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Like any other human activity, snorkeling carries its own set of risks. With proper risk management, the likelihood of encountering an accident is relatively low. However, should an unfortunate incident occur, an SNSI Snorkeling Guide must be capable of taking charge and providing effective aid. The Snorkeling Guide’s response as a rescuer can be critical in determining the outcome of an accident. The most essential skill to develop for handling emergencies is decision-making — the ability to make the right decisions swiftly.” To achieve effective emergency management, you must focus on these primary objectives that every rescuer should set:

Ensure your safety and that of other group members.

Move the victim away from danger.

Minimize the physical damage caused by the accident.

Manage the reactions of other group members.

If you’ve meticulously planned the excursion, you’ll be better prepared for emergencies, as your plan should include accident management strategies. For effective response, snorkelers must have access to essential first-aid equipment, including a tank of pure oxygen equipped with an on-demand regulator, capable of lasting 40-50 minutes. Remember, the most crucial skill during an emergency is being prepared to handle it.

Aid in a diving context can be categorized into three types:

Assisting a snorkeler in difficulty.

Aiding an injured snorkeler.

Assistance to a snorkeler in difficulty

Assisting a snorkeler in difficulty involves helping them resolve a problem. The snorkeler is not in immediate danger, but your goal is to offer the right assistance and prevent the issue from escalating into an emergency or a more serious accident. As a Snorkeling Guide providing aid, it’s crucial to remember that while assisting this snorkeler, you must also maintain awareness of the rest of the group. Avoid creating additional problems. Act as a true leader, maintaining calm and control over the situation.

The situations requiring snorkeler assistance are different, with experience highlighting several common scenarios:

Snorkeler Struggling to Breathe on the Surface:

A  snorkeler  having difficulty  breathing should cease all physical activity. In this situation you must immediatlely provide a flotation device like a lifebuoy to the person in distress. This way you provide them with a stable support to hold onto. It’s important not to ask a person struggling to breathe to engage in any physical activity until their breathing has normalized. While assisting, speak reassuringly to the snorkeler and give clear instructions to the rest of the group, like ‘stay together by holding onto each other’s hands’.

Panic on the surface:

Often, panic attacks at the surface are primarily caused by poor ability to swim and the fear of the water. Your objective should be to enable the panicked snorkeler to float comfortably. Speak calmly to the panicking person, instructing them to grab the buoy. If they respond to your instructions, the situation is resolved. If they don’t, which is more likely, approach and put the snorkeler in touch with the buoy.

For all situations requiring the Snorkeling Guide’s intervention, a key challenge (especially in complex scenarios) is managing the rest of the group. There may be instances where you need to decide whether to leave the group unettended without your direct assistance. While rare, such situations are possible, which is why it’s essential to include instructions about exiting the water in your briefing. In an emergency, your primary focus must shift entirely to assisting the snorkeler in distress.

Aiding an UNCOUNSCIOUS snorkeler

One of the most critical emergencies is rescuing an unconscious snorkeler. Your immediate goal is to bring the victim out of water for immediate first aid. If other snorkelers are with you, instruct them to end their excursion and exit the water. First, check if the victim has their snorkel in their mouth and confirm unconsciousness by gently shaking them.

This is when you need to administer artificial respiration. First, check to ensure that the injured victim’s airways are open and determine whether or not they are breathing. To keep the victim’s airways open, place one hand behind their neck and use the other hand to gently tilt their head backward. The hand placed under the neck should correspond to the side you are on. For example, if you are positioned to the snorkeler’s right, use your right hand to support their neck.

Sometimes, simply opening the airways is enough to restart a victim’s breathing. To assess if the snorkeling is breathing, position your ear directly over their nose and mouth while supporting their head with your hand. This allows you to observe their chest movements and listen for the sound of breathing.

If you determine that the unconscious snorkeler is not breathing, immediately signal for help by waving both arms to attract attention. Then, start artificial respiration by administering two full and complete ventilations. Ensure that you see the victim’s cheeks inflate and deflate before initiating the second ventilation.

After the initial two ventilations, continue at a rate of one ventilation every 4-5 seconds. Simultaneously, begin moving the victim towards the exit point as quickly as possible.

The most challenging aspect of the rescue operation is managing to transport an injured, non-breathing victim to the exit point while continuously providing artificial ventilation every 4-5 seconds. This must be coordinated with your swimming. Effective organization and maintaining a controlled pace of operations are crucial. 

If you aim for a successful rescue, it’s crucial to avoid exhausting yourself. Maintain a sustainable pace to prevent becoming another person in need of assistance. The ideal technique for a rescue involving artificial respiration should take into account the environmental situation and other factors like the relative sizes of you and the victim, your physical condition, and the distance to the exit point. For instance, if you are very close to the shore or boat, it may be more practical to perform only the first two ventilations and then quickly move the victim out of the water. Once on land or aboard the boat, providing aid will be more effective and simpler.

As an SNSI Snorkeling Guide, it is crucial that you possess the ability to make the best decisions based on the specific situation you encounter.

Managing the group during an accident

During a rescue, it’s important to remember that you are still responsible for the other snorkelers in the group. There may be a relative or close friend of the victim among them. While your primary focus should be on assisting the victim, also strive to maintain calm within the group. Engage them in helpful tasks that keep them psychologically involved, such as:

Using the phone or radio to alert authorities and prepare for assistance upon reaching shore, if diving from a boat.

Calling for an ambulance.

Retrieving the first-aid kit and oxygen tank.

Making a written record of the incident and rescue efforts, including the time and date of the accident and the care provided to the victim.

Collecting the victim’s equipment and personal belongings.

Managing onlookers and maintaining order.

Involving the group in these tasks aids the rescue effort and helps manage their emotional response to the situation.

If there is a doctor in the group, defer to their guidance for the rescue operations once the victim is on dry land, and offer your full assistance.

Maintain a positive attitude: provide comfort to the victim’s relatives, keep them informed, and show your willingness to help. Refrain from expressing personal opinions about the incident. As the person responsible for the group of snorkelers, you may face legal scrutiny, but remember that if you’ve performed your duties properly, your liability should be limited.

After the victim has been transferred to a hospital, it’s important to compile a detailed report of the accident. This report should be submitted to both your insurance company and the SNSI Office.

Responsibility while handling an emergency

Handling an emergency is undoubtedly the most critical and legally sensitive aspect of your role. In this section, SNSI aims to provide you with information regarding the legal responsibilities you assume when faced with an emergency as a Snorkeling Guide. Emergencies are unpredictable and high-pressure situations, creating an environment where mistakes are more likely to occur. These mistakes can have serious repercussions for the victim and may result in civil and criminal liability for you.

To minimize the likelihood of errors, it’s essential to be prepared to take control of the situation and follow proper procedures. This involves making a series of rapid assessments and decisions.

As discussed, the initial response to an accident involves safely removing the victim from the water and positioning them appropriately. Following this, your immediate actions should include an initial assessment of the situation, providing first aid, and alerting the relevant authorities. These authorities can then offer more specific guidance on further actions to take.

Regarding rescue efforts, it’s crucial that you always know who to contact, enabling you to act swiftly and provide all necessary information for evaluating the accident and assisting the victim while awaiting the arrival of qualified responders. In terms of administering first aid, it’s important to act promptly but within the scope of your current knowledge and skills. Incorrectly performed first aid can exacerbate the situation and lead to liability issues.

At this juncture, while awaiting assistance, you’ll face some of the most critical assessments and decisions. Essentially, there are three key factors to evaluate: the victim’s condition, the anticipated arrival time of qualified personnel, and your own level of knowledge and preparedness at that moment. In certain scenarios, the course of action may be straightforward and even mandatory. For instance, if qualified responders are expected to arrive imminently, your role may simply involve waiting while providing psychological support to the victim.

At other times, the circumstances may be much more complex. For instance, if the accident victim is in critical condition and qualified personnel are unable to arrive promptly. In such situations, after evaluating the victim’s condition with their knowledge, the Snorkeling Guide must decide whether and how to intervene.

If the Snorkeling Guide determines that waiting for qualified personnel could lead to severe and potentially irreversible harm to the victim, and if they believe they are capable of providing suitable aid to mitigate these negative consequences, they are obligated to act.

Conversely, if the Snorkeling Guide feels incapable of intervening for any reason—whether technical, psychological, or otherwise—or if they believe their actions will not improve the situation, they should refrain from intervening.

There are numerous potential scenarios and variations, making the decision to intervene or not quite challenging.

Keep in mind that in the event of an accident, you are operating under a state of necessity. A person is generally not held criminally liable for intervening in good faith, based on the belief that their actions are necessary to prevent irreversible harm to the victim, given their current knowledge and understanding. However, liability may arise if the intervention was deemed unnecessary but was carried out regardless, or if the assessment or intervention was conducted with recklessness, incompetence, or negligence.

In determining guilt, the judge will consider the circumstances under which the Snorkeling Guide was operating. A state of necessity often involves not only the exclusion of criminal liability but also civil liability. Nevertheless, the judge may still mandate compensation for the injured party. In these situations, the judge must also take into account the actual circumstances of the incident.

When a Snorkeling Guide is torn between intervening and potentially facing charges of negligent injury or wrongful death, and not intervening to avoid charges of failing to provide assistance, the decision should always weigh the consequences of action versus inaction. The Snorkeling Guide must choose the course of action they believe is most beneficial for the victim at that moment. It would defy common sense for them to face charges for making a decision aimed at helping the victim. While awaiting the arrival of qualified personnel, such as a doctor or paramedic, and having done everything within their capacity, the Snorkeling Guide is still obligated to offer psychological support to the victim.

These insights into legal liability during emergencies highlight the importance of staying current and proficient in first-aid techniques. Periodically, request your instructor or the manager of the dive center where you work to review these techniques with you. In the unfortunate event that you need to assist a snorkeler, having thorough knowledge of first-aid practices and regularly revisiting them will enable you to act to the best of your abilities, even under the psychological pressure of the situation.

Emergency ACTION Plan

A responsible SNSI Snorkeling Guide is always prepared, understanding that an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a critical component of planning. This plan is essential, whether diving is supported by a dive center familiar with the local conditions and prepared for emergencies, or when snorkeling independently with a buddy. In situations without the backing of a structured organization, it’s even more vital to anticipate potential emergencies and plan accordingly.

For an EAP to be truly effective, snorkelers must have access to all necessary first aid equipment, including a tank of pure oxygen for emergency administration. The challenge here lies in the cost and maintenance of such equipment, leading many snorkelers to prefer the support of well-equipped, organized dive centers that can manage these aspects of excursion preparation. Nonetheless, an SNSI Snorkeling Guide should be capable of organizing and managing an excursion independently, including the development of an Emergency Management Plan. The key skill in emergency management is readiness.

Emergency planning is more critical than it might initially appear. While some plans are better than others, the most crucial factor is the plan’s functionality and the snorkelers’ ability to execute it under pressure. Real emergencies can be frightening, potentially causing individuals to forget their training.

The most effective emergency responses stem from teamwork, as well as the training and preparation undertaken both collectively and individually. It involves considering potential scenarios and formulating responses in advance. This proactive approach ensures that SNSI Snorkeling Guide are not just prepared to handle emergencies but are also equipped to lead and execute the necessary actions to safeguard themselves and their fellow snorkelers.

Here are the key elements of an effective Emergency Action Plan (EAP)

Identification of Hazards and Risks:

Compile a list of potential emergencies (disorientation, encounters with hazardous marine life, equipment loss, etc.).

Evaluate the likelihood of each situation occurring, distinguishing between realistic probabilities and hypothetical scenarios.

Assess the potential consequences and severity of each incident.

Prioritize based on the likelihood and severity of emergencies.

High-risk situations are those likely to occur with serious consequences, while low-risk situations are unlikely, rare, and involve minor or no harm.


Ensure availability of essential personal safety gear (signal buoys/lights, emergency lights).

Maintain necessary equipment for various emergencies (first aid kits, oxygen tanks, fire extinguishers), ensuring everything is complete, in good condition, and functional.

Keep a backup set of diving gear in good condition and regularly inspected.

Creation of Procedures for Each Emergency Type:

Develop detailed plans for common emergencies.

Establish comprehensive procedures for handling various emergencies, including communication protocols, contact points, coordination methods, and medical assistance guidelines.

Utilize checklists to standardize responses, minimize decision-making, and train staff, ensuring swift and consistent actions.


Set up reliable internal and external communication channels/signals.

Compile a contact list for emergency personnel, local authorities, and rescue services, including universal and specialized emergency numbers and radio channels.

Prepare a script for communicating with emergency services, aiding those less trained in making effective calls.

Assess all available resources for emergencies, including evacuation and search services, medical and security support.

Training of Personnel and Team:

Aim to train a designated rescue team comprising crew members and specially trained snorkelers.

Identify individuals with rescue training or certifications, including medical professionals, paramedics, and firefighters.

Assign specific tasks and roles within the team.

Allocate each task to a suitable individual who can respond calmly and effectively in an emergency.

Training and Simulations:

Conduct regular drills to assess the plan’s effectiveness, familiarize everyone with their roles, and refine response actions.

Update the plan regularly to incorporate new threats, feedback from drills, and organizational changes.

Evaluating Effectiveness: Testing the EAP helps determine its realism and feasibility, considering the capabilities of personnel and available resources.

Assessing Flexibility: Understanding if the plan can accommodate unforeseen issues and alternative approaches.

Refining Response Skills: Practice enhances the proficiency of everyone involved, ensuring prepared responses during an actual emergency.

Reducing Stress in Real Emergencies: Familiarity with roles and tasks through drills builds confidence and reduces panic, making real emergencies more manageable.

Performance Evaluation and Plan Refinement: Drills provide an opportunity to assess how well the plan works in practice and to make necessary adjustments.

Drills don’t need to be lengthy or disrupt a day’s activities; even a 20/30-minute scenario at the day’s end can be beneficial. The importance of taking every drill seriously cannot be understated.

Emergency action plans need not be overly complicated or challenging to execute.

A comprehensive EAP, coupled with thorough training and preparedness, is critical for effectively managing diving emergencies.


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