“Right guys, lets get into our gear now, remember to do your buddy checks!” Is usually the last sentence of most dive briefings. Many people perform a brief check over each others gear without really knowing what they are supposed to be actually checking. We are all taught it in our entry level course, but most of the time we are so focused on the diving bit the stuff on the surface may get pushed into the back of our minds.
There are many reasons we need to perform a Pre Dive safety check, also known as the buddy check. We need to confirm with our dive buddy that both of our equipment sets are working properly. And air turned on for that matter! These days we are seeing more and more differences with equipment configurations. Although we wear standardised equipment most of the time there are some slight differences between different makes and models, especially with BCDs. We need to always assume that the worst may happen, and you don’t want to be in a rescue scenario and unsure how to remove your buddies gear.
The most common recall phrase for the pre dive safety check is BWRAF as in the PADI Open Water Course. So what do we need to look at when doing our buddy checks?
B – BCD. We must ensure that both your own and your buddies BCD inflates properly, test both at the same time, fully inflating and deflating, test the dump valves are working and check their locations. Also test the oral inflation, if even a grain of sand gets caught in the wrong place it can stop you from orally inflating, which could be a dangerous situation if things do go wrong
W- Weights. Check yourself and you buddy have weights on, and properly secured. If using the weight belt ensure it is right hand release, and nothing is blocking the webbing from being released. If using weight integration make sure they are properly locked in and make sure you both know how they work. Although most are pretty similar there are sometimes differences between them, better to be safe than sorry!
R- Releases. This step is for checking all the clips, buckles and releases on your equipment. I usually start from the top, working down from the chest clip. The check the shoulder straps. Usually BCDs have pinch clips but some have circular clips that need to have the front pushed to be opened. Make sure you familiarise yourself with your buddies in case you need to get them out of their gear. Check the Velcro stomach strap and the buckle pulling the BCD together. Then get your buddy to turn around and check their cylinder band and safety strap, making sure the cylinder is not going to slip during the dive.
A – Air. While your buddy is turned around you can check that their air is on fully by turning the tank handle towards you, if it turns and turns then changes are their air is not turned on yet, if it goes by quarter or half then they have turned it on and closed the valve a little. Many divers are taught to do this. Once you have confirmed each others air is turned on you need to test breath your primary second stage while your buddy is breathing off your alternate. At the same time check your S.P.G to make sure the needle is holding steady. If it drops as you are breathing from it then you need to switch to a different regulator. This will only get worse at depth. Then swap over so both of you r air has been properly checked.
F- Final Check. This is the time you make sure you are both happy to get in the water, make sure you have your mask, fins, surface marker and any other equipment you may need for the dive.
Although this is the classic pre dive safety check today we have so much more equipment available to us. It is becoming commonplace to see divers in side mount, twinsets and even the odd recreational re-breathers. If your buddy is in a different configuration to what you are used to it is up to you to learn how it works, and even more important, learn how to remove it in a rescue situations. If you are the one wearing an unusual set up try to educate other divers so they know how it works. Remember you or your buddy’s life could depend on it!
‘Performing a Buddy Check’ was written by Mike