Monday, August 15, 2005

What is the most important rule in SCUBA?

What is the most important rule in SCUBA? The answer to this question is drilled into our students, "Never hold your breath". However, I would like to add a second and third rule. The second rule is dive within your limits and the third rule (perhaps a little facetiously) is always read the fine print.

Recently an article appeared on that a British diver is faced with a huge bill of £40,000 for medical treatment due to decompression illness (see It appears that he violated the conditions of the insurance by diving deeper than the30m (90feet) limit of the policy. According to the article, his maximum depth was 49.5m (approximately 150feet).

Please don't misunderstand my comments below as directed toward the unfortunate gentleman mentioned in the article. I merely want to draw some general conclusions from the article and in no way am I saying anything about the diver, his skill or the treatment he received.

There are two immediate conclusions to draw from the article. The first is that one should know what the conditions of the insurance policy are before diving. Some insurance policies are very strict about depth limits etc. When it comes to diver insurance, cheaper is not the way to go.

The second is a general observation about safe diving practices. Recreational divers are certified to dive to a depth of 40m (130 feet). However, most training organizations recommend that dives are limited to 100 feet or shallower. The problem with deep diving and physiology is that each person is affected differently. Two divers of similar age and experience can do exactly identical dives and one could be affected by decompression illness and the other one not.

There are many factors that affect and influence one's risk factors. In this specific case dehydration could have played a major role. The key point though is that one should dive well within one's training and ability. Discretion is always the better part of valor when it comes to recreational diving. The dive insurance that most divers use that I am familiar with is Divers Alert Network.

The insurance that DAN offers is sold in three tiers. At the most basic level the insurance covers dives up to 130 feet.(  The more expensive options cover dives to any depth. From anecdotal evidence it is clear that DAN is very supportive of divers. Sarah M let me know via a comment that DAN insurance is available in Europe – the head office is in Italy.

One can never be totally sure that you will not be "hit" by decompression illness. Therefore one should always dive to safe and established guidelines and remember rule number 3: always read the fine print of the insurance policies!        


Sarah said...

DAN is available in the UK and throughout most of Europe (the head office for Europe is based in Italy)

Sarah M

BWRAF said...

Thanks Sarah - I will update my comments.

Susan said...

Should you invest in dive insurance right away? The obvious answer is probably yes, but I don't really know much about it.