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Red Sea Forum > Missing divers search procedures
posted : February 13, 2007 Post subject: Missing divers search procedures
Dear colleagues,

As you know in the beginning of January four divers were lost at the Elfestone reef at Red Sea, Egypt. There were two Russians, one citizen of the Netherlands and one Egyptian. They were carried by a current. This incident isnít first one in Egypt, such incidents happen with sad regularity.

In happened case all activities for search allow to make next conclusions :

1. There is no any marine search or rescue aviation on the Egyptian red sea coast. Any aircraft which can take off is military ones, its have not any equipments and crews which trained for search operations. Moreover this aircrafts can be taken off in much hours or even days.

2. All searches are executed by vessels and zodiacs from local dive-centers. This search method is only visually. There is no any instrumental technology (f.e. GPS, radio signal) for search by the vessels or zodiacs. Despite the fact that all search-participants make everything what they can - this searches are executed chaotically and ineffectively. Moreover they can't search in dark time and their usual practice is to declare that lost divers are dead when it got dark.

3. More important time for search is first several hours after disappearance because of changeable current and reduced strength and dehydration for the lost divers.

So I wrote the rules for skippers and zodiacmen which allows them to search at most effectiveness with minimal expenses of time, fuel and straights. If they search activity is upon this rules the lost divers will be found in 2-3 hours or less.

I am at you to print the rules every time when you're going to Egypt for diving. Please, hand the rules to you receiving dive-center manager, to vessel skippers and to zodiacmen. If anybody misunderstands in English please explain him. I'll try to prepare additional variant in Arabic language in short time .

Thank you,

Moscow, Russia

P.S. That was preamble for document which Iím going to attach below. But I donít wish that this document could stay misunderstand because probably I canít translate it to English exactly. So I ask help for prior editing for it by E-mail. The document is ready. After this editing Iíll place it in this topic.

posted : February 22, 2007 Post subject: Missing divers search procedures
I put this rules text below. Many thanks for ReefGuy (Florida), Divingdon (Sharm-el-Shaih), Svetlana Touloub (Belgium), Natasha Ivanova (Russia) for help and editing of the rules.


Dive vessels mandatory equipment for missing divers search
Watch with second point or dive-computer in hours-minutes-second mode.
2 flexible ropes 6-8 mm thick and 2 m long, with 1 kg weight on one end.
Mobile phone with 100% battery charged, paid at least 120 min speaking time for local calls. VHF radio
Emergency numbers and contact numbers of dive-center managers must be stored in the address book of a mobile phone or written down.
Note : In areas where mobile phones donít work use VHF hand / stationary radio. Anyway both mobile phone and VHF radio are desirable.
2 empty dive cylinders / scuba tanks. Otherwise use the regular dive cylinders with pressure released.
2 pencils and slate ( the motor hood or other non-erasable place can be also used for taking notes)
Procedures for skipper/zodiac man delivered the divers to a site (further - searcher # 1)
Write down last diver drop time.
If within 60 minutes any diver isnít appeared Ė
a) ascertain current direction by after-dive divers questioning or by deflection of rope with weight,
b) do local search in the site including reef checkout beginning from its down-current tip.
Declare alert in 90 minutes. Call a dive-center manager for at least one search vessel (zodiac or boat). If there are other vessels on this diving site, ask them for a help, write down their phone numbers and tell them your phone number / use VHF radio. Prepare 2 tanks for dropping : make them free of any equipment, check that pressure is released, tie the rope with weight to everyone tank valve.
Go down from reef down-current tip at 50 meters and drop both tanks.
Write down this drop time (time A).
Be near the drift tanks. Donít touch and affect them. Decrease vessel windage if possible.
Settle down. Wait phone or verbal directions. Call only if itís absolutely necessary. Any your vessel/zodiac displacements ARE PROHIBITED ! BE POSITIONED NEAR TANKS !
Note : If the tanks are moved away from each other itís permitted to tow any tank to a second one.


Procedures for skippers/zodiac men of other search vessels :
Check compass and watch. Take fresh water / fuel stocks and torches/lights.
Arrive at the site as soon as possible or stay at the site (for those ones who are already located at the site).
Talk to searcher #1 by phone / VHF radio, calm him down, report about search vessels quantity and their skipper/zodiac man phone numbers. Ask exact tanks drop time (time A) and write it down.
Ascertain current direction along the diving site.
Visually spot the searcher #1.
NOT LESS than in 30 minutes after time A go down from reef down-current tip at 50 meters, measure exact compass course to searcher # 1 (it is search direction course). If itís possible ask other searchers check this course (including way back from searcher # 1 to this point by phone). Write down this course.
Write down exact current time (hours-min-sec) and start moving with search direction course to searcher # 1 with maximum safety speed mode.
When the searcher # 1 is reached write down exact time (hours-min-sec). Calculate time B as difference between first and final time of the motion from site to searcher # 1.
Start careful observation of sea surface.
Continue moving in the same speed mode heading search direction course during time C (see time C in table 1). Write time C down.
Table 1.

First time of movement from diving site***** Motion time C with the search direction course from searcher # 1

30 min later than time ********************* four times B
60 min later than time ********************* two times B
90 min later than time ********************* 1 and 1/3 of time B
120 min later than time ******************** one time B
180 min later than time ********************4/5 of time B
210 min later than time A and later**********3/4 of time B
When time C is over change the course by 90 degrees to sun side, move for half a minute, then set a return search direction course. Write down the course and first time of this passage.
When time close to time C is over change the course by 90 degrees to side of searcher # 1 and move by him for one minute. After that again set to search direction course. Write down its first time.
Execute passages with search direction course and return search direction course increasing cross motion times for half a minute every time. Write down first times of every direct or return passages.
In case if anything is discovered on sea surface one of vessels shall stop and stay at a current place while other ones check out the find. Its skipper/zodiac man shall write down the stop time. Skippers and zodiac men shall preliminary arrange about stopped person. If the find is erroneous deviated vessels shall return to their place and continue passage during remainder time.
Extra requirements for dark time search :
To avoid premature torch discharge searcher # 1 shall turn it on only when return search direction passage is executed when searching skipper/zodiac man called (after about 2/3 of return passage time). He shall light to their side.
Vessels lighting shall be minimum for boat or absent for zodiac. Before course changes skipper of vessel-leader shall give notice for other participants by phone and by circular waving with torch.
Attention shall be direct on possible light diver markers : white flash lights, torch lights, different lightings.
Procedures for searcher when missing diver are found :
Get out everyone from water, render essential assistance.
Notify other searchers. Searcher # 1 shall get tanks from water and approach to this place.
Be sure that ALL divers are found. If it necessary drop the tanks again in this place and continue the search be based on this new point.
If ALL divers are found Ė go back home..
Procedures for searchers when search remain unsuccessful :
After not less than 12 passages with search direction course and 12 passages with return search direction course are executed unsuccessfully Ė stop the search and go back home.
Searcher # 1 shall LEAVE the tanks drifting in water and go back home too.
Copy all entries to a paper and deliver the paper to police or dive-center manager.