Why do we need to give a Scuba Diving Briefing before each dive?
Whether you are a novice scuba diver or a seasoned professional receiving an adequate dive briefing from your dive guide is an integral part of the dive. A scuba diving briefing provides:
- Clear expectations for the dive
- Explains the objectives of the dive
- Ensures that each diver is up to speed with local protocol and safety procedures before entering the water.
- A PADI scuba diving briefing significantly reduces the risk of the dive you are about to complete.
Are all scuba diving briefings the same?
No. The amount of detail you choose to present should be appropriate to the dive site and the experience level of your divers. Find out the scuba diving history of your divers and adapt the briefing accordingly.
If you are guiding a group of inexperienced Open Water divers you may choose to go into more detail regarding the signal review than if you were guiding a group of scuba diving instructors. But nonetheless all scuba diving briefings should be conducted in accordance with the PADI checklist for dive briefings.
The PADI scuba diving briefing checklist:
The PADI checklist consists of 10 specific points that are considered standard components of a dive briefing.
It is worth mentioning that you do not have to conduct the briefing in the order of the points below. As a scuba diving instructor working in Gran Canaria I find it easiest to run through the dive from the beginning to the end and add in the points below as I go. This method will ensure that the briefing flows.
So let’s take a look at the 10 specific points so that if you are a professional diver you can ace your next briefing, or if you are a recreational scuba diver you know what you should expect from your dive guide on your next scuba diving holiday!
The 10 points of the PADI scuba briefing
1 – Dive site name
The best place to start your briefing is by providing the name of the dive site. You may choose to include a fun fact regarding the dive site (remember diving is fun!) Also introduce yourself, let them know your name and even a fun fact about you.
Example – ‘’Hello everyone and welcome to El Cabron, El Cabron is one of only three Marine reserves in the Canary Islands. My name is Sophie and I will be your instructor for today.’’
2 – Site description
Describe the site you are about to dive, what route will you take, what is the topography of the site, Is there a point of interest? Make it fun. You can use maps, diagrams or a marine species book. Build up the excitement for the dive. Points to mention include:
- The maximum depth of the dive
- The average depth of the dive
- The route of the dive
- The weather conditions
Example – ‘’We have perfect diving conditions today in El Cabron, it is a low tide and we have a low wave height of 0.5 meters. The maximum depth of this dive site is 18 meters so it is perfect for your certification level.’’
3 – Your role
What will you be doing during the dive? Will you be leading, or will you be acting as the Eagle at the back. Let them know how to identify you and where you will be positioned underwater so they can identify you easily if necessary.
Example – ‘’I will be wearing Pink and White fins and I will be leading the dive, James our Divemaster will be positioned behind you at the back, just keeping an eye on how everyone is getting on. James will be wearing Blue and White fins and If I need to attract your attention I will use this rattle.’’
4 – Entry and exit techniques
In my opinion this is one of the most important parts of the briefing, this ensures that all divers will enter and exit the water in a safe and organised fashion. You could remind divers to fully inflate their BCD, make sure their regulator is in and their mask is on for a backwards rolling entry from a boat. If it is a shore entry you should let divers know of the bottom composition, is there any rocks they should avoid, how should divers put on their fins.
Example, for a shore entry I would say something like this – ‘’Because it is a low tide today we can expect some larger stones and pebbles under the surface of the water when entering. Because of this make sure that your BCD is fully inflated. This means that in the unlikely event that you trip or fall, you will always be positively buoyant on the surface.’’
5 – Dive procedures
How can your divers avoid any problems that may arise in the dive. Some vital points to include are:
- When will you turn the dive around. Will it be based on air consumption, time of dive or no decompression limits
- Air reserves
- Where will you conduct the safety stop? Will it be a stationary stop or can you complete a rolling safety stop.
- Communicating with your divers and enforcing the importance of following procedures such as monitoring air gauges frequently will significantly reduce the risk involved with the dive.
Example – ‘’We will turn the dive around on 130 bars giving us more than enough air reserve to dive back to the entry point. On our way back at 5 meters in depth this is where we will conduct our rolling safety stop.’’
6 – Emergency procedures
Unfortunately accidents do happen, so it is vitally important to remind your divers of the procedures to follow in the event of an emergency. The procedures include:
- Buddy separation procedures
- An out of air scenario
- A low on air scenario
- Local protocols to be aware of
- Where is the emergency oxygen and first aid kit stored
Example – ‘’If we get separated underwater it is the normal buddy separation procedure. You want to search for your buddy for one minute, if you are not reunited, please safety ascend to the surface and wait on the surface. we will reunite on the surface, please do not continue the dive.’’
7 – Signal review
You may have a diver that hasn’t been diving in a while, therefore do not assume that everyone has solid knowledge on the hand signals that allow you to communicate effectively during the dive.
Also remember hand signals vary depending on country and affiliation of certification so it is important to recap and make sure everyone is up to speed. Important signals to review include:
- Up and down
- Air time (PSI or BAR)
- Low on air
- Out of air
- Safety stop
Example – ‘’During the dive we will be asking if you are OK, if you are OK, just show us this signal, if there is a PROBLEM, just let us know by using this signal and we will solve the problem for you. Can you remember how to communicate to me that you have120 bars of air pressure left underwater?’’
8 -Roster and buddy check (pairing)
Make sure that every diver is present and that every diver has been issued a buddy. You can ask them if they would like to be buddies with someone or you can choose the buddy teams depending on certification level and experience.
Example – ‘’ Sarah and John if you would like to be buddies and Jane if you would like to be my buddy.’’ In this instance Jane is Open water certified and Sarah and John are Rescue divers, so I allocated the least experienced diver to be my buddy so I can keep a closer eye on Jane during the dive.
9 – Environmental orientation
Use this opportunity to discuss hazards and promote environmental awareness. Are there any dangerous marine species that divers should be aware of when scuba diving?
Example – ‘’As a general rule of thumb we try to avoid touching anything during the dive. Here in Gran Canaria we have Sea Urchins (You can show images.) These are very sharp to the touch. It is important to respect all marine life and leave only bubbles.’’
10 – Predive safety check
Recreational scuba divers who only dive a handful of times on vacation often forget the predive safety check due to a lack of practice.
It is vitally important to make sure that all equipment is working perfectly and that nothing is forgotten (very easy to do when excited for the fun dive ahead!) Remind divers of the acronym you use and talk them through it. This is also a good way for your divers to familiarise themselves with the equipment that they will be using during the dive.
Example – ‘’Here at Leagues Ahead Diving we use the acronym BIG WHALES REALLY ARE FUN and this stands for BCD, weights, releases, air and final check.’’
Extra tips to nail your briefing!
Make it fun. Although a dive briefing is very important both for you and your divers you can make it fun. Explain everything in a clear and fun manner and include some jokes!
Ask questions and get the divers involved. This will make it more interesting for them.
Judgment. It is important not to overwhelm or scare your divers. Judge each briefing accordingly.
Relax and enjoy!