Diving is a relatively safe sport — there are only approximately 228 deaths involving underwater diving every year, a recent report by the Divers Alert Network reveals. When planning a dive trip, improving the safety of your boat is key. The right equipment and crew, along with an emergency management plan, will minimize risk and help you to deal swiftly with problems as they arise.
Firstly, a U.S. Coast Guard inspection certificate ensures important working equipment like engines, pumps, and safety gear has been recently inspected and found in full working order. This certificate must be clearly displayed in all ships operating from a U.S. port with over six passengers. Everyone on board should also be wearing a life jacket to prevent drowning. Half of all boating deaths may be prevented with the use of life jackets, and their importance can’t be over-emphasized. There should also be a radio and complete first-aid kit, which includes oxygen to treat decompression illnesses. Fire also poses a risk on boats (more so than leaking water). A fire extinguisher is, therefore, a must.
A complete crew
Most importantly, your dive boat should have a licensed captain with their Coast Guard license on display: this ensures adequate knowledge and experience (as well as liability insurance for the boat). There should also be a minimum of two crew members, along with a separate certified dive master. (Dive master training ensures skills like CPR, first aid, rescue techniques, and recognizing the symptoms of decompression illness). A crew member should be positioned to help divers enter the water and reboard the boat to prevent accidents on the platform and ladders.
The captain should make a safety announcement before leaving the dock to tell you where to find the first-aid kit and life jackets, introduce you to the crew members, and inform you of any safety hazards. Also, an emergency management plan ensures that the crew knows how to act if disaster strikes. It should detail who administers first aid, and who manages the remaining divers or where the closest port with emergency medical treatment is located, for example. This plan should be in writing and kept on the boat.
Fortunately, diving is a relatively low-risk sport. By making sure your dive boat is as safe as possible, you can enjoy a hazard-free dive trip and benefit from better peace of mind.