Scuba diving is safer than many other more common sports, but accidents do occur. Preventing problems occurring is much better than dealing with an accident. This post deals specifically with being underwater but problem prevention starts before you submerge. Read our ten ways to prevent scuba diving accidents too.
Diver © Matthew Hoelscher
- Stick to your plan. Not only does this avoid confusion it avoids the temptation of doing something unsafe. You agreed on this plan with your buddy so don’t put them in an uncomfortable situation and remember that should you need a rescue, the information they have is the plan that you made before you left the surface.
- Be Conservative. Always build in enough leeway for things to go wrong. Don’t push your air, depth or nitrogen load to the limits. Observe maximum depths when using Nitrox. Also, remember that any diver has the right to end any dive at any time without giving a reason. Up is up, so if a diver wants to end the dive, go to the surface. Although disappointing, it’s a much better option than dealing with a panicked diver underwater and the subsequent problems that can cause.
- Stay Calm. Whatever the situation panic will make you react instinctively, and your instinct will be to hold your breath and to bolt for the surface which is precisely what you don’t want to do. Remember: – Stop. Breath. Think. Act. There will be a logical, safe approach.
Buoyancy. Excellent buoyancy skills equal control. Have control, and you will not injure yourself bashing into the reef or have an uncontrolled ascent to the surface. Being overweighed can cause overexertion and will also mean that you use your air faster, either of which presents their own set of problems.
- Overhead environments. Unless you are properly trained, have the right gear with you and have made a conservative plan to penetrate a wreck or explore a cave system; DON’T. It’s a surprisingly easy way to die yet one that is wholly avoidable.
- Refresh your skills. Practicing how to respond to a low on air situation, what to do if your regulator free flows, what to do if your BCD malfunctions and how to remove and replace your BCD underwater will mean that you will be able to react quickly, calmly and safely to most problems that can occur underwater.
- Check your gauges. Sounds obvious but being cold, anxious or working hard can have a surprising effect on your air consumption so stay vigilant. Going too deep is alarmingly easy aswell so regularly check your computer or depth gauge. Depth is deceptive on walls, and it’s all too easy to descend too deep particularly in good visibility, and gently sloping bottoms can catch you out too. Wrecks have a tendency to lie askew yet your brain interprets them as it would on land; be careful and don’t be drawn down. Be conscious of equalization because this will alert you to an increase in depth and consider using the depth warning alarm on your computer.
- Don’t dive alone. There are courses that you can take should you wish to dive alone but do consider your motives. Even with this certification, there are only certain areas in the world that permit solo diving. Regardless, diving with a buddy is safer on the whole as they can assist and get help too.
- Keep your hands to yourself. Coral can cut and burn, and there are poisonous shells too so don’t pick anything up or touch anything. There are many venomous and dangerous creatures underwater yet they are extremely unlikely to attack unless provoked so interact passively with whatever you encounter.
- Have the right gear. Apart from the basics, you’ll need to make sure you have items specific to the type of dive you are doing. Further, make sure you have these, often overlooked but, very handy accessories; a device for making noise so that you can attract attention, a knife, a slate for communication when whatever you have to say is beyond hand signals.