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Practicing Safe Science

Getting prepared for the upcoming spring field season.
March 9, 2017

“Quick! Get him in the boat,” yells Gillian Sadlier-Brown. At her command, two other staff members scramble to obey. A hammock-sized net swings off the port side of the boat and into the frigid ocean below. A person can’t last long in that 6 °C water, and Kyle Hall, one of Hakai’s scientific scuba divers, has fallen overboard without his gear. He lies motionless in the water. Yet a surprisingly relaxed look is on his face as he bobs up and down. Kyle knows this is all a drill.

When you work at remote field stations, safety and a solid knowledge of first aid is paramount. To get to a hospital requires a boat, plane, or helicopter. And you might have to wait awhile before receiving medical attention. As the main field season begins ramping up in March, the nearshore science team are on Quadra Island to ensure they’re all prepared should the unexpected happen. That means practice.

The safest way to not get in trouble while working at remote sites is not to get hurt in the first place. But with scuba divers in the water, electronic winches, and slippery rocks, you never know what might occur. Over three days, Hakai’s Dive Safety Officer Wayne Jacob and lead diver Derek Van Maanen put us through the paces. We practiced man-overboard drills, acted out scuba dive accident scenarios, and brushed up on our first aid protocols.

I can happily report that, while he plays a convincing accident victim, Kyle made it back into the boat none the worse for wear. Hopefully, we’ll never need to use these skills. But if we do, we’ll be ready.