Every time we strap a highly pressurized tank of air to our backs and descend below of the surface of the water we are taking a huge risk with our lives. We place ourselves in a foreign environment where we cannot survive alone and rely totally on our equipment, knowledge, skills and planning to return to the surface safely with each dive. 99% of the time we do. The diving industry has put such an emphasis on safety that equipment, works extremely well and in the rare event that they fail, they tend to fail safely (IE: in a way that won’t cut off air, or cause you to not be able to make it back to the surface). Dive depth and time limits have been tested and are set conservatively to prevent emergencies. However accidents do happen. They are primarily a result of poor judgement on the diver’s part such as diving in conditions you are not trained for, ignoring the rules of diving or being properly prepared with the gear or planning the dive requires. Sometimes though things just go wrong.
The best way to prepare against such accidents is to be informed. Get extra training, such as your Rescue certification, keep your gear in good working order, make sure to have proper equipment for each environment you dive, check and recheck with your buddy and don’t dive out of your limits. Another great way to keep informed is by reading about other peoples mistakes. Diver Down is a book written by Michael Ange, technical editor of Scuba Diving magazine, and it basically gives several case stories about people who made a poor choice, or had an unfortunate equipment failure and were not able to properly respond. Many of the people in the book did not survive to learn from their errors, but we can.
I found the book to be great, so great that I could not put it down and finished it within two days (at work…shhhh). It scares you because many of the situations start in the same way many dives I’ve been on have started. But then there is the moment when a poor choice is made and things take a turn for the worse. Often I could identify this point, and in doing so I tried to think how I could react differently and if a different reaction would have made a difference in the outcome of that misfortune. The book reads really well, and include detailed descriptions of diving terms, equipment, and different types of diving (technical, wreck, etc) so that anyone (even non-divers) can easily enjoy and understand where and how mistakes were made. The book also leaves you with more respect for the nature of the sport we participate in and a desire to keep safety a top priority. I would highly recommend to all of my friends and fellow divers!