Scuba diving can be an exciting sport. But it’s always important to remember safety first. One of those important rules to remember is the 5 steps to proper descents. It can be tempting for a diver to skip pre-dive checks and safety protocols in a rush to get underwater. However, taking the time to follow safety procedures is well worth a few extra moments on the surface. A proper five point descent takes only seconds and ensures that a diver is properly prepared before going underwater.
Common problems students have with this skill are: missing a step (i.e. not switching over to their regulator), not staying together as a buddy team or descending head first. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you and make sure you learn it properly and safely! The first step of the five point descent is to signal to your dive buddy that you are ready to descend by making a thumbs down sign. This may seem obvious, but is important because verbal communication can be difficult or easily misunderstood.
The second step of the five point descent is orientation. Before you descend take a good look around and orientate yourself. Know where you are descending, what directions you intend to take once you’re down there, and where you intend to come up. If you get lost underwater, it will be far easier to regain your bearings on ascent if you’ve had a good look around the area before descending. Use your compass so that you always know which direction the exit point is.
The third step of the five point descent is to either exchange the snorkel for the regulator, or to confirm that each diver has his regulator in his mouth before continuing the descent. It’s always best practice when at the surface to keep your snorkel in and preserve air, but you wouldn’t want to descend without first replacing your snorkel with your regulator. Make sure that you have your air supply in place before you enter the underwater world. Snorkel mouthpieces feel almost identical to regulator mouthpieces, and it is not uncommon for a diver to accidentally descend breathing from their snorkel instead of their regulator.
The fourth step of the five point descent is time. The diver’s bottom time begins when they start their descent. Checking your timing device immediately before descent helps to keep this time as accurate as possible. Check your watches and make note of the time. It’s vitally important that you know how long you’ve been down so that you don’t exceed your planned dive times. After all being down longer than planned can be extremely dangerous, especially if the correct decompression stops aren’t made. You’ll also want to remember it for later when it comes to logging your dive.
The last step of the five point descent is to deflate the buoyancy compensator (BCD) and descend. Deflate the BCD just enough that you slowly begin to sink, and exhale to help yourself descend the first few feet. Equalizing your ears once on the surface before descent helps to prepare them for subsequent equalizations and helps to compensate for the initial (and most extreme) pressure change near the surface. Keep the BCD inflator at hand in order to add air to the BCD as you descend – you will need to compensate for your decrease in buoyancy as the water pressure around you increases. Now you have completed the five steps of a five point descent and you can enjoy your dive safely knowing you have prepared yourself well.06/14/2012