Dive training is full of precautions. Don’t ascend too fast. Swim up current first. Stay hydrated. Dive with someone attractive in case you have to perform CPR. All of these practices are designed to keep diving safe and pleasant. They make every dive a good dive. No embolism. No bends. No lip-locking your Uncle Leo. In short, an ounce of prevention is worth a $40,000 chamber ride.
But you can do more. And it won’t cost too much, either. Adding some well-chosen safety accessories to your equipment ensemble can make the difference between spending a night adrift in the open ocean or flagging down a boat and hitching a ride home. Most divers buy this stuff and never use it. We sincerely hope you do the same. Scuba.com has a wide variety of "First-aid and Safety Gear" at the best prices.
If you haven’t got air, you haven’t got anything. Most divers make good use of the buddy system. They stay close, communicate often and watch each other for trouble. In an out-of-air emergency, sharing air with a buddy that’s close isn’t terribly difficult, provided everyone stays calm. But when diving with strangers, or when just being lazy about keeping up with your buddy, having a redundant air source offers excellent peace of mind.
The Submersible Systems Spare Air, is one of the most popular methods for carrying a redundant air supply. It’s compact, easily attached to a BC and offers enough breaths to make a controlled ascent. The small cylinders have a combined first and second stage regulator, complete with mouthpiece, on top. The system is easily deployed in case of an equipment malfunction and easily handed to a buddy in trouble. Spare Air models come in single and double versions holding three and six cubic feet of air respectively. A nitrox model is also available.
Pony bottles, small scuba cylinders carried alongside your regular tank, are another option for a redundant air source. These cylinders come in a variety of sizes, the most popular being 13, 19 and 30 cubic feet. A regular first and second stage regulator is used in place of a standard octopus rig. The advantage over a Spare Air is increased volume, which equates to more time to solve problems underwater or perform safety stops after deeper dives.
On rare occasions divers find themselves adrift. If this happens to you, don’t panic. Chances are the boat crew knows you’re missing and will initiate a search down current from the dive site. What you can do is make their job easier by having a surface signaling device.
In daylight hours the best signaling device is what’s commonly called a safety sausage. These are long inflatable tubes, usually orange, red or yellow, that the diver can set up like a barber pole. Ranging in length from four to nine feet, they stand above the waves and greatly increase a diver’s profile. These devices, like the XS Scuba Marker Buoy are standard issue on many boats that offer drift diving.
Many safety sausage designs also incorporate reflective panels or tape to aid nighttime searches, but when the sun goes down, the most valuable piece of gear a diver can have is a good strobe.
Provided that seas are relatively calm, which they should be if you’re diving, most strobes can be seen from up to a mile away, sometimes more. They are also useful for keeping track of buddy teams in low-visibility or while swimming on the surface.
Rounding out the surface safety trinity is an air horn. Although you may not have used one since cheering at the homecoming game your senior year, these obnoxious little beasts are a great way to get attention. The Dive-Alert from Ideations is designed to fit in between the connection of a BC’s low-pressure inflator hose and inflator mechanism. Should you surface from a dive and need immediate assistance, just lay your head back in the water (to protect your ears), hit the button and wait for the cavalry. The Dive-Alert can be heard up to one mile away.
A first aid kit for diving is a no-brainer. If you dive off your own boat, or from shore, make sure one is available. Perhaps more important, however, is an oxygen kit. If a diver is suspected of having an embolism or the bends, putting him on pure oxygen is the best possible first aid.
Finally, one of the best safety accessories any diver can have is dive accident insurance. It’s ridiculously cheap, usually $50 or less a year, and can cover everything from chamber treatments to medical evacuations from a foreign country.