Editor's Note: The U.S. Coast Guard released the following announcement on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013.
In the wake of numerous deaths and injuries, the Coast Guard reminds recreational divers to play it safe when diving along the California coast.
In the past year, there were six reported cases of recreational diving deaths and two diving related injuries off the San Diego coast, and more than 25 recreational SCUBA diving deaths and injuries throughout California.
“The Coast Guard doesn’t regulate recreational diving but is generally called in to assist during diving emergencies,” said Rear Admiral Karl Schultz, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “In many of these dive emergencies, injuries and death are preventable. We want everyone who enjoys the water, including divers whose sport leaves little room for error, to make safety their top priority. We want you to survive your dive.”
All the normal hazards of water sports and recreation are more dangerous for those spending time below the surface. Strong ocean and rip currents can occur at any time of year. Cold water temperatures, limited air supply, reliance on equipment for survival, and the lack of underwater rescue capabilities all make it essential that divers are fully aware of their own limits and prepared for all possible problems.
Diving safety experts report that many accidents stem from people underestimating the hazards associated with diving, and overestimating their own physical fitness and skill levels. They stress the importance of the buddy system, planning, fitness and medical issues, and awareness of weather and sea conditions.
"It is essential for divers to keep safety at the forefront of their minds and be realistic regarding the activities they are about to perform. They should make sure they are physically capable of diving," said Lt. John Downing, Chief of Investigations at Coast Guard Sector San Diego. "They should also dive within their experience levels, dive with a buddy, and make sure someone ashore knows the details of their dive plan including times and locations. Lastly, divers should not be afraid to ditch their weights, end the dive and signal for help when something is wrong."
Before you enter the water, be sure that:
1. Your training is adequate for the current and predicted conditions and you will respect their limitations.
2. You will not hesitate to ditch your weights, inflate your buoyancy compensator, and signal for help when in distress.
3. Your physical fitness is adequate for the current and predicted conditions. Many dive fatalities are caused by heart attacks. Check with your primary doctor to ensure that you are in good enough health for heavy physical activity, especially for divers over age 45.
4. You are diving with a buddy and you have both run buddy checks: abilities, equipment, and plan.
5. You feel completely comfortable making this dive.
6. You will not enter overhead environments without proper training, equipment, and procedures.
Divers should not let schedules, peer pressure or costs push them beyond their capabilities. People who have invested time and money to plan a dive trip, or sport fishers anxious to harvest fish during a set season, may be tempted to dive in unsafe conditions or overexert themselves. It’s a good idea to have an alternate activity planned in case a dive trip has to be cancelled for weather, equipment, or health problems.
"Nobody understands the allure of the sea more than the U.S. Coast Guard, but we also see the tragic results when people underestimate the hazards," said Schultz. "The adventure and thrill of diving are especially appealing to many -- but the ocean is an unforgiving environment, and even less forgiving to those who recreate beneath the surface.”
For more information on diving safety: