Dealing with Decompression Sickness – Reducing Risk and Preparing for Response

Written by DAN Staff

Explaining decompression sickness (DCS) to student divers is a balance between emphasizing how serious DCS can be while focusing on how conservative diving practices help keep the incident rate low. Similarly, as a dive professional, you need to balance your preparedness to deal with a DCS incident with your focus on reducing risk for your student divers and yourself before, during and after each dive.

Reducing Risk

Low Resolution Preview -- not authorized for any other useMost training dives are likely to be conservative and well planned, especially for entry-level courses, thus the steps to reduce DCS are role-modeled and practiced by student divers in the water. However, post-dive DCS catalysts may be less frequently addressed. Dehydration, strenuous exercise and thermal stress can all increase DCS risk. It’s important to consider how much physical exertion may be required by student divers to move gear after a dive or hike out of a dive site. Because student divers are not as knowledgeable as experienced divers, share dive-related efficiencies, such as using a hand trolley or dive bag with wheels to carry gear. Inexperienced divers also need to be reminded to hydrate and apply sunscreen or find shade. Learning something new is exciting, but it can also be stressful for student divers. Part of dive safety is taking the time to instill good habits to reduce risks.

Prepare For The Worst

DAN_O2 Kit - BahamasYou know that even if you do everything right, you can’t completely eliminate DCS risk. This means that even on the most ordinary training dive in great conditions, you must be prepared for the worst. Having an emergency plan that includes contact information for emergency services and the location of the nearest medical facility is key. Also, preparing your response to an injury by having the proper equipment and emergency oxygen is critical. The more remote the dive site, the more oxygen you’ll need along with a reliable way to transport an injured diver to medical care. DAN can help you locate the nearest chamber and provide medical consultation as needed.

For more information on DCS and risk management, visit DAN.org/Health

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