If you’re a diver, then safety needs to be a top priority. You should always be asking, “What should divers do for their own safety?” Or better yet, if you were advising a friend, what would you tell them?
It bears repeating…
No amount of fun is worth the unnecessary risk of dying! You are already doing something adventurous, why not make it back in one piece instead of ending up a Darwin Award recipient?
Below we’ve put together a list of commonly asked questions when it comes to diver safety. You need to be prepared for the unexpected…When someone asks you, what should divers do for their own safety?…you should be able to list off all of the relevant answers.
Plus, the more prepared you are, the more fish you’ll catch!
Speaking of being prepared, before you get into your kayak or boat, make sure you have all the necessary gear to spearfish – speargun, mask, freediving fins, and spearfishing wetsuit!
Nothing is worse than being unprepared to catch fish…
Now let’s look at what it takes to be safe on the water.
Listen to more tips on the Cast & Spear Podcast
What should divers do for their own safety?
Any time you’re in the water you need to be careful. There are many things that can turn a fun day into a disaster. Always plan ahead.
If you go in the water, always have a dive flag (red flag with a diagonal white stripe). This will tell boaters to stay far away from you so that you don’t get your head hit by the boat hull or worse, the propeller.
Stay close to the flag to increase your probability of being seen. Boaters will see other boats but not always heads in the water.
Make sure the vessel that you’re taking out on the water is capable of handling the water’s conditions. Don’t take a kayak out on a stormy day for example. Make sure you have the right vessel for the right conditions.
Don’t overpack your vessel with people, extra weight, equipment, or supplies. Make sure you pack the right amount for the journey.
Never dive or snorkel alone. Always use the buddy system. Buddies save lives. Make sure your buddy is equal to or greater than you in skill if possible.
What is the most dangerous, and most common, emergency in scuba diving?
The most dangerous common emergency for scuba divers is an air embolism.
An air embolism can occur when your veins or arteries are exposed and pressure allows air to travel into them which can happen in multiple ways.
If you hold your breath for too long and you go up towards the surface, the decrease in pressure will allow the air in your lungs to expand. This can cause the air sacs in your lungs (alveoli) to rupture. When the alveoli rupture, air will enter your arteries resulting in an air embolism.
Always breathe out while scuba diving. Never hold your breath!
When planning and executing a dive, it is important for diving buddies to?
When you are discussing a dive, it’s important to determine who will be the lead diver. This means the other diver will follow and that you’ll stick together.
If you don’t decide who’s the lead then you can separate and put each other at risk if you run out of air or get in an emergency.
Small Vessel Safety Questions – Kayak, Canoe, Paddle Boards
What should you do when approaching a low-head dam in a canoe or kayak?
Low head dams are dangerous. If you’ve never seen one, they are man-made structures that usually span the entire width of the river.
Why Are They Dangerous?
They are put in place to improve the amount of water in the desired location and are typically used for irrigation in farm areas. Although they might look harmless, they tend to be disastrous for those on small vessels, especially kayaks, canoes, and people swimming in the water.
Due to their low profile, they can be difficult to spot before it’s too late. The danger comes from the backflow created by the water going over the dam and turning in on itself. This is also called “backwash” or “boil.”
Say you’re in a kayak and get stuck in this backwash. You could be held stationary in one place until you run out of oxygen and blackout.
There is also natural debris that gets collected in this area causing even more danger for those trying to cross. If a swimmer goes over the dam and gets their swimsuit or leg trapped by an underwater log, they could risk drowning.
What Should You Do To Stay Safe?
- Preferably the best course of action is to map your trip downriver ahead of time. Use a map to make sure there are no dams on your journey.
- If you are coming up on a low-head dam, then do your best to get to shore as fast as possible.
- Depending on the current, if it helps to try to paddle upstream a bit to give yourself more room from the edge of the dam.
- Once you get to shore, get out of your vessel and walk it below the dam. Make sure you don’t enter the water too close to the bottom of the dam.
What Happens If I Get Trapped In The Backwash?
- Get out of the vessel as fast as possible. Don’t try to save it.
- Try to keep your arms and legs close to your body so that they don’t get snagged on any debris under the water.
- Break free of the backwash and float down the river. Exit as soon as you can onshore.
- Recover your vessel after you’ve gathered yourself mentally and physically.
- See help if necessary.
What should you do if your small craft capsizes in swift water?
If you capsize your boat, kayak, canoe, or any other type of small vessel, the first thing you must remember is not to panic.
Here are the steps you should take to get yourself back into the boat safely:
- Dislodge yourself from the boat. If you are restrained by the boat, such as the top cover on a kayak, find the quick release and get yourself out of the vessel.
- Depending on which direction the current is flowing, swim to the upstream side. This will protect you from getting crushed if you run into an object by your vessel.
- Hold on to the vessel and assess the situation.
- When you feel safe, flip the vessel over and float with it. Keep your feet downstream so that you give yourself a buffer from any objects that come your way. You don’t want to get your head hit, which can render you unconscious.
- If your vessel is not full of water and you’re in a safe zone, try to get back in and paddle to shore.
- If that’s too difficult, paddle outside the vessel towards the shore.
- Be careful if the water is cold as you could catch hypothermia.
- Once you are out of the water and your vessel is safe, do whatever you can to get dry and warm up. Call for help if necessary. You see a white marker with an orange diamond and black lettering. what does this marker tell you?
What is a leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts such as canoes, kayaks, and rafts?
Even though a canoe, kayak, or raft doesn’t feel like a boat, they are still vessels on the water. Anytime you’re on the water you are at risk for drowning. According to statistics, people on such vessels are more likely to drown than individuals operating larger vessels…
Why is this?
The higher rate of death is due to not understanding how to operate the vessel. They take knowledge of how the waterways act, for example, knowing currents, where rocks are, rapids, etc. Also, if you are unaware of what to do when the vessel capsizes due to improper balance you are a risk of exposing yourself to the water and other elements.
Keys to safety
- Always review how to balance and stabilize your vessel before taking a trip.
- Learn how to paddle effectively.
- Know how to get in and out of the vessel without tipping over.
- Know basic rescue and recovery techniques.
Always have a buddy with you to help or at least tell people of your plan before venturing out.
What should you do with your float plan for a weekend water outing?
Always have a float plan and leave it with the local marina, relative, or friend so that they know where to look in case of an emergency.
A Float Plan Must Have:
- A description of the vessel you are using. Include the size, color, capacity, who you’re going with, engine details, etc.
- Give a detailed account of your proposed trip route. Be as detailed as possible. Also include when you plan to leave and return.
- Make sure to include all of the contact information for each person going with you on the trip.
- Pictures are worth 1000 words. Take pictures of the vessel and the people going on the trip to make it easier for rescuers to find you in an emergency.
- Upon your return, make sure you tell people that you’re back safely so they don’t worry about you and call emergency crews erroneously.
What should you do to reduce the risk of capsizing or swamping your boat in rough water?
Capsizing and swamping a vessel can come instantly even when you think things are going well. It just takes a subtle shift in weight to throw the vessel over on itself.
If you are unprepared you could lose all of your belonging or worse, get seriously injured.
How to Reduce the Risk of Capsizing or Swamping:
- Don’t overload your vessel with too much stuff and make sure what you load is evenly distributed to prevent tilting.
- The smaller the boat, the more susceptible it is to slight movements. Prevent drastic movements.
- Make sure you keep the right speed for the right maneuver. If you need to turn, slow down.
- Always secure your anchor line to the bow and not the stern.
- Don’t boat in the rough water or in bad weather. A small unexpected swell can throw you off your balance and into the water.
Common Dive Markers
You see a white marker with black vertical stripes. What should you do?
This is the Inland Waters Obstruction Marker. These markers let you know that there is an obstruction to your navigation route.
Make sure NOT to pass between these buoys and the shore as you might hit the underwater obstruction causing damage to your vessel or harm to your body.
You see a white marker with an orange diamond and black lettering. What does this marker tell you?
This is a message to boaters to KEEP OUT! The reason for the sign could be a swimming area, a beach location where people could get hit by boats, a dam, a protected area, etc.
Boater Safety – Tips and Things To Be Aware Of
Two powerboats are about to cross paths. what should the boat on the starboard (right) do?
Maintain course and speed, but stay alert.
The last thing you want to do is be reckless and do something that might get the other boater to react in a dangerous way. Always give yourself plenty of space from any other vessel and when in doubt, slow down until you’re comfortable.
What is one possible meaning of a single prolonged blast of a horn?
A boat or vessel is coming around a blind bend.
If you hear this make sure you plan accordingly because the boat might be large and won’t have the time to react fast enough if you are in the way. Slow down if you need to and assess the situation accordingly.
What should you look out for when launching a sailboat with a raised mast?
Sometimes you’ll be launching a sailboat and overhead of the launch ramp are electrical wires. If these wires touch your boat you might expose yourself to an electric shock.
Always look around your vessel in a 360-degree view and up and down.
Miscellaneous – Fire Safety
What should you do with a rag that has been used to wipe up spilled gasoline?
If you use a rag to wipe up spilled gasoline, then it’s important to dispose of them properly.
The two-step process is:
- Hang the damp rag in an open-air location away from anything that can cause a spark. Make sure you keep them in a safe place and spread them out flat. Don’t pile a bunch of wet rags together as this can create a dangerous situation when lit. If you have to, weigh them down if it’s breezy.
- Once they are dry, dispose of them properly.