|Beneath the Sea, Secaucus, NJ||March 28-30, 2014|
|Springs Celebration, O’Leno Springs State Park, High Springs, FL||March 29, 2014|
|NACD 6th Annual Safety Day||April 12, 2014|
A photo of the collapse at Challenge Sink by Gene Page.
Welcome to the NACD’s new website. While we have a new look here we have tried to maintain much of the information that was on our previous website. We skimmed down a bit and combined some pages and limited our main pages to the ones you see on the navigation bar at the top of the page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a more complete directory of our new site.
Our online store has also been updated. You will have to register and create a new account. Instructors and business facilities, once you register we will upgrade your account to reflect your status so your discount is applied automatically in the online store. Visit the store and place your orders today!
Also, make sure you visit our new NACD Members forum! This is our new online forum to be used for all official NACD communications. This will also be where all NACD members go to maintain your NACD membership. Instructions for doing that are on the forum.
If you have any questions or suggestions please let us know. This is your website and your organization!
NACD Safety Advisory
Cave Diving Guidelines Revisited
Recently the cave diving community has been affected by three deaths in two separate incidents. One was a member of the NACD Missouri Fauna Count Team. His death occurred in Mexico and those details are still being uncovered. The other two deaths occurred on Christmas Day at the Eagle’s Nest cave system. A father and his son were testing out some new equipment there, though neither were certified cave divers. We are at a point in time where cave diving guidelines and procedures are well developed. Dive equipment is well manufactured and rarely causes problems. The fatalities discussed here apparently were related to unknown health conditions and lack of training. The NACD has an obligation to our sport to explore these incidents with the community in the hopes that we can influence our members and the others who explore caves to take a moment to pause and evaluate their own skills and conditioning before diving again.
For our Fauna Count team member, it does not seem that any of the guidelines for cave diving examined during accident analysis, were broken. He had the proper training and certifications for the dive he conducted. He had run a continuous guideline from the exit point. He also used appropriate gases and management for the depths of the dive. He was properly equipped, and the gear, including his lights, was in good operating order. It is speculated that he died of a myocardial infarction, and that the heart attack just happened to occur while he was cave diving. His death is the most recent of several cave diving deaths over recent years, in which the guidelines were followed but the death was attributed to medical reasons. Regardless of the specific cause, we can learn something from this death.
As divers we have a responsibility to make certain our health is in good order. That responsibility extends not only to ourselves, but our dive partners, our families, and the team members who may have to go in to find your body. Some medical events can occur with no warning. We can’t change that. However, we can work to minimize the risks that lead to medical events. The general diving population has aged. In addition, as we age, many medical conditions can sneak up on us if we are not careful. Much of the cave diving community is comprised of older divers and with age also comes health problems. No matter what your age, if you have, or suspect, any medical condition, we encourage you to seek out the care of a qualified physician who is familiar with diving and the risks involved. Get a physical exam each year to ensure things have not changed since the last one. If you take medications, you should take them as prescribed, and not skip a day. Your body comes to depend on these things and any changes, even the omission of the medication, can adversely affect you. The NACD has medical guidelines on our website for you and your physician to review.
In addition to general health conditions, there are certain lifestyle choices people make that affect their health and safety. Things such as tobacco use (of any kind), alcoholic beverage intake, illegal drug use and being overweight, are a few of the things that do not match up well with diving. If you are affected by any of these issues, it would help to seek out some assistance to help control, or remove these problems, from your life. It may benefit your health, and your diving.
Traditionally, the guidelines of accident analysis have been remembered by the mnemonic “Thank Goodness All Divers Live.” I propose we evolve that into “Thank Goodness All Divers Live Healthy.” We should be properly trained for the dives we are doing. We should always maintain a continuous guideline to open water. We should practice conservative gas management. We should carry at least three lights, and keep our dive equipment in good condition. We should also ensure we maintain a healthy lifestyle and are fit enough to dive.
These guidelines bring us to the most recent deaths that occurred at Eagle’s Nest. A father and son, in the excitement of the holidays, decided to take new scuba diving equipment they had received for Christmas on a dive in Eagle’s Nest. This wasn’t just a test dive in the open water portion of the basin. This was a dive to the entrance of the cave system at the bottom. Those who are familiar with Eagle’s Nest know that the entrance at the bottom of the basin is not large enough to stumble into. The dive computers recovered from the father and son, indicate they had gone to 233 feet of depth, a zone well inside the cave. There are many discussions on the social media sites about their lack of training and experience. We know that neither diver was cave trained or certified, the first guideline violated. The son, who was 15 years old, allegedly did not hold any scuba certification at all. It is believed this was not their first time diving in a cave. If this is true, then they have been lucky up until this fatal dive.
NACD standards allow for a 16 year old to complete Cavern and Intro Cave Diving courses with parental consent. Usually this is only done when one of the parents is already a trained and certified cave diver. Minimum age for Apprentice and Cave Diver courses is 18 with no exceptions. Even if the child was 16 years old, Eagle’s Nest is not a cavern level or intro cave level dive. Eagle’s Nest is a highly advanced cave dive that requires decompression procedures using multiple gases including Trimix. The 15‐year‐old child should never have been inside this, or any other cave.
It is very likely the gas management guideline was violated, as evidence suggests the son ran out of air. The final guideline that was violated was diving too deep for their gas mixture. Their computers indicate they had been to 233 feet. They were breathing air, which is inappropriate for that depth due to the effects of nitrogen narcosis, and is beyond the maximum operating depth from an oxygen content standpoint.
Social media reports include comments of people who knew this father and son had been diving Eagle’s Nest. Whether this is true or not, is not relevant at this point. That won’t change the outcome of their last dive. However, we, as a community, have the responsibility to keep watch over ourselves. We should not sit by quietly when we hear someone who is not cave trained, is diving in caves. We need to talk to them and help educate them. We need to tell them stories about prior deaths that could have been avoided, so maybe we will avoid more senseless deaths in the future. We need to involve their families and make sure they know the truth about the dangers of diving in an overhead environment without the proper training. It is each of our responsibilities as cave divers to intervene and help point probable future victims to safe cave diving training.
Many leaders, trainers and certified cave divers are angry about these deaths. For the cave diver that died in Mexico, they are angry because health conditions took him. But for the father and son, the anger is about the stupidity of it all – the senseless deaths of young men that clearly could have been avoided. Rather than be angry at them, we as cave divers need to use this energy in a positive way to educate others about the wonders, challenges, dangers, and rewards of cave diving. Entering a cave is not a right, it is a privilege, and not everyone gets to experience that privilege. With the new year upon us, take a moment to pause and re‐evaluate your own health and training. If it is not up to par take some time and bring it back to where it should be. Our goal for 2014 is to have zero fatalities. It is your responsibility to help us get there.
International Training Director
International Safety Officer
National Association for Cave Diving
Get one of the new NACD Cave Diver Collector Coins!
If you’re familiar with Challenge coins from the military then you are familiar with the quality of this coin. The detail in the image of the cave diver is very intricate. It’s almost like a photograph. These coins are available for an introductory price for a limited time. Buy yours today!.
Call for volunteers!
The NACD is looking for volunteers. Many of you have probably noticed a lot more activity coming out of the NACD. We’ve been busy trying to keep the membership involved and make the organization more interactive. To be successful at this we need your help! This is your organization and in order to keep it that way we need you to be involved! Currently we are looking for volunteers to help staff the NACD booth at the Beneath the Sea consumer dive show in New Jersey at the end of March. We also need volunteers to help coordinate another river cleanup this spring. We have a few committees that have vacant chair positions and all of the committees could use more committee members. Finally, we are always looking for article submissions for the quarterly journal. We already have everything we need for the next issue and it will be heading out to your mailboxes soon so we are already working on the 1st issue for 2014. Submit any articles you would like considered for printing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Article submission requirements can be found here – Requirements for Submitting Articles to the NACD Journal.
NACD Gas Analysis Advisory
The recent death of a cave diver highlights the necessity to review some critical procedures that we should be doing before all dives – gas analysis. A couple of years ago there was a cave diver death in Cozumel that resulted from breathing high carbon monoxide content in a cylinder. This created quite a commotion that caused the sales of CO analyzers to jump quite a bit. These days it’s not uncommon to see divers analyzing their cylinders for CO during the pre-dive process. However, even with that awareness it is a bit surprising that there are still divers that do not analyze all cylinders for oxygen content. While the NACD does not have courses for mixed gas procedures diving at this time, all NACD instructors should be emphasizing the need for gas analysis during the pre-dive process.
Divers should re-analyze all cylinders to be used on a dive at the site during the pre-dive process and make sure the cylinders are properly labeled with oxygen content, helium content (if any helium in the blend), and MOD. This should occur even if the cylinders were personally filled by the diver. Each and every cylinder should be analyzed and clearly labeled, even if there is an isolator connecting the cylinders, and regardless what gas is believed to be in the cylinder.
While it is understood that not everyone may own enough cylinders to permanently mark them with content and MOD, cylinders being used for 100% oxygen should be permanently marked and only used for 100% oxygen. However, permanent markings do not substitute for additional labeling. Even permanently marked cylinders need to be analyzed and labeled with content and MOD to show confirmation of the contents. There should never be any confusion about labeling. It should be clear and concise to anyone who looks at it.
Finally, there is some controversy over whether gas analysis should be an individual responsibility or a team responsibility. All divers with mixed gas training of any kind have been instructed that all gas should personally be analyzed prior to every dive. Almost every dive training class emphasizes gas sharing with teammates. With that, there is always the potential for a diver to be breathing from a teammate’s cylinders. Gas analysis and confirmation should be a team project during the pre-dive process.
The lessons to take away from this:
1. Analyze every cylinder, whether you think it is filled with air, Nitrox, Trimix, or Oxygen,
2. Label every cylinder with gas content and MOD
3. Remove all old, Oxygen, Nitrox, and Custom Mix labels if the cylinder is to be repurposed.
4. Make gas analysis a team project.
If you are unfamiliar with or out of practice with analyzing gas contact any NACD instructor and request a gas analysis refresher. If you do not have an NACD instructor nearby contact the training committee and we will provide you with an instructor who can help you.
Gas analysis is not an optional activity. Your life depends upon it.
NACD International Training Director
NACD International Safety Officer
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Gainesville, FL 32604