Emergency Assistance Plan for Scuba Diving

by Jim McLeod

This 'Emergency Assistance Plan' was developed specifically for Scuba Diving along the Sonoma County Coast. Although the principles will remain the same for nearly all diving on the West Coast of United States, the contact information may differ.

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A summary of the PADI® Rescue Diver Manual has been included as a review of the knowledge obtained from the PADI course, Rescue Diver. This is NOT meant to replace the course or the manual, nor is this summary intended to contain all the information necessary to complete the training the manual contains.

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Dial 911

By dialing 911 in Sonoma County (like most of California), this will connect you with the appropriate authority, agency or service. This should be done as soon as possible to allow emergency vehicles time to respond to any requests for extraction or evacuation in semi-remote areas of the county, typical of the diving areas along the Pacific Coast.

Emergency Assistance Plan

PADI Rescue Diver Manual (summary)

  1. Prevention
  2. First Aid
  3. Management
  4. Equipment
  5. Assists
  6. Rescues



A First Aid course in handling injuries and illnesses is required for the more advanced scuba diving certifications. It is recommended that all divers (being a sport with potential risks) have been both CPR and First Aid trained.

First Aid & CPR training should include Diving Maladies, Marine Injuries, Emergency Procedures, Rescue Equipment, Panic Syndrome, Distress Recognition, Self-Rescue, Rescue Entries and Approaches, Use of Extensions and Floats, Assists, Transporting, Submerged Diver Rescue, Missing Diver Procedures, In-Water Artificial Respiration, Equipment Considerations, Rescue Exits, and Accident Recording and Reporting.

These skills and knowledge should be practiced and reviewed repeatedly so that they may be applied to an emergency situation.

Self Competency

All divers need to be confident & capable enough to feel comfortable in any emergency situation which may affect them. Self Competency lends credibility of a diver helping another diver. This knowledge & training increases confidence. And, confidence is an important factor when dealing with emergencies.

A well trained diver should be able to not only handle the fundamental skills of Establishing Buoyancy, Airway Control and Cramp Release, but, should additionally understand factors which may lead to Anxiety caused by deprivation of air supply, Vertigo and Stress.

Understanding Stress

Stress can either be Physiological or Psychological, or both. It is important to be able to recognize stress before it results in a Stress Response, without trying to 'play doctor'.

Physiological Stress can be caused by poor physical conditioning, illness (such as seasickness, flu or ), injury, lack of sleep, drugs or alcohol. Other examples are pain from injuries (muscle cramps), ill-fitted equipment (leaky masks) or cold water.

Psychological Stress can result from Physiological Stress. This is a diver's emotional stress, whether it is real or imaginary and if not attended to, it may lead to a Stress Response. Examples of Psychological Stress are peer pressure, task loading, diving an unknown area. A Stress Response may escalate from anxiety to panic.

A Panic situation can manifest itself differently in different divers. Panic could result in loss of awareness, or the ability to respond to a problem. An adrenaline release might increase the breathing rate thus leading to a carbon dioxide build up. Perceptual narrowing may result in an oblivious response to surroundings. As stress continues, it may also materialize as the jitters, a loss of motor functions and control. And, this may lead to exhaustion panic and finally requiring rescue or accident.

With ability to identify stress, a care-giver should be able to relieve the symptoms, whether physical or emotional. Solution thinking, when applied, can be briefly described as Stop, Think, then Act.


First Aid Equipment

First Aid Procedures



Managing an Emergency


Equipment Considerations

Equipment Familiarization

Equipment Release


Rescue & Assistance Procedures for the Conscious Victim

Underwater Emergencies

Equipment Removal During Rescues

Rescue Exits


Rescue Procedures for the Unconscious Victim

Exits with Unconscious Victims

Background & Rescue Artwork has been 'borrowed' from Underwater Adventures of Cotati - (707) 795-6510.