Situational Awareness

Photo: Maxwel Hohn

By Steve Lewis

A few years back I wrote a book called aThe Six Skillsa | a One of the skills mentioned in it was Situational Awareness. At the time, Situational Awareness( SA) seemed like a neat catch-all phrase, and it still sounds good as far as it goes. I wanted something that voiced more scholarly than say, abeing distracted.a

However, when the time comes to update the book and publish a new edition a which someone is bugging me to get done for this fall a I might rename that chapter aPaying Attentiona, or aMindfulnessa … or merely keep it aSituational Awarenessa. Of course, when it comes to finding the best ways to save your arse when you and your mates are out for a dive, each of those options is just a different label for the same thing; just like complacency, carelessness, negligence, and bravado are suitable synonyms for the same issue and all exist in the same family of human error.

Itas said that SA is the chess-playeras skill: knowing whatas going to happen not only after the next move, but also two, three, or a handful of moves after that. Mindfulness a a popular topic in the self-help market right now a is the same skill with the same result( albeit approached and perfected in a slightly different manner ). And paying attention is really all about focus and concentration: again, the same skill perhaps developed employing a different method, same result.

So, for simplicityas sake let’s just bellow what a diver should develop to stay safe aawarenessa, and agree that having some would be good; having plenties would be better; being fill up with it would be the best.

Letas also agree on the definition that awareness a both in water and out of it a is a choice. We can choose to be aware or not. And dedicated what can happen when weare unaware, itas the right choice; otherwise, survival comes down to luck or good fortune: a luck roll of the dice.

Obviously when we dive, it would be good to have the foresight to project whatas happening now into the future. I can think of a dozen examples, from watching your buddyas respiration rate( that river of breath bubbles heading for the surface ought not to be a constant stream ), and his or her response time to a hand-signal( it should be immediate, distinct, unequivocal ), to listening for the reassuring click of your rebreatheras solenoid opening at the appropriate time( the same runs for it shutting off ).

This awareness, this focus on the present and what all of our senses are telling us, helps to protect us from nasty astonishes.

Hereas a simple checklist that I find useful at every stage of diving, planing to dive, or sharing advice with other divers.

First understand what the baseline is.( A baseline is normal activity: noise; motion; actions; a series of things unfolding as they should in an anticipated order; everyday things that signal when all is well and is going to stay that style .)

The noise of a window being pried open when youare alone in your house at night is, for example, a discrepancy from the baseline. The sound of a car horn as you navigate a grocery store parking lot is a deviation. The sudden erratic movement of your dive buddyas light is a deviation.

It really does not matter how you develop an awareness of the baseline( reading and rereading a manual, following a best practise, or deep meditation and yoga ). We all have our own foibles and each of us learns in a different way. Itas up to us to find the one that works for us.

For what itas worth, wherever possible, I follow a scheme known to work, established best practices, conservative restrictions, and meditate on those things both before and during my dive. Your mileage may differ and thatas penalty. All that matters is that you have a strong and informed understanding of the route things should be.

Next is to work on being able to sense immediately when something falls outside that baseline; something that doesnat feel, reek, sound, savour, or look right. You might also add a sixth-sense warning to that listing: a aspidey sensea that things are not as they should be.

Usually, something that does not conform signals security threats. But not always.

The final step is to respond appropriately.

True awareness, mindfulness, concentrates, and concentration allow us to separate menaces from background noise; to work out quickly any discrepancies from the norm that have a dangerous potential from any deviations that are superficial and unimportant; to filter whatas important out from simple distractions.

This allows us to control our response a in essence, for any response to be unemotional, appropriate, effective, and rapid.

Developing the awareness skill takes time, but a with very few exceptions a we are all capable of its mastery. And without exception, developing and refining it will induce every diver a better diver.

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