Wednesday, 10 March 2010

DIR Rules. Explained

After a recent thread, someone dropped me a line and asked me what are the DIR Rules, especially "Rule6" as it seems to be unofficial and a bit stupid - always look cool ffs? the person asked how I interpret the rules, and so I thought I'd explain what they mean to me.

The rules are


It’s the first rule, arguably the most important, and the one that has raised the most emotions in the past. It has been erroneously translated by dumb-ass DIR and non-DIR divers as “Don’t dive with people outside your team” or even “Don’t dive with people from another agency”, and by some real dipsticks “Only dive with DIR divers”.

This is an error.

The rule does not mean don’t dive with a particular type of person. It means don’t dive with someone who is unsafe. So what is an unsafe diver.? Forget the agency, training or background. Your best friend and GUE team mate can be an unsafe diver as much as anyone else. An unsafe diver is someone who is not physically or psychologically prepared, in your opinion, to safely conduct the dive you have planned. Maybe their kit looks cobbled together because they rushed. Maybe something on their kit looks like it needs maintenance. Perhaps they are so focussed on themselves they are not taking an active team role in preparing for the dive. Perhaps they haven’t analysed their gas, or conducted a proper pre dive briefing with you. Perhaps you are not on the save wavelength regarding the dive plan, or the decompression strategy. Perhaps they are using kit they are clearly not comfortable with, or trying out new kit on an inappropriate dive. There might be a million and one things, but I’d come back to someone who is not prepared, in your opinion. To safely conduct the dive.. Someone will raise so I’ll pre-empt it – the rule has also been described as “Don’t dive with strokes”. A stroke, in this context, is an unsafe diver, regardless of background or training. Rule 1 then, Do not dive with unsafe divers.


As a general rule, if you have decided someone is acting in an unsafe manner, you probably don't want to listen to any arguments they might have. Again, this does not mean “don’t listen (or speak to, as someone once suggested) to non-DIR divers. It means don’t take advice from people you shouldn’t’. I have been guilty of this so many times. I hear a diver, using a different configuration, or different signals, or kit, or whatever, and I think “that sounds cool, I’ll incorporate that into my diving”. I’ve just forgotten the point of DIR, which is that the strength is in standardisation, and the moment someone starts moving away from that standard, the system begins to fray around the edges. I can jump in the water with any DIR diver and know exactly how their kit is supposed to be setup, and how intend to conduct the dive. Until someone starts mucking about with the standard. Another take on the “do not listen” rule – You think your best mate is unsafe today because they haven’t analysed their gas – there’s no current sticker on it (IE one that says they analysed it TODAY). They tell you it’s fine because they did it last week. If you listen to that, you’ve broken rule 2.


Surely this is obvious to everyone. Yet we keep hearing about people who stayed just a little bit too long. Or went a little bit too deep. Etc. George Irvine came out with a lot of vitriolic nonsense, but one of the things he said which rings true to me is that no-one gets any smarter underwater. If you’ve made a plan on the surface, stick to it in the water, as you made it for a reason. If you happen to stumble across the treasure of the Sierra Madre but you have reached minimum gas, tough shit. Come back tomorrow. I can personally attest that it’s far more pleasant being at home wishing you were diving, than being diving wishing you were at home.


Logic would suggest that this would be the least emotive rule. Surely everyone would agree this is a sensible idea. But every now and again, someone dies for the lack of adhering to it. A couple of years ago, I tested my twinset on the boat as I prepared for my 40 metre dive, and found to my consternation that I had 200 bar of pure Oxygen in my twinset. How my body would have reacted to a partial pressure of Oxygen of 5.0 I cannot precisely determine, but I think it’s far to say the dive would have been both brief and somewhat eventful. Another diver I know blacked out whilst sitting on the side of a rib as he prepared to roll off the side into the sea. He can be thankful to an unnamed and unknown gas filler for the low price he had been charged for a very expensive fill, and thankful to his body’s swift reaction to the 100% helium in his twinset for probably saving his life. Stuff like this happens. Most of the time, it gets caught in time. When it doesn’t, the unfortunate result is that we tend to read about it. Gas accidents sicken me, because their results can be so easily fatal, and yet so easily avoided. Analyse your gas before every dive, including after air tops in the morning. Do not make any assumptions based on what people are telling you. Analyse anything you might potentially have to breathe. Mark your cylinders with the current date, and check your team mates to make sure they have done the same. If they haven’t, see rules 1 and 2. If the shit hits the fan you might have to breathe what's in their cylinders, so check those stickers before you hit the water.


DIR’s stance on rebreathers is fairly simple. There is a balance of risk and need. DIR Divers believe that rebreathers are, generally speaking, more dangerous than Open Circuit. However, there are certain dives where the risks of open circuit outweigh the risks of closed circuit. Where gas logistics become ludicrous – extremely long exposure cave exploration, or very deep wreck diving, then there is an argument that a rebreather is the tool of choice. I have to be honest, if I wrote more on this rule I’d be making it up. I don’t do these types of dives, so I don’t really relate to this rule.


T hat seems a bit silly doesn’t it? Everything I’ve written above is designed to help safety, so what’s this bollox about looking cool?Just a joke? Maybe. But think about it a bit and all of a sudden you start to see something in it.Let’s just assume for a moment that the rule does not mean “Only wear black”. Let’s also assume that it doesn’t mean “Only buy Halcyon”. On a side note, I don’t know of a single DIR diver that only uses Halcyon equipment. Anyway, I digress. DIR and Non-Divers that make the assumption that this is what the rule actually means are missing the point.

Let’s imagine you are on a boat. Your potential buddy’s equipment looks messy, or poorly maintained. Maybe the hose routing looks all untidy. They are clearly in breach of rule 6. What’s important is not that their configuration is not neat, or their equipment knackered. What’s important is that they have rushed their setup, or have been failing to keep up to date with maintenance. Refer to rule 1. Let’s assume your buddy’s cylinders have 15 different stickers on them. Bong. Rule 6 violation. But again the important thing is that you might not be able to identify a current gas test sticker or, god forbid, misread the maximum operating depth. Refer to Rule 1. Now you’re in the water. Your buddy is dropping in and out of trim. They are waving their arms about. Bong. Rule 6 violation. They are not looking cool. Equally, if you have your head switched on, you now know that they are uncomfortable for some reason. Don’t ignore it. Find out why.

Rule 6 is not about looking cool for the sake of cool. It’s about looking in control, prepared, calm. In short, it’s about demonstrating you are a safe diver.

Those are the rules. There is one small addition I might as well make to this post. Something we call “Option 1”. Option one is very simple indeed.

Option 1 Any diver can call any dive. At any time.

Before or during the dive. No debate. No questioning. No argument. The dive is over. Why someone calls a dive is irrelevant. They have decided they want to be out of the water, or don’t want to get into it. Diving is supposed to be fun. So respect that decision. Would you really want to be in the water with someone who doesn’t. If someone tries to convince you to dive when you don’t feel comfortable, please refer to Rule 1.

Have a nice day