Most dive operations use a predetermined plan for lost contact. As soon as a diver loses his buddy, he proceeds right to the surface. When both buddies do this they should meet at the surface about the same time. When a diver surfaces he must give the ”OK” to the Divemaster, or do nothing. Many divers get into a bad habit of as soon as they surface, they give the ”OK”, if your buddy is not with you, you are not OK. Anytime communication is lost, the Divemaster must presume a serious problem exists. When a tender loses contact a stand by diver must swiftly enter the water and follow the line down. He then must place an overhand knot in the safety line at the moment of lost contact. This knot gives a definite distance from shore or boat. If a buddy is missing, the diver must surface and report to the Divemaster.
Once a diver surfaces without his buddy he must drop a marker and try to stay where he is.
AT NO TIME SHOULD A DIVER RETURN TO THE BOTTOM TO SEARCH FOR HIS BUDDY.
Lost buddy contact usually occurs late in the dive, and the diver may be fatigued, low on air, and may be close to decompression problems. The Divemaster should quickly send in two standby divers to start the search. When the standby divers reach the surface diver, he should quickly give only pertinent information to them, and then return to shore. They will follow his marker down and begin a quick search, in most cases finding the missing member rapidly. If that does not happen, the team should weigh all data, and start shifting its resources to recovering their lost member.
When a lost team member situation occurs the Divemaster and the Team Leader must decide what course of action to take. They have two options: Suspend the operation and search for the missing team member, or continue the operation, and search for the missing team member. Anytime the team is in the recovery mode, or conducting training dives, all operations must stop, and the Team then goes into an actual rescue mode. When the team is the rescue mode and a missing member incident occurs, the decision becomes tougher.
When visibility is good, finding the lost man is easy, when poor, the situation can get critical. The first thing the surfacing buddy should look for after signaling the Divemaster, is bubbles breaking on the surface. When seen he should not follow them down but wait for the standby divers to arrive, and send them down.
The lost member normally gets involved in the search and loses his awareness of his buddy. Training should instill in every diver that as soon as they lose contact with their buddy, surface. This should be restated before every dive. If the standby divers fail to find the missing diver, then the team must treat it as a lost diver and act accordingly. The use of buddy lines or surface tender can greatly reduce the chance of losing a team member. Tenders work best in very cold, swift, and black water, while buddy lines are useful in low visibility (night diving), or whenever a diver wants to use one.