Diver Safety

Dive Flag & Scuba Diving Safety

The AUC is developing a Public Service Announcement video for airing throughout Alberta

and Canada. The video's aim is to educate divers and boaters about the importance of recognizing

and understanding the meaning of the Diver Down flag.

In addition to this, the AUC attends many provincial outdoor adventure and boat shows to help

educate our boaters about the meaning of the Dive Flag and to promote our programs to the

public. 

 

Volunteers Wanted! AUC volunteers are asked to put up dive flag safety awareness signs at docks,

marinas, lakes and other common dive sites to help make the public aware that divers also use

the local waters & how their actions when boatings will help prevent tragedies & save lives!

Contact the AUC office if you know of a popular boat launch or dive site that could use an AUC Dive Flag Awareness sign to help remind boaters about what the "Diver Down" flag means to them.

Ditch Your Weights in an Emergency!! - Free Weight Replacement Program
AUC's newest program "Ditch Your Weights" in an Emergency - at surface or at depth -  is a program to remind scuba divers that while scuba fatalities are rare, most often the reports show that victims failed to ditch their weight belt/system.  To add to the difficulty of this skill are the temperate or cold water conditions here in Alberta which requires heavier weights, 7mm wetsuits or drysuits, plus thicker hoods & mitts/gloves.  
 
The Alberta Underwater Council wishes to encourage, educate & promote safe diving practices for all scuba divers in Alberta.  If you had to "Ditch Your Weights" while diving in Alberta during a non-training dive, you can apply to the AUC to have your weights, belt, and/or pockets replaced for free if unrecovered.  The "catch"??  You must be willing to share your emergency scenario on AUC's website, Facebook group page, eNews, etc., and must be certified diver & a resident of Alberta. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
First Aid Equipment

AUC has supported dive clubs to help purchase AED & 02 Kits, plus additional safety gear that's provided at most AUC Dive Alberta & Lake Cleanup events whenever possible.  AUC also endeavours to offer during Divescapes Scuba Conference many diver-related safety courses like 1st aid, CPR, O2 Admin, etc. at reduced rates for our conference goers.

Sport Accident Insurance

All registered & current members participating in AUC sanctioned events are covered by our small sport accident insurance policy. 

However, divers & underwater hockey players are still encouraged to purchase additional medical/travel insurance while traveling to scuba dive or compete in tournaments.

Safe Diver Decree

TO BE A GOOD SAFE DIVER, I SHOULD ALWAYS:

  • Maintain good mental and physical fitness for diving. Avoid being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when diving. 

  • Keep proficient in diving skills, striving to increase them through  continuous education and reviewing them in controlled conditions after inactivity in diving.

  • Be familiar with my dive sites.  If not, obtain a formal  diving orientation from a knowledgeable, local source.   If diving conditions are worse than those in which I am experienced, postpone diving or select an alternate site with better conditions. Engage only in diving activities consistent with my training, experience & fitness level.

  • Use complete, well-maintained, reliable equipment with which I am familiar: and inspect it for correct fit and function prior to each dive.  Deny use of my equipment to uncertified divers.  Complete a Dive Buddy Equipment Check before diving. Always have a buoyancy compensation device and submersible pressure gauge

  • Listen carefully to dive briefings and directions and respect the advice provided of those supervising my diving activities.

  • Adhere to the buddy-system throughout every dive.  Plan dives &  go over all communications, procedures for reuniting in case of separation, and emergency procedures - with my buddy.

  • Be proficient in dive table usage.  Make and allow a for a margin of safety. 

  • Have a means to monitor depth and time underwater. Limit maximum depth to my level of training and experience.  Ascend at a rate not faster than 30 feet per minute.  In addition, a safety stop of not less than 15 feet for at least 3-5 minutes (or longer) is highly recommended after every non-decompression dive.

  • Maintain proper buoyancy.  Adjust weighting at the surface for neutral buoyancy while underwater.  Be buoyant for surface swimming and resting.   Have weights clear for easy removal and establish buoyancy when in distress while diving (practice ditching weights & know how to ditch dive buddy's weights!).

  • Breathe properly for diving.  Never breath-hold or skip breathe   when breathing compressed air and avoid excessive hyper-ventilation when breath-hold diving (e.g., snorkelling, free-diving).  Avoid over-exertion while in and under water.

  • Always dive within my limitations - mental, physcial, training & experience!
     

Diver Safety at Events - Responsibilities & Assumption of Risks
  • As a certified scuba diver, participating at AUC Dive Events and/or Lake Cleanups (or during any dive) -  you are responsible for your own safety and for managing the risks that are inherent within our sport. 

  • Because your certification qualifies you to dive independently, there is no requirement for supervision - we are only there coordinating the logistical aspects of this AUC Dive event, lake cleanup, etc. 

  • We will do our best to inform of the dive's risks & of any uncertainties or unknowns.  

  • If anybody does not understand any aspects of a dive site or the risks…... Speak up …..  Ask questions ….. Stay safe!

  • Knowing the risks and understanding the limits of your training and experience, it is now your responsibility to manage these risks and acknowledge that you are fully responsible for your own actions. Which can affect many others-not just yourself.

  • Think about how your actions today can endanger yourself, your dive buddy, even other divers present -and especially the potential horrific impact on your family & friends in the aftermath of a (usually) preventable diving accident!

  • If anybody feels uncomfortable with any dive at any time, your dive plan should be adjusted to accommodate your comfort level & this could include deciding to not dive today - without any fear of embarrassment or any  pressure to perform. No blame-no shame!                                       

  • Don't push your luck….ever-today it might just run out!

Ethics for Scuba Diving in Alberta

Scuba divers are encouraged to consider these points as your personal code of conduct while visiting Alberta's beautiful National mountain park lakes or any provincial lakes and/or while enjoying the underwater views anywhere in the world!

 

1. Obey the law-cooperate with local authorities, park attendants, conservation officers, etc. Remember, spear fishing is not allowed within Canada's National  Parks & limited to your local Fishing License rules elsewhere. It is illegal to deface, remove or alter artifacts or damage Alberta's underwater heritage.

 

2. Be an ambassador for all SCUBA & snorkel divers. Observers are generally curious about the sport. Talk pleasantly to interested persons & be careful of your language as well as your behaviour.

 

3. Respect the rights of others to enjoy the same environment as yourself. If asked to share the dock or beach area, please make every effort to do so.  If asked to turn-off your compressor, please accommodate, as other may prefer  the tranquility. While changing clothes do so discreetly by using vehicles, robes, tents or change buildings. Think of others passing the site or sharing the same  area.

 

4. When parking your vehicle, do so as courteously as possible. If traveling in a group, consider car pooling to reduce numbers of stalls required.  Drop off your dive gear, park in designated area & then walk back to gear up & dive in.

 

5. Maintain public access to roads, common paths, docks, beaches, etc.

 

6. Ask & obtain permission before using or crossing private property.  Diving permits might be required before diving at certain mountain  park lakes, e.g. Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Ice Diving in Banff/Jasper.  If in doubt, contact the AUC Office or direct to the Parks Canada office.

 

7. Protect the aquatic environment by respecting underwater artifacts & features-please leave the area as you found it. Try to avoid stirring up silt or otherwise disturbing the ecology (use frog kick as best method of propulsion or  stay at least 4-6 ft (1-2 m) up off the bottom) as the next diver will  appreciate your consideration.

 

8. Leave your dive area cleaner than when you arrived. Avoid a cluttered looking dive site by keeping your gear tidy & well organized & clear of common pathways, docks, roadways, etc.  Remember, your efforts will ensure continued access & will make friends for the sport & community of scuba diving.

 

9. Be thoughtful of local residents, land owners of nearby parks, lakes, etc

 

10. Have good economic relations & rapport with the local community that will help ensure a continued welcome.

Remember, your actions within the park reflects upon all divers, so please be thoughtful & enjoy your dive!


Thank you for taking the time to read these suggestions for making your scuba diving adventure in Alberta a courteous one.


It is the wish of the Alberta Underwater Council (AUC) that all scuba & snorkel divers who make use of Park lakes, do so in a responsible manner. The bottom line is simply a situation of sharing, so everyone within the diving & non-diving public can enjoy the right to use the environment.

 

Consider these ethics wherever you travel to enjoy scuba diving in Alberta or abroad. Remember, people look to divers to be stewards of the underwater environment. Please show consideration & responsibility always!

Scuba Safety Smart Tips
 
Ditch Your Weights!

Divers are encouraged to remember to practice "ditching their weights" so that in an life-threatening

emergency they can respond quickly & more easily.  As it is often not "practical" (except in a pool)

to ditch weights, divers are reminded to mentally rehearse before every dive to "ditch yours and

your buddy's weights".  Print Friendly PDF here

Scuba divers are reminded to practice their scuba skills regularly - especially when still renting

their scuba gear -  as every set of "rental gear" is always just a little bit different from the last. 

So practicing your scuba skills (including ditching your weight belt/weights) in a pool often can help.

Unlike other activities & sports (like riding a bicyle or driving a snowmobile), scuba diving skills, especially the "essential scuba lifesaving" ones are often "lost" when a diver only dives once or twice a year 'cause - if you don't use it - you'll lose it!  Most of us - drive everyday so cycling or snowmobiling after a long break feels easy BUT when was the last time you were out scuba diving? Living here in Alberta doesn't make it easy to jump in the water with a scuba tank on your back after many months of snow. 

Before participating in an AUC Dive Alberta event or other local dive store, dive club event or dive holiday or exotic dive travel, divers are encouraged to practice their skills in a pool or take a scuba skills update or scuba refresher course from their favourite local dive store or instructor. Or join a dive club and get out & get diving! Dive-in in at an AUC annual dive event or lake cleanup & have fun underwater this year and remember:

During a difficult scuba and/or panic situation - when you can't think clearly - the number one rule (even at the surface) is to remember to DITCH YOUR WEIGHTS!

 

Your life is worth way more than the cost of a weight belt or intregrated weight pouch (which can often be retrieved later anyways!) and AUC offers a new program: Free Weight Replacement for AB Divers (see details abover).   Constant practice at the beginning & throughout your scuba diving activities creates "muscle memory" which helps making the removal of your weight belt quick, automatic and easier if needed in an emergency!  This muscle memory also helps you respond automatically to save yourself or your dive buddy instead of reacting in PANIC!

Practice Air Sharing!

Experts remind us that "practice or repetition creates muscle memory" which will help you

execute this life-saving skill of sharing air with a dive buddy in an emergency. 

Regardless of the alternate air source you use or which reg you pass, you should agree with

your buddy before the dive how each of you will handle an air sharing situation before it's needed.

 

  • Practice using your own alternate air source (regardless of type) during safety stops to increase

  • your own comfort level. 

  • Rehearse air sharing on the surface before the dive with your buddy and also practice in the

  • water.

  • Practice using your buddy's alternate during safety stops - if with a dive master - be sure to tell

       them your plans for practicing this skill before the dive starts

  • Air share by swimming side-by-side during some easy & shallow part of the dive, letting whoever has less air to breathe from the other's air supply.

  • Air sharing skills should be practiced often before needed in a "panic" or emergency scuba situation

  • Dive Buddy Gear Checks at the start of the dive can solve issues before they develop & fuel a cascade of problems with often catastrophic & tragic consequences.

  • Develop the habit of checking your air periodically during every dive.

  • Mentally rehearse ditching your own & your buddy's weights

 

Practicing these simple lifesaving scuba skills often in a swimming pool prior to a dive could help save you or your dive buddy!

 

Don't be complacent - life is precious!  Don't take yours ... or your buddy's life for granted! 

 

Dive Buddy Gear Checks!

Gear checks including: air gauge, hose connections, look for leaks, bubbles, etc, which ensures

that hose connections are secure, air is turned all the way on & familiarizes buddies with location

of each other's octopus, weight belts/weight pockets, cutting devices, safety sausage (or SMB), etc. 

 

Dive Master's Tip: To help confirm that air is turned on all the way, watch pressure guage while

breathing from the regulator - if needle holds steady - that's good, BUT if it bounces down &

back up - have buddy help you turn the tank valve to the fully open position!

 

PLUS: Take this time to remind each other while at the surface for best procedure to "share air",  procedures for lost dive buddy, dive's goals with dive plan contingencies, common hand signals, the dive's turn-around tank pressure, etc.

 

Dive Buddy Gear Checks at the start of the dive can solve issues before they develop & fuel that cascade of problems with often catastrophic & tragic consequences!

 

PLUS: Mentally practice ditching your own & your buddy's weights!

 

Be sure you're properly weighted, review your buoyancy & scuba safety skills like practice air sharing in controlled conditions like a swimming pool after a period of inactivity in diving.
  

Dive buddy checks should be done before every dive - tropical or temperate, boat or shore - by every diver regardless of experience, familiarity with your gear & each other.  Plus mentally rehearsing "ditching your weights" or practice air sharing skills before a "panic" or emergency situation could help save you or your buddy life!

Basic Buoyancy Tips!

Guess what??  In scuba diving - practice makes perfect! 

 

Basic Buoyancy Tips:

1. Inflate the Buoyancy Compensator (BC), put reg in mouth and jump into the water:

Before jumping off the dock or dive boat, inflate your BC so that you will float on the surface.

This allows you to pop up & complete your dive buddy gear checks, mentally rehearse ditching

yours or your buddy's weights, think about air sharing in an emergency plus you have the

opportunity to deal with any last minute problems before you descend, such as:

whoops: turn air on or tighten that weight belt or fix a badly leaking mask, etc.
 

2. Deflate the BC Just Enough to Descend:

To begin your descent, deflate the BCD just enough so that you can descend by breathing out. The goal is to descend slowly enough to have time to equalize your ears.  Completely deflating the BCD may cause you to sink like a rock, risk an ear barotrauma, dig yourself into the bottom in a cloud of silt & lose sight of your dive buddy!


3. Add Small Bursts of Air to BC as You Descend:

As a diver descends, the water pressure increases. This causes the air in BCD and wetsuit (or drysuit) to compress & becoming more negatively buoyant. Compensate for the increasing negative buoyancy by adding small bursts of air to your BC whenever sinking too quickly.  Of course, you need to be "spatially aware" of where you are in the water column which comes with practice.

 


4. Add Air to the BC to Achieve Neutral Buoyancy:

Once you have arrived at your desired depth, add air to the BC until you are neutrally buoyant. Don't wait until you've hit bottom and/or planted yourself in the Alberta lake silt, or on an aging shipwreck or damage a delicate coral reef!  This is where that spatial awareness comes in handy again.

 
5. Deflate the BC as Needed During the Dive:

Remember, as your aluminum scuba tank empties, it will become increasingly positively buoyant. It may be necessary to deflate the BC in small increments to compensate for the increasing buoyancy of the tank.


6. Deflate the BC as You Ascend:

Remember that the air in your BC and wetsuit (or drysuit) will expand and make you more positively buoyant as you ascend (because of the pressure decrease). The goal is to control your buoyancy during ascent by remaining neutrally buoyant and swimming - not floating up or worse case scenario: an out of control rapid ascent

 

7. Inflate Your BC on the Surface:

Once your head reaches the surface, go ahead and inflate your BCD so that you can float easily on the surface before removing your regulator. This sounds obvious, but many divers are so excited about the dive that they forget to inflate their BC and get a mouthful of water as a reward! Or worse case scenario - forget this important step in an emergency or panic situation.

 

 

Getting the Weighting Just Right:

The Problem With Too Much Weight:    

Divers with an excessive amount of weight will have a more difficult time controlling their buoyancy.

The more weight a diver uses, the more air he will need to add to his BCD to compensate for the

negative buoyancy from his weights. As air in a diver's BCD expands and compresses with any small

change in depth, the more air he has in his BCD, and the greater volume air that is expanding and

compressing.

This makes it more difficult for the diver to control his buoyancy as he changes depth.

To avoid this problem, be sure to perform a test for proper weighting before diving.  In a controlled conditions: add or subtract weight - in small increments until you are able to float at eye level at surface without any air in the BC & be able to descend just by breathing out.  But remember to add an extra few pounds if using a standard aluminum tanks to counteract its extra buoyancy at end of a dive as the aluminum tank becomes more buoyant as you breathe down its air. Or if using a steel tank subtract weight as it's weight properties don't change as the air decreases in the steel tank.

 

Too Little Weight: 

Once you've experienced a whole dive trying to stay down or fighting the buoyancy of that aluminum tank at the end of a dive during a safety stop - you'll never want to experience that again. 

 

Either way - too much or too little weight - forces the diver to work way to hard underwater, use too much air, which can lead to over-exertion, over-breathing, diver fatigue & exhaustion, become more & more out-of-breath, which can increase your anxiety levels which can lead to panic & its catastrophic consequences.  So time spent, getting your weighting just right is worth it. 

 

Every time you change your gear - you need to adjust your weighting.  Be sure to record weights used with what wetsuit/drysuit in your log book.

 

Common Weighting Formula:

Fresh Water: Standard AL 80 Scuba Tank:

Swimsuit or thin dive skin: try 1-4 pounds, or .05 - 2 kgs

3mm Wetsuit or Shortly: Convert 5% of your Body Weight to pounds

5mm Wetsuit: Convert 10% of your Body Weight to pounds

7mm with hood/gloves: Convert 10% of your Body Weight to pounds PLUS add 3-5 pounds (1.5 - 3 kgs)

Neoprene Drysuit: Convert 10% of your Body Weight to pounds PLUS add 7-10 lbs (3-5 kgs)

Shell Style Drysuit with heavy underwear*: Convert 10% of your Body Weight to pounds PLUS add 7-14 lbs (3-7 kgs)

*Note: Drysuit undergarments vary a lot & can increase the amount of weight needed to stay neutrally buoyant.

 

Salt Water: (Add to above calculations for Fresh Water)

If you are: 100 - 125 lbs (45-56 kg) ADD 4 pounds (2 kg)

126 - 155 lbs (57-70 kg) ADD 5 pounds (2.3 kg)

156 - 186 lbs (71-85 kg) ADD 6 pounds (3 kg)

187 - 217 lbs (86 - 99 kg) ADD 7 pounds (3.2 kg), etc

 

IF USING STEEL Tanks - start out using slightly less weight than the formula above.

 

Apply these basics of buoyancy, get weighted properly by spending time in water slightly over your head in a pool, near a dock or use a dive float to add/subtract weights. 

 

Plus beginner divers can also make use a dive float with a weighted line to practice controlling their descents & ascents in open water.  Especially useful when diving in an Alberta lake where there is no dock.

 

 

Learn to swim underwater horizontally, learn frog-kick or other finning techniques, practice neutral buoyancy & hovering in your local pool facility or at AUC Dive events or lake cleanups around the province or around the world & enjoy scuba diving neutrally buoyant & have fun! 

Guess what?  Practice makes perfect!  Apply the basics of buoyancy, get weighted properly, get out & practice netural buoyancy in your local pool facility, or at AUC Dive Events/Lake Cleanups around the province or around the world & enjoy scuba fun!

 

Dive Safe, Always! 

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@2017 Alberta Underwater Council

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