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Pre-Dive Safety Check Guidelines

While there are a lot of people who enjoy scuba diving every day, it also poses inherent risks just like any other outdoor activity. With this in mind, performing a pre-dive safety check can help you avoid most accidents while you’re in the water. It’s essential for new and veteran divers to conduct this vital safety check before every dive. But what exactly is a pre-dive safety check, and how do you go about it?

What is the Buddy Check & Why is Important for Divers?

divers doing a safety check before going underwater

Scuba divers and their dive buddies typically perform a pre-dive safety check before going into the water. It’s the final inspection of your equipment before your dive. You and your buddy can conduct gear checking on your boat or on the shore. The pre-dive safety check ensures that your equipment is working, and also familiarizes you with your buddy’s equipment should you need to assist or receive assistance from him. It even lets you check if your buddy’s gear is working correctly, and if you’ve turned on your air supply.

Despite the warnings, most divers seldom perform this crucial scuba gear check before a dive and rush to descend. Especially with your scuba diving equipment being set-up by someone else, a diver should always inspect his gear and perform a buddy check before diving.

Using Acronyms During Your Pre-Dive Safety Check

divers inspecting their gear on the shore

Many scuba divers, including beginners, make sure that they recall specific scuba buddy check sequences via acronyms or mnemonics. They use two abbreviations for pre-dive safety checks: the ABC and the BWRAF pre-dive safety check acronyms.

The ABC Acronym

This diving acronym is also known as the BSAC buddy check system. ABC stands for:

  • A – Air
  • B – Buoyancy
  • C – Clips and releases

Checking your air supply, as well as your dive buddy’s air, involves the following tasks:

  • Confirm if you have good airflow and if it’s switched on
  • Confirm if you have a functional air supply
  • Check your air gauges for any fluctuations
  • Confirm if your air tastes okay
  • Confirm if your primary regulator and your alternative air supply are working by performing similar checks on these pieces of gear
  • Show your buddy how to remove the alternative air source

As for buoyancy checks, the tasks below will help you and your buddy ensure good buoyancy while diving.

  • Check if your buoyancy control device (BCD) or stab jacket’s air-in or direct feeds are working properly
  • Ensure correct air feed connection
  • Check dump valve location on your BCD and your drysuit with your buddy should an emergency occurs during your dive
  • Confirm whether you’re using your BCD, your drysuit, or both. This step only applies if you’re using a drysuit on your dive.

Lastly, performing a check on your clips and releases lets you:

  • Run through all your clips and releases on your BCD/stab jacket and weight belt
  • Tell your buddy if you’ve attached weights to your BCD and how they should remove them in an emergency

The BWRAF Acronym

PADI’s “BWRAF” acronym is highly popular with divers and is an easy to remember pre-dive check. PADI advises divers to review their dive plan and their preferred signals with this pre-dive safety check acronym.

BWRAF stands for:

  • B – BCD & Buoyancy
  • W – Weights/Weight Belt
  • R – Releases
  • A – Air
  • F – Final OK

To check if you have a functional BCD, here are the steps that you should perform:

  • Check your buddy’s buoyancy compensator.
  • Check if you’ve connected the low-pressure inflator hose correctly on your BCD and ensure a less sticky inflator button with a quick puff.
  • Make sure that your BCD deflates correctly by deflating it.
  • Make sure that you have the proper weight by checking your buoyancy. This step will only apply if you’re checking your dive equipment in the water.

For weight belt checks, it’s best to perform the tasks listed below.

  • Check if your buddy is wearing their weight belt properly. Ensure that loose ends are tied correctly and tucked in such a way that enables quick release.
  • Familiarize yourself with your dive buddy’s preferred weight belt or built-in weights and how you can release them when a specific emergency calls for it.

Once you’ve checked your BCD and weight belt, performing a release check is your next step. The following steps should be enough for you to conduct one:

  • Check if your buddy has strapped their BCD correctly and tightened all belts.
  • Count the number of buckles/straps tugging at each one as you enter the water.
  • Ensure that hose or diving gear placement won’t keep you and your buddy from removing your gear in emergencies.
  • Teach your buddy how to open the release.

Air supply checks are also necessary before diving. Unfortunately, there are times where divers forget why they should perform this particular step. But it doesn’t mean you should do the same. Here are a few ways to check for proper air supply:

  • Check if your buddy’s air is fully turned on.
  • Make him take a couple of breaths while you watch the pressure gauge for fluctuations in the needle, or simply purge the regulator while watching the needle.
  • Make sure that you have a full tank and check if your air connectors are leaking.
  • For alternate air source checking, breathe from it a few times. You’ll also need to make sure that your buddy has clipped the source on their BCD and that you can see it while you dive.

Lastly, we have the final OK. This last step lets you perform the following steps:

  • Inspect your fins, mask, and snorkel with your eyes.
  • Test dive flashlights, if necessary.
  • Take a compass bearing.
  • Check your dive computer before giving your buddy the all-OK sign to start your dive.
  • Attach loose hoses and other dangly items (which can cause reef damage) to your suit.

How Can Divers Remember the BWRAF Scuba Check?

divers performing a pre-dive safety check in the water

To help divers remember the BWRAF diving check system, PADI uses the mnemonic “Begin with Review and Friend”. But if you and your buddy want to use a different mnemonic, there are some other mnemonics that divers have created to remember the procedure.

We’ve listed down some common and funny mnemonics below:

  • Beans With Rice And Fish
  • Bruce Willis Ruins All Films
  • Breathing Water Really Ain’t Fun
  • Big White Rabbits Are Fluffy
  • Because We Really Are Friends
  • Blonde Women Really Are Fun
  • Burgers With Relish And Fries
  • Bunnies Will Run Away Fast
  • Bangkok Women Really Are Fellas

Preparing for any activity is a must, especially if you’re diving underwater. When you perform a scuba buddy check before heading into deep water, it will ensure a fun and trouble-free diving experience for you and your dive buddy.

2 Comments

  1. “A – Air: Check that your buddy’s air is turned all the way on and half a turn back.”

    No! That’s an outdated procedure, and can cause trouble. Modern valves should be all the way on, or all the way off. What if someone mistakenly turns your valve all the way off, and then back on a half turn? You could breath fine during the surface check, but then have low flow at depth due to the increased demand. If it’s all the way off, you’ll know it immediately during your pre-dive check.

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