5 ways to become a safer diver

Diving is a sport we all love… the thrill of dropping below the surface and seeing what the world below holds; it’s mesmerising, addictive and has the ability to both relax you and pump you full of adrenalin all at once. But sadly, when done wrong, diving has the ability to result in fatality. No matter your age, gender or experience level, accidents do not discriminate.

The Annual Diving Report 2015 by DAN (Divers Alert Network) states that the most common causes of dive accidents are dive health, poorly executed procedures and/ or panic, equipment malfunctions or failures and environmental factors. In many cases, accidents can be avoided by practice safe diving practices. Here are a few helpful hints that you can look at implementing this winter, to make yourself a safer diver.

 

Get moving…

Take care of your health first! The most common cause of fatalities and injuries in divers is attributed to diver health. Whether it be that they have a heart or breathing problem underwater, or as a result of overexertion and consequently, panic, injury or drowning. Sure, this is why you dive in groups or with buddies, but don’t be a diver that has to rely on other divers to help you all the time. Get moving and work on really build your strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. Start an exercise program, join a gym, a group or get a personal trainer. Most gyms and trainers include free assessments and programming where a qualified fitness professional can assist you with setting your goals and getting started on a program. Ask for a program consisting of cardiovascular training, functional training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) to help you build strength and in return, become a stronger, safer diver. As you get stronger, both cardio and strength wise, you will find that your diving from pre to post diving becomes much much easier…

 

Always check your gear and keep it regularly serviced

Another HUGE contributor to diving injury and fatalities is gear malfunctions. Sadly, this is a problem that often can be avoided by regular checking and servicing. Make sure that you service your gear every year or (if left in a tub for many years) before you resume diving again. Depending on your servicing record, it wouldn’t hurt to have it serviced before a big international holiday also. For example, if it’s been 10 months but you’re going away on a dive trip, perhaps do it before the trip not after.

If you are renting gear, always check that the gear is all working well, inflate and deflate your BCD on the surface, check the regs are working, that you don’t hear any air leaking, and very importantly, smell the air – make sure it smells, tastes and looks like air. If in doubt at all, ask the operator to change out the gear.

Also, always remember to do your buddy check – Buoyancy. Weights. Releases. Air. Final OK.

 

Get trained and always practice your skills

Badly performed or lack of performed procedures is another cause of many dive accidents. Get trained with a reputable company, continue your education and always dive within your limitations. You would be surprised how many people we have that are trained around the world where standards are lower, and often cannot perform basic skills required for diving. This isn’t like a calculus exam, where you need to pass once and then never do again. If you intend to dive, your dive procedures may just save your life one day. Listen to your instructor, ask for help until you feel competent with your skills and most importantly continue to practice your skills after your course. Keep up your continuing education, so that you have more time and exposure to diving professionals who can help you. You don’t necessarily have to do courses to continue your education. Work on your skills while on a dive, clear your mask even if you don’t need to, take out your reg and put it back in, and practice with your buoyancy when cruising along. Join a dive club, read blogs and publications online from industry leaders such as PADI and DAN and get informed. As you become a more experienced diver, you will learn to dive to your limits more than what you perhaps realised in the start.

 

Get an SMB

This seems like a little thing, but it’s also an easy way to avoid a number of incidents occurring on the surface. Always dive with a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB), even on a shore dive. You never know when you’re going to need it. For those that don’t know, an SMB is a bright, inflatable sausage that can be inflated using a low pressure inflate or orally, either below the surface on a reel, or on the surface. Even the simplest dives can have things go wrong, and having an SMB can save you a world of struggle, alerting your own dive boat, overhead boat traffic, rescue crews or even bystanders on shore that you are there in the water. In extreme cases, an SMB can be the difference between being found quickly and not. Cheap, surface inflate SMB’s can be purchased for next to nothing, and can be left in or attached to your BCD until a day when you actually need it. For day to day use, they are valuable also, with many people who get lost on their dive, shooting one to the surface and alerting the boat as to where they are – saving you a long and potentially tiring surface swim.

 

Monitor the weather

The final contributor towards dive accidents is environmental or conditions. Conditions can turn… FAST! Keep a keen eye on conditions, and monitor both online, and again on shore before diving. Get yourself a subscription to a weather service such as Buoy Weather and keep an eye on conditions at your chosen site. Call your local dive shop for advice on conditions if you are unsure of how to read conditions, and see what they have decided to do – that will be a pretty good indicator of how it’s looking out there. And of course, make a call at the site. Look at what’s going on. Remember, always err on the side of caution – whether you’re a new diver, an experienced diver or a dive professional… Disappointment now is better than disaster later.

Remember, diving is a safe sport, as long as it is performed safely. Not only are all these things important for your safety, but they make diving more relaxing and fun! Most importantly – ENJOY YOUR DIVING! Stress and incident free. J Safe divers are happy divers!

 

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