Pre-Dive Buddy Check is a Must for Every Dive!
It’s a beautiful day on Maui, just perfect for another lovely dive at Ulua Beach! My buddy Dale and I are all geared up and do our buddy check, the famous BWRAF “Begin With Review And Friend”. It is sometimes also referred to as “Big Whales Really Are Fun”, “Big White Rabbits Are Fluffy”, “Because We Really Aren’t Fish” and “Bruce Willis Ruins/Rules/Rocks All Films”, as well as many other fun renditions.
When Dale asks me if I have my fins, I say “Yep! They are leaning right there on the fence!” We get into the water and I realize that I have left my fins leaning on the fence!
To avoid having to delay the dive, or worse, to abort the dive, it is recommended that when doing a buddy check you each have everything on you, attached to your gear, in your hands, and ready to enter the water. I also end the check by looking around to make sure nothing is left on the ground, such as a flag, camera, or light.
Here is a review of BWRAF from PADI’s Open Water Diver Manual, and remember you are doing this check on your buddy:
Begin-B=BCD: Make sure it is adjusted properly, you know how to operate it, the low pressure inflator hose is properly connected to the inflator mechanism, and that the tank is firmly strapped in. Always hit the inflator button for a short burst to see that it is working properly. If it is not a negative buoyant entry, partially inflate the BCD. Check that visual and audio signaling devices are in place and in working order.
With-W=Weight: Ensure the amount of weight is correct, and is distributed properly. Also be sure that weight pockets and/or weight belt is secured, and can be easily released using the quick release system. You need to know how to release your buddy's weights and they need to know how to release yours.
Review-R=Releases: Check all releases, make sure they are secure, and that you understand how they work. These can include sternum straps, shoulder straps, and belly bands. Don’t forget the tank release!
And-A=Air: Have your buddy take several breathes from their regulator, in and out, as you watch the SPG (digital or analog) to ensure the tank is full and the valve is fully turned on. The needle on the SPG should not move, and if you're looking at an air-integrated computer, the air pressure number should decrease by only a few pounds per breath. During this portion of the check, it is very important that you combine the looking at the gauge with the breathing from the regulator. If you do only one of these, it is possible that you could think your air is on when it isn't. Test your buddy’s alternate, and practice with it so you know how to use the system properly if needed.
Friend-F=Final Check: Secure all loose hoses, consoles, lights, cameras, etc. Make sure wetsuits are zipped, hoses aren't tangled. See that your buddy is holding mask, snorkel, and fins, and ready to enter the water.
By following the BWRAF method before every dive, you can ensure that you and your buddy can enjoy a safe, fun dive!
And...if you've ever forgotten to do this, I bet you have some interesting comments to share (so put 'em here)!
November 25, 2014 @ 7:26 am
I agree with everything above, but I was REALLY interested in Rob's comments because I too know how easy it can be to turn over the responsibility for your life support systems to those just trying to offer you excellent service. As a result, when I have students on a boat trip with me, I remind them that they must still examine their gear and make sure it is set up correctly and how they like it. Then, after the crew has put the gear on them, they should do a self check, following all of the steps above but maybe on themselves instead of their buddy (sometimes positioning makes it hard to get close to your buddy). Buddy checks can also be done on the surface prior to descent. I have entered the water without weights and another time without a full tank. Both, ultimately, were MY responsibility. As certified divers, we have been trained to prevent these issues, but we are still human!
November 24, 2014 @ 7:43 pm
I remember the day I did a backward roll off the boat with no flippers. Boy was I embarrassed! But with a quick whisper to my buddy I got my flippers. But these days dive boats and their crews work very hard to make diving as easy as possible. Before I get on the boat I turn over my BCD and regulator over to the crew. They ask me how much weight I need, then tell me to sit back and relax they will take care of everything. And I do. At this wonderful dive company I turn over my gear for days at a time. I really feel pampered. When it is time to get in to the water I sit on a little platform and like a valet they bring my gear to me. Then they help me on with my BCD/tank, I strap it on, check my gages, pop some air into my BCD, take a couple of deep breaths on my regular, and then a giant stride off the boat. After many dives with this top notch company on the Big Island of Hawaii I never had a problem. Until... It was a night Manta Ray dive, very cool, and very exciting. I was pumped. As the second diver in the water, I was on the surface waiting for the rest of the divers to enter the water. And the Mantas showed up! Circling under us! I'm 15 yards from the boat trying to get level on the surface so I don't hit the mantas with my flippers. I also wanted to conserve air so I spit out my regulator. That is when I realized something was wrong. I hit something hard with the back of my knees. It startled me, well, it was my first night dive since the Civil War. I couldn't bend over enough to shine the light on it. And then it happened again. I decided to grab my regulator and really figure out what it was. So I dipped my shoulder and swept my arm down and back, and then up and forward... And for the first time in my life it didn't work, no regulator! No problem I'm on the surface and can breathe just fine. So I'll just give my BCD a shot of air to give my more positive buoyancy and I'll trouble shoot what is happening. Now I can't find my BCD inflator! And the hard thing was between my knees. Round, smooth... It was my tank! With an awkward swim back to the boat I got the problem fixed. What happened? The tank release had not been properly fastened... and neither my buddy nor I had checked prior to the dive... Why not? Because the boat crew always does such a wonderful just of making diving so easy, I just let them do it without checking it. What was my lesson learned? While I've gotten to that age in life where I don't want to hump my own gear and I appreciate the wonderful help the crew provides, it can easily be supplemented by both my buddy and I going over our own gear before getting into the water. And as we reviewed a number of dives we have taken together, we both remembered little things that went wrong that could have been prevented... with just a little BWRAF. The night Manta Ray dive is very cool, an absolute blast, and I highly recommend it... well, if you have all your gear and it is properly attached.