Scuba diving is a great adventure. But it is also inherently risky. Novice divers learn early on during a certification class how to dive safely. That’s the only way to enjoy the dive, this time and in the future. Here are some tips on how to stay safe.
1) Tip number one should be unnecessary, but it’s the most important and has to be said: Never screw around during a dive. No practical jokes, no fights – even playful ones, no hide and seek… you can make up the list yourself. Diving is perfectly safe – if you dive responsibly. If you won’t, the risk of serious injury or death is real and high – as many friends and relatives of dead divers can attest.
2) Before you even take a course, or go on your first learning dive, you should have a medical exam. Diving can be safe and enjoyable experience for anyone from the very young to the elderly, however, it does require a certain fitness level. You do not need to be an Olympic athlete, but you should be in good shape and have moderate or better leg and shoulder muscles.
3) As important as what you have is what you must not have. Don’t dive if you have a head cold, bad allergy or any other kind of medical condition that affects breathing or easy passage of air throughout the lungs, throat, nasal cavities, etc. All the above medical issues, can for example cause you to have problems with equalizing your ears during descend. If you’re on medication, check with your physician about scuba diving. Any medication that impairs your judgment should keep you out of the water.
4) Learn to use the equipment, even blindfolded. Visual conditions during a dive can vary from awesome clarity to gray fog from stirred up sediment, kelp and the many other substances common to dive areas to pitch black. Use the equipment properly.
5) The regulator is designed to deliver air from the tank at the ambient pressure of the water – the pressure of the surroundings. That’s essential for keeping the lungs functioning properly as you dive. Let it do the job by never holding your breath as you ascend or descend. Holding your breath during a dive can result in serious injury to the lungs, since you’re blocking the ability to deliver gas at the proper pressure. The air in your lungs will expand or contract – or fail to – causing unsafe pressure on the rib cage and your lungs. It can also result in blackouts, even in shallow water. If the regulator mouthpiece isn’t in your mouth, continue to exhale slowly a steady stream of bubbles as you rise. Of course, you can only keep that up for a short distance – one of the many reasons you should keep your mouthpiece in except as a temporary emergency to share oxygen with a buddy.
6) Always dive with a buddy. Work out in advance a series of signals, both visible and tactile, that will allow you to communicate essential information underwater and in murky conditions. Never let your buddy out of sight or easy reach.
7) Try to always stay calm. There are many wondrous sights underwater, but some things can spook the novice diver. Moray eels, sharks, sudden structure collapses, sediment stir-ups… the list is long.
Keeping your head clear is the hardest when things are most risky. But that’s the most important time. There is less latitude under the surface for mistakes. Keeping your wits alert you can keep a minor risk from escalating into a major danger.
Following good diving practice, taught in a certification course, and using common sense, can make your dive safe. That gives you the freedom to enjoy the astounding parts of our world that happen to be under the sea.