Basic Rules For Safe Diving
1. Get proper training
Having proper training will make you much more comfortable underwater and that is key to having a safe dive. The best place to start, of course, is by taking a scuba diving certification course. You will get the training you need and will increase your chances of having a safe dive. If you aren’t certified yet and want to learn more about getting certified, please refer to the Classes page on this site. Many people’s first experience with diving is through a dive during a resort course. If you fall into this camp, just make sure you don’t go too deep (30 feet should be the max). Some resorts are known to be very lax on this rule and it is to your detriment. If you are certified and want to improve your skills, please refer to the Specialties page on this site. Whatever you do, don’t dive beyond your ability.
2. Don’t hold your breath
This is probably the #1 cardinal rule of diving. 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 death.
3. Be in good physical shape
You don’t have to be in professional athlete shape, but you should be able to swim and take the stress of diving. A physical exam is a good idea before diving. Some studies have shown that about a quarter to a third of all scuba diving fatalities are from heart and/or circulatory problems. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol to excess, and take steps to ensure that you can handle the weight of a fully equipped and outfitted scuba kit (to include tanks and weights).
4. Never dive alone
This is another key scuba diving safety rule. Always dive with a buddy no matter where you are. 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). An attentive buddy can be the difference between life and death. You should not violate this rule unless you are properly equipped and trained as a self-sufficient diver. Also, do a pre-dive equipment check with your buddy and don’t be afraid to abort the dive if equipment is inoperative or one of you is not up to the challenge of a dive.
5. Ascend slowly and with control
As you ascend you are ridding your body of the excess nitrogen in your tissues and bloodstream. You run the risk of decompression sickness if you ascend too quickly from a dive. 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 also.
6. Check your equipment
You don’t want to find out the 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, BCD, and accessories also.
Being relaxed and comfortable underwater is key to a successful dive. If something happens remember, Stop, Breathe, Think, Act. Do not panic and rush to the surface. Know your limitations and make a personal assessment of your state of mind and abilities prior to any dive. If you’re bothered by something (e.g., equipment issues, sea conditions, behavior of buddies or peers) or issues completely unrelated to diving, it could cause additional stress that must be overcome in order for you to relax. Don’t be afraid to be a bubble-watcher if you’re not yourself on the day of a dive.
8. Plan your dive and dive your plan
You will hear this in your training and you should follow this advice throughout your diving adventures. Prior to going underwater, 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.
So when you go diving, take your time, relax, think and go through your safety checklist.