Preparation for Dive Travel


“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Dan Orr: [email protected]

Preparation for scuba diving begins long before you arrive at the dive site. Besides the skills it takes to enjoy the dive, it is important to be in good health and be prepared to meet the physical demands of scuba diving. In reviewing the DAN accident data, almost 1/3 of the diving fatalities were attributed to cardiac incidents with approximately half of these being from the 40-59 age group. What is really disturbing is that 60% of those fatalities had signs and symptoms that they or others around them recognized as cardiac-related before or during the dive but they continued to dive anyway!


Diving is a wonderful sport but not worth dying for. The medical authorities at Divers Alert Network (DAN) recommend that all divers get an annual physical from a physician familiar with diving medicine beginning at the age of 35 or whenever there is a significant change in their health status. Also, if you suspect that someone has signs or symptoms that could indicate a cardiac problem, you should ‘call’ the dive or tell the divemaster, trip leader or other authority. Although an annual physical won’t necessarily prevent divers from having a cardiac-related event, it will help identify heart-related issues that can help you take corrective action and reduce the likelihood that you will experience a cardiac-related issue while scuba diving.

Another physical issue is exercise tolerance. While you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to scuba dive, you should be capable of managing the physical demands of the dive. That means you should be physically capable of managing any currents, wave action as well as assisting another diver if the situation warrants. Regular exercise is an important component in being prepared to safely enjoying every dive. As stated in the book I co-authored with Eric Douglas, Scuba Diving Safety, “You overcome challenges [in scuba diving] not by physical strength but by thorough preparation and the effective application of knowledge and skill.”

Thorough preparation also involves making sure your equipment is maintained properly and has been through its annual inspection and maintenance at your local dive retailer from a qualified maintenance technician. When you travel, especially to remote locations, it is good to have a “Save-A-Dive” kit that includes replacement parts that could prevent you from diving if there was no dive retailer in the vicinity. The basic “Save-A-Dive” kit would include rubber goods that could break or wear out such as mask & fin straps, “O” rings, and a regulator mouthpiece with tie wraps. If you use anything with batteries, replacements would be a good addition. Depending upon the type of diving you do, the equipment you use and how remote you travel, your “Save-A-Dive” kit may need to be more extensive. If you are a technical or rebreather diver, you would be wise to carefully review each piece of equipment and have redundant replacement parts for anything that is likely to break, wear out or just need to be replaced before it reaches the end of its useful life so that you don’t!

All of these things need to be considered before you leave for your trip to the dive site. In order to make sure you don’t forget to pack everything you need, it is wise to make a comprehensive checklist that you can use in packing and that will come in equally handy when repacking at the end of your trip to make sure you haven’t left something important at the dive site. All experts agree that checklists are a critical but underutilized aspect of diving and safety.

Travis-St. Kitts

Once you arrive at the dive location, it is important that you and your diving partners follow a regular pre-dive ritual in preparing for each dive. Pre-dive rituals and the use of checklists are an essential component in properly preparing for a dive and will reduce the likelihood that equipment errors will transform an otherwise enjoyable dive into an emergency situation. If you are planning a boat dive and you or your diving partners may have a problem with seasickness, it is advisable to configure, assemble and check your equipment before the boat ever leaves the dock. You don’t want to try preparing your equipment with the boat rocking and you not feeling your best.

It is good to develop a habit of making sure that your dive location has all the necessary emergency and first aid equipment. This would include emergency communications (cellphone, marine radio, satellite phone), first aid and emergency oxygen equipment. You can add that to your checklist and bring it to the dive site your self or you can ask about the availability of this equipment when you travel. I do my share of diving from commercial dive boats and liveaboards and make it part of my pre-dive ritual to take a look at the first aid supplies and emergency oxygen equipment when I board the dive boat.

Pre-dive ritual includes configuring, assembling and checking your equipment, review of the dive plan and contingencies, review of hand signals especially communicating breathing gas management signals (how much? low, turn around, out of), and even a review of common emergency procedures such as removal of weights, out-of-air emergencies and buddy separation procedures. Unfortunately, there have been lives lost because divers have been unfamiliar with how to jettison weights in an emergency.

Your pre-dive ritual should also include check of all your partner’s equipment to make sure everything is in place and working. Breathing gas is on and regulator working, regulator and octopus is configured properly and working, power inflator is attached and working, emergency signaling equipment (safety sausage, whistle, etc.) is working and in place and now I’m ready to dive.

Although, preparation may not prevent an accident from happening, an effective pre-dive ritual and comprehensive checklist can reduce the likelihood that a dive will turn into something far less than the enjoyable diving experience you and your diving companions want it to be.

Dan & Betty Orr

Dan Orr

Dan Orr retired as President of DAN and Chairman of the International DAN Board of Directors after helping DAN focus on its worldwide diving safety mission. Prior to coming to DAN, he developed and implemented course curricula in the academic environment, collected data and supervised research efforts in the field of science diving, as a certified US Navy diver tested diving equipment for military contractors and worked for or served on the Boards of non-profit organizations including the Historical Diving Society, the ADM Exploration Foundation, the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society,Deptherapy, and the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA).

He has published and co-authored over 100 articles and a dozen books and manuals including: Scuba Diving Safety, Pocket Guide to First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries; Pocket Guide for Hazardous Marine Life Injuries; and the DAN Oxygen First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries Training Manuals.

He has been honored with many prestigious awards including the NOGI Award in Sports/Education, the Leonard Greenstone Award for Diving Safety, the Our World-Underwater Award, Beneath the Sea’s Diver of the Year, the Wyland Foundation Award for Lifetime Achievement, the DEMA Reaching Out Award. He is a member of the Explorer’s Club, the Hall of Fame for Disabled Divers, the Diving Industry Hall of Fame and the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.

Betty Orr

Betty Orr is a Diving Industry Consultant having recently left the position of Vice-President Divers at Alert Network (DAN) after 23 years of service. Prior to coming to DAN, she worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation as an agent and Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio as an Associate Professor of Biology. Betty has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biology and has authored and contributed to many books and magazine articles in scuba diving, biology and general interest. She is an Assistant Diving Instructor with over 35 years of diving experience and was honored for her service by being an inaugural year member of The Women Divers Hall of Fame.

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March 8, 2017 |

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