Article by John Kinsella
“I’d have given you a shorter briefing, but I didn’t have the time”
Comprehensive, to the point, dive briefings take focused effort.
Sometimes little things pack a big punch. Consider the ubiquitous dive briefing. This common, short, presentation has a huge influence on a dive’s outcome and, especially in light of the Risk Management article in the 1st quarter 2017 The Undersea Journal, it’s a good idea to make sure that dive briefings get looked at, critiqued, and improved regularly.
The legal case mentioned in the UJ article hinged on a dive guide’s failure to include information on potential environmental conditions. Not mentioning the existence of these inherent, potential environmental conditions became a key factor in the court’s decision: The guide received the majority of the fault; in spite of the fact that the diver signed a release and made a simple procedural error.
So what do you include in a brief? A good start is a review of the Divemaster materials, particularly the slates. There are 10 points to cover:
1 – Dive site name
2 – Site description
3 – Your role
4 – Entry and exit techniques
5 – Dive procedures
6 – Emergency procedures
7 – Signal review
8 – Roster and buddy check
9 – Environmental orientation
10 – Predive safety check
Some of these are simple and self-explanatory, others are a bit more involved and overlap. For example, under site description, make sure to cover topography, points of interest, hazards, conditions, depth, compass headings, facilities, emergency equipment, etc. Without dwelling on the negative, cover hazards and conditions thoroughly. If, say, there are tidal currents at a particular site, mention them (and how to avoid or deal with them) even if you’re diving at slack water.
Some of these will blend in with dive procedures, especially if there are recommended procedures for dealing with specific local hazards or environmental conditions. Under dive procedures cover such topics as suggested course, how to avoid any problems that may occur due to site hazards and conditions, safety stops, air reserves, group control, etc. Many of these will vary from site to site.
Emergency procedures should deal with local protocols, separation, low on or out-of-air, diver recall procedures, surface signaling devices, and so on. Again, there’s no need for exhaustive scare mongering, but it’s vital to be comprehensive.
How do you get all this into a nice tight brief? Ironically, it takes some time to eliminate unnecessary technicality, jargon and detail, which is the surest way to kill a brief.
A great start is write this information down for each dive site you visit, not only so you have something in hand to make sure you don’t forget anything, but also because the process of writing it down is a great way to focus thinking and make sure nothing is forgotten. And there’s no better way to gather input from staff or clients than to hand them a copy of the briefing and welcome their feedback.
Brevity, relevance and impact matter hugely: take the time and make the effort to achieve them.