Despite what your life insurance company may think Scuba Diving is actually a very fun and safe hobby. Obviously safety starts with training and certification. But beyond that the principal rule of dive safety once you have become a certified Scuba Diver, is if you will pardon the pun – don’t get in over your head. Like with many so-called high risk or extreme sports, the biggest mistake divers make that gets them in trouble, is not knowing their own limitations.
Of course even before getting certified, Dive Safety begins with being in good health. If you have never scuba dived and think you may have a health condition, that could be a problem. It would be the safest idea to have a complete physical conditioning before taking a scuba certification class. Then once certified, understand the limits of your capabilities. Do not dive under dangerous environments and conditions that you have not been trained to dive in. Caverns, caves and wreck diving all require specialized skills. It is all too easy to become trapped and run out of air in one of these places if you do not know what you are doing.
Grab Your Buddy
Important: Never dive alone – always dive with a buddy. Let people know when and where you will be diving, and when you are expected to return.
If you own your own Scuba equipment, make sure it is maintained regularly and well checked. If you are renting dive gear, make sure everything works and fits properly before going for a dive. If something does not seem right, make sure you ask or inform the Dive Shop or Dive Master (if you are on a group dive).
Protect Your Skin
Sunscreen is also very important. Many people do not realize how easily sunlight penetrates water, especially in some of the most crystal clear waters that are ideal for scuba diving. If you are not wearing a wet suit, be sure to wear waterproof sun block of at least SPF 15.
Know the weather conditions and the weather forecast where you are diving. Storms can change the diving conditions in certain areas dramatically. And remember: water conducts electricity. You are not safe from a lighting strike just by being below the surface while Scuba diving.
Avoid the drugs and alcohol
And while it may seem apparently obvious: do not scuba dive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes certain prescription and non-prescription medications. If you are on any medication, ask your doctor before diving.
The water is not your body’s natural environment and you can be exposed to different conditions while you are underwater. It is important that you know the signs and symptoms of and proper first aid for heat stroke or heat exhaustion if you are diving in hot weather. Similarly of hypothermia if you are ice diving or diving in cold weather.
Get Yourself Trained
Speaking of first aid, if you are not Rescue Diver Certified, it is probably a good idea to get basic first aid and CPR training if you plan on being an avid diver, or dive with someone who has such certifications. When you are in trouble in a dive situation, communications can be critical. You can invest hundreds of dollars in fancy communications gear, or knowing the basic Scuba hand signals can save your life.
Scuba is an activity that does have certain risks. However going in with the understanding that you are “out of your element” and practicing a little common sense is your best way to dive safely and enjoy all the fun and excitement of one of the greatest recreational activities on the planet.