Monday, 15 October 2007

The DIR Head to Toe Check

The DIR Head to Toe Check


The DIR Head to toe check is something that gets taught to you and drilled in to you in every training course. At the fundies level, it can seem overkill, as it takes a couple of minutes, and some of the items checked just seem ridiculous. At the Tech1 level and above, the reasons for the checks become more obvious, and indeed can be suitably demonstrated by the instructor failing the piece of kit if he/she sees you missing a piece of the check. You have already checked a great deal of this when actually putting the kit on, but this is a check witnessed by the whole team, when you are about to hit or go under the water. the purpose of the check is to ensure that everything required to get you and the team back out of the water safely is attached properly, and working properly, so that you don't find out when you need it that it is not there. Lots of divers do a predive check, but many people do many different versions of it. If you are diving with someone new, how do you know what they will check etc. We do this the same way within our team every time, because the time you don't is the time you miss something.

Anyway, someone asked me to document it for them, so I just thought it might make an interesting excercise to write and expand it into an article. . The check, as the name suggests, begins at the head and ends at the toes. The precise order seems to vary depending on who is doing it, but the principle of moving down the body is sound, as it prompts you to remember things you may otherwise have forgotten. The check is done either on the boat in the sea, or in the water inland. It's worth noting at this point, that this head to toe forms part of the GUE EDGE pre dive checks (winner of the dumbest name in world history award). Anyway, on we go.

The check is done as a team. Each person is checking their own kit, but looking to the others to confirm they have actually checked theirs, and in some cases, doing the check for them. Each team member will have a role assigned to them for the dive. This will dictate their position in the water - diver 1 will lead, and in a three man team diver 3 will bring up the rear. This team element also manifests itself during kitting up, and during the head to toe check. Although each person will check their own kit, Diver 1 will check diver 2 where necessary, diver 2 will check diver 3 and diver 3 will check diver 1. This way everyone understands from the start who they will be checking, and nobody gets missed. It's all about making the checks flow smoothly. It is the same ethos that we use when doing a gas switch. 1 switches first, then 2 then 3.

Is it on. An obvious one, but I'm sure I'm not the only diver to have seen people jump in without a hood and practically leap back out of the water onto the boat to get it.

Is it on, and ready (demisted). Also, check your team's masks - are they trapping the hood and likely to flood once you descend. 20M per minute is not the time to find out your mask is flooding as it just becomes a stress factor and ups the breathing rate, and yet we see it all the time - divers having to stop on the ascent to sort things out. Whilst this might not be a big deal to them, we have a constant descent rate because we do not include the descent as part of bottom time for deco calculations - so stopping to sort something out for two minutes at 35 metres can bugger things up.

Valves - Flow Check
Reach behind you and check that all your valves are in the appropriate position - fully open for us. I've been guilty of leaving the isolator closed in the dark and hopefully distant past, descending with 200 bar, and surfacing with 200 bar. Oops. If you have deco bottles or stages, check that the valves are are again in the appropriate position - for us this means charged and then switched off. finally, check the suit inflation bottle if you have one. Again 20M per minute down to 50M becomes a real pain the arse if your argon bottle is switched off. We also perform another flow check at the bottom of a shotline in case anyone has rolled off a post against the line on the way down.

Breathe Both regaulators in the water, so dip your head, breathe from the primary, do a switch to the necklaced reg and check it breathes. If your 2nd stages diaphram has become unseated, the reg will breathe lovely on the surface, and breathe water underwater. Not nice. Best to find out now than when you have to dinate gas to someone and find you have nothing left to breathe off.

Is your primary torch now deployed and in your head. Is it switched on and working. Are your backup torches in position. If not, get out of the water and sort it out. Trust me on this one

Modified S Drill
Take the second stage out of your mouth and hold it in your hand. Dip your head and undo the long hose. Undo it from the canister light and check it is free all the way back to the first stage. Hold it up in the air so your team mates can see it - they are the interested ones because they are the ones You are checking to make sure you can donate gas freely at any point, a critical piece of the configuration, yet it does get missed. We missed this once on Tech1 and spent a portion of the dive having to do mask to mask gas donations because the hoses were becoming trapped. Restow the hose carefully when you have finished. I was coaching a diver a few weeks ago and saw the same thing when he was kitting up and the inevitable out of gas I threw at him went predictably pie-shaped. I suspect he won't do it again.

Bubble check.
Whilst we're looking at the valves, let's check them for bubbles. Turn around onto your back and let your teammates look at your valves / manifold. Then let them check your suit inflation bottle and hoses, inflation valves, SPGs, deco bottles, stages. Diver 1 checks diver 2, diver 2 checks diver 3, diver 3 checks diver 1. This is a theme that goes all the way through DIR, each person has a role, and each person knows who they should be keeping an eye on / checking, so it happens smoothly and in an understood order. This takes practice.

Suit Dump Valve
Is it in the appropriate position. I forgot this on one of my fundies dives, leaving it mostly closed with air in the suit. It was a very uncomfortable dive, and the ascent was ludicrously messy as I now had a large bubble of gas to manage on the way up. Most divers I know just open it and leave it there, but the important thing is that you check it and it is in the position you want it to be in.

Suit Inflate Valve
Is the hose connected properly, can it be pulled off. Does it iactually inflate the suit properly without water ingressing. Suit squeeze - not nice

Wing Inflate
Is the hose connected properly or entangled. Can the low pressure hose be pulled off. Does the wing inflate.

Wing Dumps
Does the corrugated hose dump work effectively. Does the kidney dump work effectively. I missed this one on a Tech1 dive and found to my horror on the ascent that the string was not there. Kerslake denied cutting it, but who knows. You are checking to make sure you can actually reach it - you haven't got anything in the way, and that it functions correctly

Have you remembered to put on the instruments on your arms? hold your arms up and let your team see - they might be counting on you to call the deco. GLOC's deco is shaky at the best of times, but when we arrived at 52 metres on the moldavia with nothing on his arms and showed us...well, you can imagine how the conversation went on the boat. An easy one to forget.

Weight system
How many times have you seen people jump in without weights. Easy at the start of the dive, especially in a twinset, but I bet its a sickening feeling realising as that twinset gets lighter when you realise that "something" that you were sure you had forgotten is what would have kept you from hitting the surface early.

Can you reach it, with both hands. Is it on the appropriate place on yoru harness so that your team mates know where to get it if they need it.

We tell each other at this point what we are carrying in our pockets. This is pretty easy for us, as we are all carrying the same things, in the same pockets, but this is when someone goes "bugger, I forgot my SMB" when they tap their pockets to make sure they are appropriately full. This is also the time for people to deal with anything poking out of pockets for a team mate and tidy it away.

Deco Bottles
If you have clipped off your deco bottles to your hip d ring, have a team mate check to make sure that your main SPG coming off your left post is not clipped off THROUGH one of the hoses, making deployment of the deco regulator a job of either hvaing to thred it through, or removing the spg and then reattaching it. This was my biggest one on Tech1, kept doing this, and its amazing how much stress it adds when you can't pull the hose free. Whilst we are looking at each other's deco bottles, are the second stages stowed neatly away on all the bottles, and can we read the MOd markings clearly on the bottle for when we authorise a gas switch later in the dive.

Are we wearing them today GLOC?