15 Most Challenging Emergency Scenarios For Scuba Divers

Most divers are generally aware of the risks involved with scuba diving and take the  proper steps to  avoid them.

There are , however, times when for whatever reason things get out of whack and the unlikely may occur.  You can never be too prepared and it is a great idea to at least think about potential problems and how to handle them if the “unlikely” should happen while diving .

The following article examines some of the most challenging scenarios a diver could possibly experience while diving.  Each risk is examined and discussed as it relates to the possible cause, probability of occurrence as well as suggestions for avoiding them. Most importantly the piece also goes into  what to actually do if  you find yourself facing any one of these 15 perilous challenges while diving.

Read on for more about managing these risks below.

Stuck Autoinflator Valve

Pausing to make that minor adjustment to your buoyancy, you gently press the autoinflate button of your buoyancy compensator (BC). Instead of adding just a “puff” of air, the valve jams and begins to empty the contents of your cylinder into your BC. It’s think fast, or face an uncontrolled ascent.

Risk Factor: Rapid or uncontrolled ascent, with attendant risk of pressure-related injuries.

Likely Causes: Probably the most common cause of a stuck BC inflator valve is poor or neglected maintenance. Some divers just don’t give their BC the post-dive attention it deserves. If a BC is not rinsed or soaked after diving in salt water, salt crystals and mineral deposits can form that can later cause the valve to stick in the “on” position. Another potential cause of a stuck BC inflator valve is sand, silt or other sediment in the valve mechanism. This can occur if the device isn’t properly secured and drags on the bottom.

Avoidance: Proper care of your BC goes a long way toward preventing stuck inflator valves. After each dive, or each day of diving, thoroughly rinse and/or soak the BC in fresh water to dissolve any salt crystals and to remove sand, silt and other debris.

Dealing With It: The fastest way to solve the problem of a stuck inflator valve is to disconnect the low-pressure hose from the inflator. Failing that, grab the lanyard for the dump valve and hold it open. Should an unwanted ascent begin, continue venting the device, and flare your body to maximize drag and slow your ascent.

Grabbing hold of a stationary object such as an anchor line might allow you to sort the problem out and regain buoyancy control.

BC Won’t Inflate

While making a descent you realize you’re a wee bit heavy, so you try adding air to your BC. Nothing happens, and instead you get that sinking feeling as you begin to accelerate toward the deep blue beyond.

Risk Factor: Loss of buoyancy control, uncontrolled descent, with attendant risk of exceeding depth limits.

Likely Causes: Several problems can result when an autoinflator fails to inflate a BC. The first and most obvious is that you forgot to attach the low-pressure hose to the inflator. The second is that you ran out of air, but we’ll discuss this later. A third possibility is a mechanical malfunction or failure of the inflator valve.

Avoidance: Carefully check your dive gear prior to entering the water to verify that the low-pressure hose is connected to the inflator, and then verify that the device actually works. Recheck it once you’re in the water to make certain the hose wasn’t disconnected by the force of entering the water. To avoid mechanical problems with the valve, thoroughly rinse your BC after diving, and take it to your local dive center for professional maintenance at least yearly.

Dealing With It:
If the low-pressure hose is disconnected, reconnect it and your problem should be resolved. Plan “B” is to use the oral inflator to add air to your BC. (This is a skill that should be practiced.) Finally, if you’ve got that sinking feeling and can’t correct the problem quickly enough, ditch enough weight to establish neutral buoyancy.

Continued on the next page below

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View Comments (21)

  • Many times I have dove with out a BC (horse collar or pony jacket). Less drag to deal with. Usually, I was solo diving in the river .... didn't have any power inflator problems then!

  • I am surprised not to see stuck inflator on BCD mentioned, best bet is to disconnect and make sure you know how to orally inflate. I have also had my power inflator button stick then push out of the assembly. First step drop your weights, then find your buddy and get out of the bc as you will lose all lift and the BCD becomes and anchor. My incident happened at the surface, I told the DM what happened, removed weights, got out of bc and then handed bc to DM. Always stay calm and you will get through most issues.

    • John,

      The scenario you mentioned was the very first situation they described and how to deal with the situation

    • I don't know about getting out of the BC. If you expect to lose all lift. Your reg set,& BCD will be heading for the bottom. I actually did a recovery in about 25 metres of water for a buddy who had thrown his BC into the water with the intent of putting it on once in. But, my buddy forgot to inflate his BC, and the whole rig went to the bottom. BCD, Reg Set, Computer, and tank. My buddy was just fortunate that it was not excessively deep, and I went down and fished it out. Inflated the BCD about 1/3 and it headed for the surface on it's own..

    • I have to disagree with your assessment and method of dealing with a stuck infllator valve.
      Dropping of all or the majority of yiur weugh t is ONLY SAFE when you are already back.on the surface.
      An uncontrolled buoyant ascent can and probably will lead to a DCI or even burst lung.
      I have been involved in an incident many years ago where a frien list his life under similar circumstances.
      Far better to manage the situation correctly and regain control.
      This can also affect other buoyancy devices such as drysuits and closed circuit rebreather manual addition valves (MAV).
      Shut off or disconnect the faulty device and manual management of the gas injection is the preferred solution.

  • I teach my entry level students proper assembly and gear check that help to avoid 99% of these types of gear issues....

  • Recent experience of mine is bcd failing to vent on the surface : maybe not so critical but in a rough sea awkward, and if not diagnosed can lead to overweighting on subsequent dives

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