Blueprint for survival

By Mark Mumford abridged from aquaCorps #12

About 12 years ago, in response to the then growing number of fatalities, the US Cave Diving community developed a set of safety principles which were later refined by Sheck Exley in his book Basic Cave Diving: A Blueprint for survival.

These guidelines have been further refined into a general set of principles for technical diving.


The general requirements are summarised by "AKTEE"

  • A - Attitude. There is no room for recklessness or machismo
  • K - Knowledge. Have some options when problems occur
  • T - Training. Skills must automatic (part of muscle memory)
  • E - Experience. (In this dive) This takes exposure and time
  • E - Equipment. Use an appropriate set of tools.


  • Always be prepared and trained for the dive you plan to conduct. Do you and your buddy meet AKTEE?
  • Review and practice emergency procedures frequently so that they become second nature.

Gas supply

  • Always dive with an appropriate redundent breathing system in overhead environments or below 40m.
  • Pre-plan and calculate the gas required to conduct the dive. Dive the plan. Use the rule of thirds.
  • Plan at least a 33% reserve for your Decompression gas.
  • Carry all the gas you will need for the dive unless it can be reliably staged. In open water, the goal is to be self-sufficient to the maximum extent possible.

Gas mix

  • Always dive the safest possible mix for the dive.
  • Always analyse, label, and log your gas, even if its air.
  • Maintain your PO2 at or below 1.4 bar.
  • Say no to any Nitrox mix (inc air) beyond 55-61m.


  • Always use appropriate and reliable Decompression methods and tools, and be conservative.
  • Use a hypoxic mix for Decompresison whenever possible.
  • Use regulator guards to prevent use of inappropriate or dangerous mixes at the wrong depths.
  • Plan for, and always be prepared to deal with Decompression illness. Know how to give oxygen.


  • Use the best possible, well maintained equipment.
  • Carry appropriate equipment and know how to use it
  • Always use a continuous guideline when diving in an overhead environment


  • Pre-plan everything, provide effective and immediate assistance to a diver in distress at any point in the dive, be prepared for the worst, and always have plenty of oxygen.
  • Dive as a team, but remember the rule that anyone can abort the dive at any time for any reason.
  • Stay within your own comfort zone for the whole dive
  • YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for you own safety. Avoid overconfidence and peer pressure.


The full original article can be found at the Aquacorps Archive.

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011