Full Face Mask Quick Removal

Source: German SCUBA diving magazine unterwasser 9/11, p. 98, story entitled «Vollgesichtsmasken [sic!] voll normal?» [«full face masks ‒ fully normal?», my translation].

In this blog article, I'm citing a checklist for full face masks from this story («Checkliste Vollgesichtsmaske» [sic!]), page 100, item #5, most important skills («5. Die wichtigsten Fähigkeiten»):
«Ablegen der Vollgesichtsmaske [sic!] im Panikmodus (geht ein einfaches Wegdrücken vom Gesicht oder muss man eine Vorrichtung (Bänder, Griffe etc) benutzen?»
removing the full face mask in panic mode (does a simple push-away from the face works or does one must use an apparatus (straps, handles etc)?», my humble translation, same errors as in German original]
Now, what is a «panic mode» in the context of handling a full face mask? Unfortunately, the magazine story from unterwasser never cares to explain this term. Maybe this «panic mode» is simply an awkward phrase coined by the story writer for an emergency situation under water? A situation which requires quick and straightforward reaction, but also advisedly handling? Where the equipment must not get into your way so you can safely mitigate the problem and situation?

In any case, panic is a bad friend, especially under water. A «panic mode» most probably can be the beginning of the end. Not without reason, all the dive training organizations teach their rescue diver students and, in particular, their instructors to recognize beginning panic as well as handling panicking divers (at least to some extend).

Thus, I'm really irritated that just a SCUBA diving magazine introduces a completely unclear and presumably dangerous concept. I'm supposing for the moment that this idea fully contradicts all the teaching material of all dive training organizations. After all, I would have expected more diligence from SCUBA magazine journalists.

To my knowledge, correctly donned full face masks are on purpose not easy to remove without at least partly opening the straps that fix the mask. That's the idea of the head harness design with 5/6 straps (spider): to steadily fix a full face mask on your face in order to ensure proper sight and gas supply ... even in jerky situations. A full face mask slipping out of place could be fatal, but is at least a serious situation.

In consequence, divers need to learn how to properly handle and remove the particular full face mask model they are using for a dive. This is in no way different from any other important piece of diving equipment. And there is no difference between normal, unobtrusive handling and panic mode, it doesn't make any sense the other way round.

In the end, whether the design of a particular mask is suitable for safe diving may be seen from how easy the mask is to remove in any situation, normal or in distress.

When all you got is a full face mask that has no easy-to-use and easy-to-grab handles, knobs, or similar ... then you need to stay calm and slowly remove the mask even with thick gloves, right?

Or you just go for a safe full face mask that ensures quick and safe removal even in difficult and emergency situations. You may just want to look at this example below ... it shows the «quick mask removal» of a Dräger Panorama Nova Dive full face mask.

Quick Removal – Dräger Panorama Nova Dive (view on on YouTube).
As you can clearly see from the video: I didn't hurry in any way and yet the full face mask is easy to remove by a single movement of my hands. Of course, you can do this even much faster, but panic is a dangerous buddy under water.

Even if Dräger, in my opinion, solved the problem off quickly doffing a full face mask almost ideal, some other mask manufacturers also offer workable solutions. So when you are interested in purchasing or diving a full face mask, make sure you thoroughly understand the quick removal system of a particular mask. Also ensure that this system really works. Don't believe what marketing or a salesman tells you, double check instead, and try it with thick gloves if in doubt. And better think twice before relying on some magazines' «experts» and their «mask tests».