Coast Guard, dive safety experts want you to ‘survive your dive’

Pacific Southwest Coast Guard News
ALAMEDA, Calif. – In the wake of numerous deaths and injuries, the Coast Guard reminds recreational divers to play it safe when diving along the California coast.

In the past year, there were at least seven reported cases of recreational diving deaths off the Northern California coast primarily during abalone season, and more than 25 recreational SCUBA diving deaths and injuries all along the coast from Monterey to San Diego.

“The Coast Guard doesn’t regulate recreational diving but is generally called in to assist during diving emergencies,” said Rear Admiral Karl Schultz, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “In many of these dive emergencies, injuries and death are preventable.  We want everyone who enjoys the water, including divers whose sport leaves little room for error, to make safety their top priority.  We want you to survive your dive.”

All the normal hazards of water sports and recreation are more dangerous for those spending time below the surface.  Strong ocean and rip currents can occur at any time of year.  Frigid water temperatures, limited air supply, reliance on equipment for survival, and the lack of underwater rescue capabilities all make it essential that divers are fully aware of their own limits and prepared for all possible problems.

Diving safety experts report that many accidents stem from people underestimating the hazards associated with diving, and overestimating their own physical fitness and skill levels.  They stress the importance of the buddy system, planning, fitness and medical issues, and awareness of weather and sea conditions.

FIVE TOP DIVE SAFETY TIPS

1. Have a medical assessment by a doctor before diving.

2. Always dive with a buddy, and leave details of your dive trip with someone ashore who will report you overdue if you run into trouble.

3. Plan your dive, follow your plan, and provide your emergency plan to someone on shore.

4. Choose dives that match your training, experience and fitness level.

5. Practice emergency procedures, like dropping your weight belt and inflating your buoyancy compensator, in a controlled environment.

Divers should not let schedules, peer pressure or costs push them beyond their capabilities. People who have invested time and money to plan a dive trip, or sport fishers anxious to harvest fish during a set season, may be tempted to dive in unsafe conditions or overexert themselves.  It’s a good idea to have an alternate activity planned in case a dive trip has to be cancelled for weather, equipment, or health problems.

“Nobody understands the allure of the sea more than the U.S. Coast Guard, but we also see the tragic results when people underestimate the hazards,” said Schultz.  “The adventure and thrill of diving are especially appealing to many — but the ocean is an unforgiving environment, and even less forgiving to those who recreate beneath the surface.”

For more information on diving safety visit: Divers Alert Network and the San Diego Scuba Diver Safety page

File photo courtesy of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration

File photo courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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