Coast Guard urges diving safety along N.J. coast

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The Coast Guard is urging divers, both experienced and inexperienced, to use caution while diving.

The Coast Guard has responded to three diving accidents off the New Jersey coast in 2009 all resulting in fatalities.

Both civilian and Coast Guard divers agree that training is one of the top priorities to be taken for diving.

“The number one thing is proper training and not diving beyond your means,” said Steve Gatto, a 30-year veteran of diving off the New Jersey coast. “It is more difficult the deeper you go.”

“Make sure you are certified through one of the recognized dive instruction certification programs,” said Lt. Alan Fitzgerald, the command diving officer of the Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team in Chesapeake, Va.

Some of the recognized organizations that conduct dive instruction certification programs are:

  • Professional Association of Diving Instructors http://www.padi.com/scuba/
  • National Association of Underwater Instructors http://www.naui.org/
  • Scuba Schools International http://www.divessi.com/

Some safety tips to remember before and during a dive are:

  • Get a medical examination from your doctor to ensure your body is physically capable of handling the conditions of the ocean.
  • Never dive by yourself. Ensure you have a dive plan and a diving “buddy.” There is safety in numbers.
  • File a float plan, which includes the name of the charter vessel, with a family member or nearby marina. If you decide to deviate from your original intended plan, proper notification of the change should be made as soon as possible.
  • Check your dive equipment carefully and check how the equipment functions, especially if the equipment is rented. Ensure inspections are done annually on diving gear.
  • New Jersey state law requires that you mark the diving area with a dive flag and requires boats to stay at least 50 feet away from the flag if displayed from a buoy, boat or float. For more information regarding New Jersey dive laws click here.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of diver distress such as heat exhaustion, hypothermia and dehydration, as well as procedures for emergency treatment.
  • Check the local weather conditions before your dive or begin the trip to your dive site.
  • Remember, taking all the basic safety precautions while diving will increase your chance of surviving a potential diving accident.

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