at the CESA can go a long way in keeping under controll in the first place.
    ---
    The CESA should remain in the syllabus at the entry level; the ability to conduct a safe, rapid emergency ascent without danger of an overexpansion injury should be ingrained to the point of "automatic" in every Scuba Diver, even those who will never, ever run out of air. IOW, I think the CESA is as important in a Scuba Diver's "tool kit" as a wrench is to a mechanic.
    Rick
     
  2. Diver Dennis

    Diver Dennis Blue Whale

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    Thanks for the well thought out post Rick.
     
  3. Karibelle

    Karibelle Scuba Instructor

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    In those instances, assuming you still have air, you think the CESA is a better choice than a normal ascent? What am I missing?
     
  4. LetterBoy

    LetterBoy he who lacks empathy ScubaBoard Supporter

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    So I wonder what they do in DIR if you have one of the above incidents. . .
     
  5. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest

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    Good points, Rick.

    There are only three times over 45 years that I've had to do a CESA.

    The first one was back in the 60's when we didn't have SPG's, just J-valves. I had pulled a tank off the "filled" rack and descended to 90 feet only to find it was an empty. Somehow the J-valve had been pulled in the descent. My buddy experienced the same problem. The CESA was uneventful.

    The second doesn't really count. I was on my ascent (along a slope) at the end of a dive and saw something I just HAD to film. I kept shooting until my tank ran dry, and ascended but only from a depth of 15 ft.

    The third illustrates another valid reason for knowing the skill that has nothing to do with gas management. I had descended to 70 ft (without my pony... bad on me) and suddenly air flow from my tank ceased shortly after I exhaled my last breath. I did an 80 sec CESA. We discovered that the tank valve on a full tank had become clogged, stopping air flow.
     
  6. Diver Dennis

    Diver Dennis Blue Whale

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    If I was rapidly losing consciousness, I would not be doing a normal ascent. That could be happening in any of those examples.
     
  7. DeepBound

    DeepBound Barracuda

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    It's so refreshing to read a logical thought-out post about CESA.
    Given that this is a useful skill, how can it be practiced safely?

     
  8. fppf

    fppf Manta Ray

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    Good post Rick.
    CESA is also another way to reinforce to a new diver NEVER to hold your breath.

    There are many reasons someone would need to make an accent. There are also equipment failer modes that would cause an uncontroled accent.

    In any event, if you hold your breath, you may as well just stay down there.
     
  9. Karibelle

    Karibelle Scuba Instructor

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    Would you be ascending more quickly than a "safe ascent rate"? if you are, then you're not doing a CESA either.
     
  10. Steve50

    Steve50 Scuba Instructor

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    I agree - you may choose to make a more rapid than normal ascent - but why not breathe normally.
     
  11. Guba

    Guba Regular of the Pub

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    Nice job, Rick, of outlining other poetential causes for a CESA.

    I'll add one, though the nay-sayers will say, "well, that's your fault, so it's just incompetence"--Complacency.
    The one and only time I considered a CESA was when a fouled tank plugged my first stage. My partner was in plain sight and only about a dozen feet away, but he was intently swimming away (I had been following him closely until I spotted that turtle I wanted to shoot), and my partner was up-current. Yup, one crowd will say my negligence had bred the problem and it was all my fault, but notice just how easy it was to get into this jam. A five second pause was all it took to put me in a pickle on a very easy dive in clear conditions (Cozumel) with virtually no noticeable threats.
    I managed to get out of it without a CESA by "repartnering" with a DM that was just below me. However, had I needed to make one, it was nice to know that I had the knowlege and skills to do so.
     
  12. PerroneFord

    PerroneFord DIR Practitioner

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    Why not ask an instructor. That's what I do.
     
  13. LetterBoy

    LetterBoy he who lacks empathy ScubaBoard Supporter

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    now it makes sense. . . so where is an instructor to ask?
     
  14. PerroneFord

    PerroneFord DIR Practitioner

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    Doing three things at once...
     
  15. Blackwood

    Blackwood SoCal DIR

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    Excepting when you are supposed to.

    -MB
     
  16. Steve R

    Steve R DIR Practitioner

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    Good thing we now have pressure gauges...not a reason.

    You're right here, purposely putting yourself behind the 8-ball of gas management requires learning and adhering to gas managment principles, not learning cesa. Again not a valid reason for cesa.

    No, it illustrates the reason why proper team diving is essential for successful dives when little things go wrong from time to time, instead of solo diving. Doing an 80ft cesa would probably work well a huge majority of the time if that's your bag, but speaking only for myself in our team environment, I'll stick with a controlled ascent on the long hose, which is clearly a safer method.

    45 years of evidently successful solo diving to upwards of 200ft certainly is impressive, and maybe shows just how often gear doesn't break down or cause issues, but it's not the type of diving I'd be teaching or touting as safe. Why you haven't been laughed off of scooby-board only shows the level of understanding most people have with respect to responsible diving around here.

    No offense Rick, but maybe sitting there at 1 ATA typing your post sounds like you'd be able to work through most of those problems via a successful cesa may sound logical, but in reality is pretty much laughable bud.

    I'm having a 'heart attack'..maybe I'll do a cesa,........I'm going to be panicking in 10 seconds, maybe I'll do a cesa.....c'mon...what a joke.

    But hey, let's see how many times we can flog the same pony....have fun kids.

    :deadhorse:

    I swear, if some of you would spend as much time perfecting proper individual and team skills as you do on BS cesa arguments, you'd be way further ahead.
     
  17. LetterBoy

    LetterBoy he who lacks empathy ScubaBoard Supporter

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    So you are saying that someone has a major incident at depth you will continue the dive? or you will surface?
     
  18. DeepBound

    DeepBound Barracuda

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    What a joke? Is that supposed to be a rebuttal, or an argument of some form? If you disagree, I for one would like to hear a reason. If you don't have one, insulting the OP is childish and impolite.
     
  19. PerroneFord

    PerroneFord DIR Practitioner

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    Surfacing, and CESA are not necessarily the same thing.

    To wit, the recently aired video of the Dave Shaw episode. Dave's buddy, watched his friend die in front of his face. He had a medical problem himself and a gear failure. Did he CESA? No. He had several hours of DECO ahead of him. He did what he had to do, and got out of the water as quickly as possible.

    If a shark bites your leg off, you're going to leave the water pretty quickly. If you have a cramp, you might leave the water, or you might stretch it out. Either option is viable. Heart attack, I don't know. Never had one. Do you stop breathing?

    There is no dead pony to beat here. All the answers are the same. Those who view CESA as viable, always will. Those who don't, never will. And never shall the two meet! :)
     
  20. fisherdvm

    fisherdvm Great White

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    I've been "banned" from technical diving because I felt that there is still a place for CESA... Oh, well, not going to miss it.
     

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