Prepare for Safe Dive Travel



Safety begins at home. When making your travel and dive preparations, you'll want to consider — both before you travel and after you arrive at your destination — a variety of factors that can affect your safety.
Accessibility

In remote locations, satellite phones can be extremely useful in the event of an emergency.
If it takes 20 hours to get somewhere, it's going to take a long time to get out again. While DAN® is here for you, you should know that in some remote areas aircraft can take off and land only during daylight hours, which can extend the time required for an evacuation. If you have certain medical conditions, such remote locations with limited resources may not be the best destination for you.

Find out what means of communication will be available in the event of an emergency. A dive operation should have ship-to-shore capabilities, but groups of traveling divers might wish to ensure at least one member has a satellite phone or a cell phone with international calling capabilities. Also find out whether there is cell coverage and/or wireless Internet. These can allow use of SMS messaging (texting) as well communication applications such as FaceTime and WhatsApp. Every diver should travel with a surface marker buoy and one or more signaling devices.
Paperwork
Getting paperwork in order may be the least enjoyable aspect of traveling, but it can be very important. Once you know where you are going, note the location and phone number of the hospital and/or other medical facilities in the area. If you can't find that information using an online search engine, DAN may be able to help.

Notify your bank or credit card company of upcoming travel to ensure access to funds in the event of an emergency. Take inventory of important files to keep safe such as your passport, ID and DAN membership card. You might also include a list of personal health considerations such as medications, allergies and medical history. Check out the "Keep it with You" list from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at CDC.gov/disasters/kiwy.html. The release form you sign for your dive operator may have an "in case of emergency" line; include that information, and write legibly.

While originals are required for official use, consider making several copies of important documents and forms. Leave one folder of copies at home with a friend or family member. Place a second set of copies in a sealed envelope, and give it to a trusted traveling companion or your resort or dive operator to be opened in the event of an emergency and reclaimed when you leave. A third copy can go in your wallet or luggage. Also consider bringing copies of your prescriptions in case your medication gets lost.

Make sure your dive accident and travel insurance policies are up to date. Save the DAN emergency hotline number, +1 (919) 684-9111, in your phone along with your DAN member number. Log in to your account on DAN.org to enter or update your emergency contacts, address, phones number(s) and email address. Your email address can be useful if you do not have cell reception when you are traveling and need to communicate with DAN TravelAssist.

Before you leave, check with your insurance company to verify coverage out of your home area. In general, DAN insurance is diving and accident coverage, not major medical, so a supplemental policy for medical problems is a reasonable precaution. Some trip and travel insurance policies (including DAN's) have a medical component, but carefully read the policy to confirm specific coverage. Trip or travel insurance is also useful in the event of missed flights or weather-related delays or cancellations.
Fitness to Dive
Consider visiting your doctor for a routine physical to evaluate your fitness to dive. In most cases a "yes" on the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC) medical statement used by most dive operations will trigger a requirement for a doctor's approval to dive. Getting the paperwork in advance can help ensure things run smoothly during your trip. Ask your dive operator to email you a copy of the medical form they use, and take it to your doctor appointment. If you're diving in the Asia-Pacific region, use the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (SPUMS) form instead of the RSTC form. Never lie on medical statements; this can have financial or legal implications if an accident were to occur.

Be prepared for emergencies. Take a refresher first-aid course, and have basic supplies such as bandages, antibiotic ointment, steroid cream, diphenhydramine (antihistamine) and medication for gastrointestinal distress.

Check with your primary-care doctor, a local travel medicine clinic or the CDC to determine what vaccinations, if any, are recommended for your destination. Your doctor might also be willing to supplement your first-aid kit with motion-sickness medication, antibiotics, steroids or other potentially useful prescription medications — along with specific instructions for their use.
On Board
Select your dive operator based on its reputation and, if possible, references from friends. Also be sure to get a sense of its attention to safety before you dive. Ask about the dive operator's emergency action plan; find out if they have an easily accessible first-aid kit and oxygen unit and if there's enough oxygen to provide to multiple divers for at least as long as it takes to reach shore. Ask about staff training standards; find out if divemasters or crew members are trained in first aid, neurological exams and proper use of oxygen. Typically, DAN can assist once you reach shore, but getting an injured diver to shore is generally in the hands of care providers on the dive boat.

Finally, consider the type of diving you plan to do. Deep, aggressive diving can offer access to infrequently visited sites, but it also places divers at increased risk of decompression sickness (DCS). Be sure you have the requisite training and experience for the sites the operator plans to visit.


If it took two planes, a boat and a hike to get somewhere, getting out will usually be similarly complicated.


The more remote the area, the longer it will take to get to a hyperbaric chamber. Reduce your risk of DCS by diving conservatively. Get acquainted with your dive computer; learn how to program it to conservative settings. Also, one of the best safety practices a diver can adopt is to extend one's time in the shallows beyond the recommended three-minute safety stop or decompression obligation. As long as you account for factors such as staying warm, other divers' preferences and remaining daylight, once you're in the 15- to 20-foot range, the longer you stay, the better.

While most trips you take will be free from accidents and incidents, they sometimes happen. Ensure a good outcome by being prepared.

© Alert Diver — Q4 Fall 2017