One of the most important things you can do before diving is dive planning. Learn as much as possible in advance about any site you plan to dive.
- Before you even head out to a site, make sure to investigate currents, depths, marine life, entry and exit points, surfacing techniques, boat traffic, environmental health concerns, etc.
- Check out what surface support you may need and what local laws or regulations may apply to your planned diving activity.
- Inform someone who is not coming on your trip what you plan to do and when you expect to be back.
- Prior to your dive, make sure you and your buddy have the same dive plan. Discuss contingencies should conditions change during your dive. Establish the maximum depth, maximum bottom time and minimum air supply to terminate the dive.
- Review what you and your buddy would do if you were to become separated, exceed your planned dive or experience an out-of-air emergency or equipment problem underwater. Having these discussions on the surface helps you prepare as a buddy team to manage any situations that may arise while underwater.
- Review hand signals with your buddy.
- Conduct a predive test on all your equipment, particularly any rented gear. Use a written or mnemonic checklist to ensure you don’t overlook an essential step. Don’t skip the buddy check.
- Remember to create an emergency action plan (EAP). This essential tool, which divers are taught how to construct in their advanced training courses, should include what prompts an emergency response, important contact information, the nearest medical facility and the best means of getting there as well as essential first aid equipment.
Dive plans don’t have to be complicated or inflexible, but they are essential for preventing and managing diving incidents.
It’s not surprising that the most common injuries among divers are related to buoyancy issues — barotrauma, uncontrolled ascents, marine life injuries and more can be prevented with some practice and attention to detail.
- Inefficient buoyancy control can result in descending deeper than planned, altering the intended dive profile and potentially increasing air consumption. Constant adjustments to your buoyancy control device can also affect air consumption.
- The worst-case scenario is an uncontrolled ascent, which places the diver at risk of a lung overexpansion injury (pulmonary barotrauma) and substantially increases the risk of an arterial gas embolism.
- Ear injuries are also commonly associated with ineffective buoyancy control. During descent, if you feel uncomfortable pressure in your middle ears or sinuses, you should stop your descent, ascend until the pressure resolves, attempt to equalise and, if successful, continue to descend. If you experience a reverse block on ascent, you should descend a bit and attempt to equalise. These procedures are difficult to execute without proper buoyancy control.
- Most marine life injuries result from unintentional contact between a diver and the marine life. Proper buoyancy control is essential to protect ourselves and the environment.
The physics of descending and ascending require conscious adjustment based on exposure protection, dive environment and choice of equipment.
Buoyancy Control Begins with Proper Weighting
- The amount of weight you select should allow you to descend, not make you sink. Predive buoyancy tests are crucial for determining proper weighting.
- When calculating weight requirements, different exposure suits, dive environments (saltwater vs. freshwater) and cylinder size and composition (steel vs. aluminium) require different amounts of weight to attain proper buoyancy.
- Your BCD is not an elevator. Be aware of how your BCD responds to addition or venting of small amounts of air.
- And remember, your buoyancy will change during the dive. On descent your wetsuit compresses, decreasing buoyancy. During the dive, as the gas in your tank is depleted, the tank becomes more buoyant. On ascent, the air in your wetsuit and BCD expands, increasing your buoyancy.
Good buoyancy control enhances your diving and helps you avoid injury. The benefits are definitely worth the investment of time, maintenance and practice.
Never Dive Beyond Your Training
As a diver, you should never stop developing your diving abilities. There is always more to learn —how to dive new environments, how to refine your skills and even how to use new types of equipment. No matter where your diving adventures take you, make sure you are equipped with the proper training.
- Your certification only qualifies you for the same diving conditions and environment in which you were trained.
- As you continue your training, slowly extend your diving experiences. California shore diving presents different challenges than Caribbean boat diving — make sure you’re prepared for each new diving environment.
- Take it easy, and if you’re not having fun or if you don’t feel good about the dive, don’t do it. This is especially important when diving in new conditions such as cold water or limited visibility or when using new equipment.
- If you feel uncomfortable about a dive, it may because you feel that you’re not ready. Remember, dive your experience, not your “C card.”
- If you want to begin exploring new environments, seek the training that will prepare you to explore them safely. For instance, if you want to explore the interiors of shipwrecks or enter a cave, enrol in a wreck diving or cave diving course. These unique overhead environments present specific challenges that can be deadly if you are not trained to manage them.
Your Gas Supply
Running out of air is the most common trigger for diving accidents. It seems like a no-brainer, but several factors can affect consumption rate. Be air aware: Monitor your gas supply.
- Incorporate gas supply into your dive planning. You can only stay under for as long as you have enough gas remaining to do a safe ascent. Don’t forget to save some gas for flotation.
- Check your gauge regularly.
- Be aware that exertion, such as when swimming against strong currents, and depth will affect your air consumption.
- Anxiety or stress can also affect air consumption. Try to maintain normal breathing, but if you do feel anxious, keep a closer eye on your gas supply; it may dwindle more rapidly than usual.
Take Personal Responsibility
Each diver in the dive group shares responsibility for the conduct of the dive. When all divers understand and agree with that premise, the dive group can protect itself from individual and collective harm. Know your personal limits, and take time to examine and evaluate your dive habits. Don’t rely on the experience of other divers in the group. As a certified diver, you are expected to recognise when elements are outside your level of training or comfort zone; it is your responsibility to acknowledge that and voice it. Always remember, anyone can call off a dive at any time. In other words, it’s always OK to say “No.”
We hope these reminders help you get your year off to a safe start and will be carried with you through the year and beyond. Have a great year of diving, and if you need help, DAN is just a phone call away, 24/7: +61-8-8212 9242