Scuba Diving Safety

Scuba divers are at risk of injury from wildlife, equipment failure and human error every time they get in the water. At the same time, scuba diving is rewarding and worth pursuing. Knowing how to take care of yourself in the water can make scuba diving safe and enjoyable.
If you follow some basic scuba diving safety rules, it should help make sure all your dives are safe ones.  After all, we dive for fun and we don’t want that to stop. So try and follow these so you will have a long and enjoyable diving career.

Get proper training

Having proper training will make you much more comfortable underwater and that is key to having a safe dive.  Getting certified is a big first step. Being scuba dive certified isn’t always necessary when scuba diving on vacation, but being certified is definitely safer. A scuba dive certification will ensure that you are armed with the knowledge required to operate your equipment and get out of a dangerous situation.If you dive after taking a resort course just make sure you don’t go too deep . Some resorts are known to be very lax on this rule and it is to your detriment. If you go diving in caves, caverns, wrecks, etc. have the proper training for this type of dive. Don’t dive beyond your ability.

Don’t hold your breath

Remember to always breathe slowly and in a relaxed manner and to exhale fully. Don’t take short, shallow breathes and never hold your breath. Holding your breath underwater can lead to lung injuries and worse, in the extreme case.

Relax

Being relaxed and comfortable underwater is key to a successful dive. If something happens, stop, breathe, think and act. Do not panic and rush to the surface (I know it is easier said than done). But observing this scuba diving safety rule could be key to a safe dive.

Check your equipment

You don’t want to find out the scuba regulator doesn’t work once you are underwater. Checking equipment is especially important if you are renting. If you own your regulator and haven’t dove in a while, it should also be serviced to make sure it is working properly. Do a check of the regulator hoses also. Check it before each time you go and make sure that all straps are secure (so they don’t get tangled in either you or anything under the water). It should also fit properly for safety and comfort purposes.

Never dive alone

One of the key scuba diving safety rules. Always dive with a buddy no matter where you are. Always dive with someone. Having a dive buddy means that there is someone else looking out for you and that you’ll have some help in the event something goes wrong. And when you do dive with a buddy, keep an eye on him/her to make sure everything is OK (and hopefully they are doing the same). If something happens, that buddy can be the difference between life and death. Never violate this rule. Also do a pre-dive equipment check with your buddy.

Having a reliable air supply is vital to diving.

Be certain that you are able to read your equipment so that you know when it is time to head back to the surface (you should be doing this by 500 p.s.i.). Coming back up at the appropriate time will keep you from ascending too quickly. Ascending too quickly can be serious to your health and possibly even fatal. If you do find that you have ascended too quickly you’ll have to go to a decompression chamber.
Never hold your breath when scuba diving. Holding your breath underwater can lead to lung injury.

Ascend slowly and with control

Another one of the key scuba diving safety rules. As you ascend you are ridding your body of nitrogen in your tissues and bloodstream. If you ascend too quickly, you risk “the bends” or decompression sickness. You should not ascend more than 30 feet per minute. And always do a safety stop at 15 feet for at least 3 minutes after deeper dives. After your safety stop, do not propel yourself to the surface either. Ascend that last 15 feet very slowly .
As you ascend keep your eyes out for boats that may be approaching. When you do surface, do so a little ways away from the dive boat and only swim toward it when you are sure that it isn’t moving and that somebody on the boat sees you.

   Don’t drink before diving.

Obviously you don’t want your judgment or   abilities to be impaired, but drinking can also cause you to dehydrate quickly. You should also drink plenty of water before and after scuba diving.

 Problem Solving

Though most dives go smoothly and without incident, minor problems while scuba diving sometimes occur. Skills for solving problems while diving are taught at all levels of certification. Anticipating a problem is the first step in solving it. The best method of solving problems is to stop, think, breath and then act. When a diver learns this basic principle they can usually solve minor problems underwater without having to come to the surface or abort the dive. If they remain focused and refuse to give up, they have a chance of solving more serious problems.

Another great method of problem solving is to use the “what if” method. Divers will think of different situations like equipment failure, out of air/low on air problems or losing their dive buddy. They picture the situation in their mind and picture how they would respond. If they do this enough problem solving becomes a reaction that they do not have to think about. Good problem solving skills will help divers keep minor problems from turning into big ones. These skills will also help divers not to panic underwater. They are able to stay calm and deal with the problem. Safety for scuba diving is a combination of safe diving practices, good problem solving skills and common sense. These three things are necessary to minimize the chance of a problem or incident happening during a dive.

Plan your dive and dive your plan

You will hear this in your training (or you should) and you should follow this advice. Prior to going under, you and your buddy should know the max depth you will go,  the amount of bottom time you’ll have and how much air you will start to ascend with. Check your air supply often. You should also agree on the hand signals you will use to communicate underwater. Before you scuba dive, check the weather report. Conditions can change quickly, and being caught in a storm is less than desirable.

To reduce the likelihood of problems occurring divers should never dive without proper preparation.  PADI sums these scuba diving safety tips up in their Safe Diving Practices Statement of Understanding.

  •         Be familiar with dive sites or dive with a dive guide.
  •     Use complete, well maintained, reliable equipment that is familiar.
  •     Listen carefully to dive briefings and directions by the dive staff.
  •     Always follow the buddy system. Plan dives and dive with a buddy.
  •     Know how to use dive tables. Make all dives no-decompression dives. Be a safe diver. Slowly Ascend From Every Dive.
  •     Maintain proper buoyancy. Neutral buoyancy underwater, positive buoyancy at the surface.
  •     Never breath-hold or skip-breath while breathing compressed air.
  •     Use a boat, float or other surface support device whenever possible.
  •     Know and obey local dive laws and regulations.
  • Learn the importance of knowing your personal diving limits.

Divers Alert Network (DAN) has a similar scuba diving safety list. They call their list S.A.F.E.D.I.V.E.

  •    Self-reliance
  •     Attitude
  •     Fitness
  •     Experience
  •     Diving skills
  •     Involvement
  •     Variety
  •     Equipment

To find out how DAN defines each of these points, you can visit their website. DAN is a great resource for scuba diving safety.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you follow these scuba diving safety rules, you greatly increase your chance of a safe and incident free dive. Your safety while diving depends on the decisions you make. These decisions are based on your training level, your personal diving experience, your circumstances while diving and current safe diving practices. There is no such thing as a safe dive, only safe divers. Be a smart diver by being a safe diver. Safe divers make scuba diving safe.

 

 

BCDs: Vest-Style Versus Back Inflation

BCD stands for buoyancy control device and it is perhaps the most essential pieces of equipment that you will utilize while diving. Knowing whether a vest style or back inflation BCD is right for you is important and can help you have a more enjoyable and safe diving experience.

What is a Vest-Style BCD?

The vest style BCD is worn just like a vest and is the more traditional option. This type of BCD features air cells that inflate in the back of the diver and then wrap around the shoulders and chest as well.

What is a Back Inflation BCD?

A back inflation BCD is one that is worn on the back of a diver, much like a backpack. It has an air compartment that only inflates in the back of the body and then the air cells hang behind a diver and often look like wings.

Which is the Best BCD for You?

There are a number of factors that determine the best BCD for you. A lot of the decision depends on the type of diving you will be doing, while another part of the decision focuses on the various features you are looking for.

 

How Do the Styles Compare?

  • Floating on the surface.

For instance, if you are looking for a BCD that will easily allow you to float on the top of the water, then a vest style may be the best BCD for you, as it will naturally hold you vertically up on the surface.  A vest-style BCD holds a diver in a vertical position when inflated on the surface, keeping his head well above the water. When fully inflated on the surface, vest-style BCDs can squeeze a diver’s chest and lungs in an uncomfortable way.

A back inflation device will instantly propel you face down, which can be frustrating for those accustomed to vest-style BCDs. This problem can be overcome by leaning back and floating on top of the BCD. , but you can change this if you lean back as you float on the surface, making it just as functional. Back inflation styles do not squeeze a diver’s torso, as they do not wrap around the diver’s chest. Many divers find back inflation BCDs more comfortable for this reason.

Ease of Deflation

If you are searching for a device that is able to deflate quickly, then you may find that the best BCD for you is a vest style device. The air cell in vest-style BCDs is held tightly against the diver by the BCD’s shoulder, chest, and waist straps.  These straps squeeze against the air cell, and help to force air out when deflating.

The back inflation devices do not have these straps and the air cells hang freely behind a diver making it a little more difficult to inflate completely. This means that air may take a longer time to exit a back inflation BCD, and increases the likelihood that air may become trapped in crevices or folds in the wings.

Underwater Preformance

Many divers prefer back inflation BCDs because they naturally hold a diver in the ideal horizontal position. When moving underwater however, a back inflation BCD is usually more helpful in propelling you through the water and decreasing the amount of air you use.

The vest style BCDs often put you in a position where you fins are pointing down and this is less efficient and makes it more difficult for you to navigate through the water. Some BCD manufacturers attempt to fix this problem by placing weight pockets, called trim pockets, on the back shoulders or middle back of the BCD. A diver distributes a small amount of weight into these pockets, which helps to correct the diver’s position by weighing his shoulders down.

Try out both vest-style and back inflation BCDs. Practice swimming, ascending, descending, and floating on the surface. Remember, most commercially available BCDs are high quality and work well, so pick a BCD style that is comfortable and intuitive for you.

 

 

Why Preform a Pre-Dive Safety Check?

Most divers check their scuba gear as they are assembling it. Why is it necessary to check the equipment again before entering the water?

The Buddy Pre-Dive Safety check is an important safety check that should be performed by every diver no matter what level of diving proficiency. This check is performed by a Scuba Diver with his/her buddy before descending on a dive as a final inspection of the dive equipment before diving.  The Pre-Dive safety check ensures that your equipment is working, and also familiarizes yourself with your buddies equipment should you need to assist or receive assistance from him. Most Scuba diving accidents and incidents are said to be preventable by the diver simply having properly conducted a pre-dive safety check. Despite the warnings, most divers seldom perform this crucial scuba gear check before a dive, and rush to descend. Especially with your scuba equipment being set-up by someone else, a diver should always inspect his own gear and perform a buddy check before descent.

Between the time that a diver sets up his scuba equipment and the time that he rolls off the boat, a number of changes may be made to his gear. “Helpful” crew may close the tank valve so that air is not lost during travel to the dive site. A bumpy boat ride may shift gear around and damage or disorganize it. Even donning the scuba gear may cause some of the hoses to become entangled. The pre-dive safety check is a last-minute review to make sure that all of the gear is still functioning properly and arranged to the diver’s satisfaction.

A diver may be one-hundred percent certain that his gear is perfectly assembled, but does he have the same level of confidence in his buddy’s gear? Consider that if a diver’s buddy has an equipment-related problem underwater, it is the diver who has to help him. This can delay or even ruin a dive. Using the pre-dive safety check in buddy teams familiarizes the divers with each other’s gear, helping them to assist each other efficiently in the unlikely event of an emergency. A good dive buddy may also catch small mistakes in equipment assembly that his partner has overlooked.

PADI’s “BWRAF” acronym is highly popular with divers, and is an easy to remember pre-dive check. BWRAF stands for

B – BCD & Buoyancy: Check your buddies Buoyancy Compensator, check the low pressure inflator hose is connected correctly and do a quick puff to ensure the inflator button doesn’t stick. Also deflate the BCD to ensure it deflates correctly.

W – Weights/Weight Belt : Check that your buddies weight belt is on properly with the loose end tied correctly and tucked in a manner that will allow for quick release.

R – Releases: Check that your buddies BCD is strapped correctly and all belts are tightened.

A – Air: Check that your buddy’s air is turned all the way on and half a turn back. Make him take a couple of breaths while you watch the pressure gauge for fluctuations in the needle, or simply purge the regulator while watching the needle. Check that the tank is full and check all air connectors for leaks.

F – Final OK: Final check is a cursory visual inspection, of fins, mask, snorkel and testing dive flashlights if necessary, take a compass bearing, and check your dive computer before giving the all Ok sign to your buddy to begin descent.