It is every diver’s duty to be prepared to manage a dive emergency effectively. Establishing a comprehensive emergency action plan and acquiring the skills to implement it are dive safety essentials.
Divers Alert Network® (DAN®) plays a role in your emergency action plan, but it is only one part of a three-part plan. A comprehensive plan should address prevention, preparedness and response.
To begin, brainstorm possible emergency scenarios and how you would respond to each scenario. Include a thorough assessment of the hazards, resources and response equipment. Planning when you are calm, can think through the process and specify each step will help facilitate proper and quick responses when an emergency occurs.
Take an honest assessment prior to diving to determine if you are physically and medically fit to dive. This may mean getting a dive physical from your doctor. If you have questions about medical or physical fitness to dive, call the DAN Medical Information Line at +1-919-684-2948.
Ensure all of your equipment is properly maintained and conduct a thorough safety check prior to each dive.
If you’ve added any new elements to your gear, try out this new configuration in a controlled environment like a pool before incorporating it into your open water dives.
Always conduct a buddy check prior to entering the water.
Take sufficient surface intervals and dive conservatively within your limits of training and experience. Keep a diligent eye on depth, dive time and gas supply.
Research your dive site to identify local hazards such as surf, surge, strong currents, weather conditions, entanglement, entrapment and even marine life. Make sure you have all of the necessary equipment to manage an emergency and the proper dive-emergency response training to manage an injury.
Ascertain evacuation and medical resource details and know how to activate them in an emergency.
Maintain an up-to-date call list and first aid kit. If you encounter a diving emergency, call local emergency services and then the DAN Emergency Hotline (+1-919-684-9111).
Injured divers should always be taken to the nearest medical facility, not necessarily the nearest chamber.
Contact DAN before taking a diver to a chamber as the nearest chamber may not be open, staffed or properly equipped to handle the diver’s specific injury. DAN maintains a database of all of these details and can identify the most appropriate chamber to treat the diver’s specific injury.
Make sure you and your buddy know where you stow your DAN Membership card and documentation of any allergies, medical conditions or pertinent medical information.
Always administer care within the scope of your training. Prior to initiating care, put on any necessary protective equipment such as nitrile or latex gloves and a pocket mask.
Check the diver’s circulation, airway and breathing. Control any bleeding.
If you are a trained oxygen provider, administer oxygen. Designate someone to take notes on the diver’s condition and the care taken. This assists in monitoring any condition changes and provides useful information to the next level of healthcare providers.
A plan is only as useful as the information incorporated in it and only as effective as those implementing it. Your emergency action plan is a living document that should be reviewed and updated periodically. Practice emergency drills periodically so you are prepared to respond if a true emergency occurs.
If you have any questions, call the DAN Medical Information Line at +1-919-684-2948. If you’d like to request a webinar on how to prepare an emergency action plan, email . ■
Divers Alert Network (DAN) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the safety and health of scuba divers. DAN operates a 24-hour emergency hotline (+1-919-684-9111) to help divers in need of medical emergency assistance for diving or nondiving incidents.