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Panic and Tech Diving

Discussion in 'Technical Diving Specialties' started by Cave Diver, Jul 10, 2010.

  1. lamont

    lamont Photographer

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    The answer to this question is really pretty simple, which is to stay out of the incident pit. Training and experience are things that help keep you out of the incident pit. Experienced cave instructors and explorers just have more training and experience and can dig deeper to stay out of the incident pit.

    In the case in JB, though, the incident clearly began on the surface with the decision to violate not only intro limits, but full cave limits and violate basic rules of accident analysis. That's a case where you can make a simple decision on dry land to either make it more or less likely to wind up in the incident pit. Generally in most fatalities there are going to be decisions made on the surface that make winding up in the incident pit more likely.

    In the case of the IPE incident, the divers were within their limits and obeying all the rules which reduces the stress. That is another reason why to not do visual jumps -- it isn't just a question of if the cave is going to get silted out and have a zero visibility exit. You can't look at a visual jump and say to yourself "this passage will never silt out, so I won't put in a jump" you need to consider coming back to that jump under massive amounts of stress with a medical issue like that, and having a properly setup jump pointing the way home can help keep you from falling further into the incident pit.

    And diving over your limits and doing full cave dives when you're not full cave trained is also going to magnify stress, and that can't be eliminated from a cause just because the divers involved were "experienced". The knowledge of lack of training can cause more stress when things go sideways, which can cause the diver to circle down the incident pit tighter.

    So, you want to know how to avoid panic? Proper training and not violating the rules will help, no matter how people want to try to rationalize that away.

    Generally, once you hit the "big eyes" point in the incident pit, there are going to have been a lot of mistakes made prior to that. I'd vastly prefer to just avoid either seeing or presenting the "big eyes". Dives are a lot more enjoyable without that expression being involved... Prevention is the best cure....
     
  2. Slamfire

    Slamfire Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Langley, British Columbia, Canada
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    I agree with the quoted text above, but you're making it sound like the cure for panic is [or should be] irrevocably tied to training and following rules. I think these are two distinctly different elements that in the real world can be encountered independently of each other. When you join them as the answer to panic, it just sounds too much like a stop gap measure treating a symptom without addressing the heart of the matter.

    For example, a car's steering mechanism vibrates uncontrollably when a speed of 80mph is reached. But the driver is a well trained, good driver. Do we tell the driver that it's ok to drive like that if he sticks to the rules -- because the rules say he should not go above 70 mph. The problem has not been addressed -- the steering mechanism should be fixed. This car should not be on the road without having that problem fixed. Good training and following rules don't change this fact.

    I do believe panic should be addressed and studied as an independent separate element. It was addressed and studied in my tech classes. However superb a training program and a set of rules may be, we can't pretend that it will cover all possible scenarios. I think it is a dis-service to any diver at any level not to address panic independently because his training, following of the rules, equipment, etc., will keep him safe and he/she will never encounter panic. To your credit, Lamont, you did use the words "will help", not "will cure".

    I am not trying to rationalize away the importance of training and following rules. Both should be addressed conscientiously just as well as panic. Training and rules are more tactical, things like dominating your fears and controlling panic are more strategic.
     
  3. rjack321

    rjack321 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    GUE instructors are generally not allowed to team up with their students (or get themselves lost while their students search).
     
  4. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many. Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Although that is precisely what Fred did during Melody's reeval dives -- he was #3 and went and hid himself.
     
  5. rjack321

    rjack321 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Looking at their standards again I think I got the "must not be a class of 1" mixed up with can't buddy up.

    Chris didn't get lost on me and Jean Marc in C1 but Danny did get (very) lost on me and KMD in C2. Regardless we didn't panic :wink:
     
  6. lamont

    lamont Photographer

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    During my C1, we got an extra buddy (a C1 diver about to take C2) one day which Fred stole without warning twice. First time it was right as we became task focused by tying in the reel, second time we were on the way back after hitting turn limits, and even though I was expecting it Fred managed to steal him without being able to see where they went. Both times Fred had a really good visual on what we were doing from his hiding place. The first time we were successful and Fred let the drill go longer (still basically in the cavern zone) the second time we made one wrong guess at the direction and then Fred called the drill (probably keeping it very time limited for C1 students in the cave).

    During C2 the lost buddy was scripted.
     
  7. lamont

    lamont Photographer

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    I'm using those as two examples of how to stay out of the incident pit.

    Generally, obvious things that help to reduce stress early will help to get you out of the incident pit. Prevention being the best cure, then training, fitness, experience, etc will be the best way to avoid the incident pit. It also suggests that stressors encountered on the dive should be addressed and the stressor removed so that it doesn't snowball into an incident -- or if an incident occurs that it starts from a minimal stress level. A stray piece of gear getting caught on the line that isn't addressed can be an annoyance on a good dive -- on a dive when you're dealing with IPE symptoms an additional gear entrapment issue is going to magnify stress, and could result in a pulled tie off. Basically if you've got your **** together it gives you the best chance possible to exit when you encounter situations beyond your control.
     
  8. Slamfire

    Slamfire Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Langley, British Columbia, Canada
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    Again, I can't say I disagree with your last post. All I'm saying is that some people can have all the training, excel at all the skills, follow all the rules and still fall prey to panic. And then you can also find a poor schmuck willing to strap a tank to his back with no training, no skills, and no knowledge of rules and this guy could even die underwater without ever falling prey to panic.

    In this real life example, the diver who panicked did so for reasons unrelated to training, skills, or rules. He survived, and apparently he ended up recognizing that his "steering mechanism" is malfunctioning and he just "took out that car from circulation", ie he never did that kind of dive again.
     
  9. DA Aquamaster

    DA Aquamaster Directional Toast ScubaBoard Supporter

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    As a counselor, I think panic has roots in multiple causes.

    1. Personality is part of it. You can talk about conditioning people not to panic, etc, but personality is a very stable concept and if someone is panic prone, the best you can ever hope for is to condition someone not to panic in a very limited and narrow range of cuircumstances. The truly panic prone should just not be diving, and should not be doing technical diving in particular.

    2. Task loading and/or feeling overwhelmed is a large part of it. People have finite resources to cope with stressors (and that varies from person to person, some people come to the game with far less than they need - that is a personality issue and is part of number 1). Once the demands of the situation exceed those resources, panic can happen.

    I that regard Lamont's comments about staying out of the incident pit are relevant, but it is important to regard it as prevention and to recognize the operative process involved - stopping, thinking, recoignizing your limitations and staying within them.

    Staying within the rules is clearly not enough and people who feel that is the case are accidents waiting to happen. It goes back to the resource issue - the rules and the cert you have will always have the potential to allow you to get yourself in well over your head. Having good judgment and having the willingness to excercise it is what keeps you alive - not blind adherence to rules or protocols.

    So in effect, it is not the rules that keep you alive but rather an underlying process involving your full understanding of the rules, why they exist and your ability to use your experience, maturity and judgement to fully assess the situation and the risks and manage the priorities effectively, even in case where they conflict. (more on this later)

    3. The ability to problem solve under pressure is vital. Problem solving ability is in and of it self another Axis II trait that is not ammenable to change and people with poor problem solving skills need to avoid technical diving as an inability to resolve problems quickly and effectively will leave them in situaions where panic is far more likely.

    4. Experience helps as it build capacity in several ways. Experience equals learning and people learn through direct (it happens to you), observational (you watch it happen to someone else) and vicarious (you hear about what happened to someone else) processes. When it happens to you it teaches a very powerful and long lasting lesson - if you survive. Observational and vicarious learning are progressively less effective or as long lasting, but they can provide the opportunity for some pre-cognition of what you may do in a similar situation. Thinking about it in advance can help you come up with more possible options when things go south, and perhaps more importantly, if you are honest in the self assessment of your capabilities, thinking about possible scenarios and the outcomes, combined with maturity and judgment, can help you say "no" to an overly agressive dive plan, turn a dive early or thumb a dive prior to starting the slide into what Lamont calls the incident pit.

    Whether the options you come up with under stress based on pre-cognition of various scenarios are in fact good options in your situation is another matter entirely - that takes us back to sound judgment and problem solving ability in addition to training and experience.

    Experience also build capacity as high levels of experience and competency allow the diver to do more and more things automatically. For example, if you have to think about buoyancy or have to think and focus on it while coming to and holding a hover, you are not there yet. Those skills do not have to be acquired under a hard or soft overhead and in fact I'd argue they should not be. In my opinion we let, and even encourage people to go too far too fast with inadequate skills to even enter training and then we wonder why we get bad outcomes. Last night and instructor called and threw me a great price on a trip and a really good deal on a hypoxic trimix cert as I do regs for him but also because I would be "easy to teach". "Easy to teach" means the essential skills are already automatic and the question that raises is why do we still try to cert people who are not "easy to teach"?

    In my opinion, the lack of adequate screening for experience, personality and suitably high minimum levels comes down to money and valuing volume of students over quality and safety.

    5. A final factor here is the bility to integrate the above factors into solid risk assessment abilities. In the example of a misisng buddy during an OOG situation, there is no right or wrong answer, as there are too many variables that have to be assessed to determine the risks and benefits. For example if I am 400' in the cave at Ginnie and am fat on gas, briefly looking for the lost buddy with the OOG gas diver along might be an option. If it was a dive close to thirds and you are still close to max penetration, then looking for the lost buddy is clearly stupid. The balance shifts based on various factors in between those two extremes and the individual diver needs to be aware enough and have solid enough judgment to identify and prioritize the potentially competing factors to make solid decisions based on sound risk and cost/benefit analysis. If you suck at that, technical diving is not for you. Relying on what an instructor taught you as a default is really not good enough as if the situation arises, the oddsa re high that you will make a poor decision that will needlessly cost one or more lives.

    ---

    From that multi-perspective approach, a good technical diving candidate is one who:

    1. Has never demonstrated a tendency to panic or lose their cool in any other area of their life or in other activites.
    2. Has enough OW diving experience to have mastered those skills that are essential in technical diving. And, as they progress beyond entry level technical diving, at each level they must have enough experience to fully understand and integrate the lessons of the previous level before going on to the next. That could be one week and 10 dives for one individual or 1000 dives and 10 years for another individual.
    3. Is emotionally mature.
    4. Demonstrates good judgment.
    5. Demonstrates good intellectual reasoning and problem solving skills.
    6. Has the ability and willingness to accurately self assess their strengths and limitations.
    7. Is independent enough to think for himself or herself and has enough self confidence to say "no" to peer pressure and other influences that might lead them to otherwise stray beyond their skills and abilities.



    All of those factors decrease the potential to panic, and perhaps more importantly increase the potential for the person to avoid a situation where panic could occur. Conversely, a weakness in any of those areas increases the potential for panic and the effect is cumulative if weaknesses exist in more than one area.
     
  10. packman

    packman Manta Ray

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    For both classes were were a team of 2 when the instructor was not a part of the team or a team of 3 then they were. It was always discussed before the dive whether the instructor was or was not a member of our team.
     

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