Going Global – PADI Travel Affiliate Program

By Ted Alan Stedman

As the all-new PADI Travel™ Affiliate Program rolls out, PADI® Dive Centers and Resorts are poised to take part in a growing digital marketing presence that stands to significantly raise the bar for how dive travel is sold. This recently launched division replaces the former PADI Travel Network with a more comprehensive, refined program designed with additional benefits. Qualifying PADI Dive Centers and Resorts can now more precisely leverage PADI Travel’s expertise in the dive community to earn attractive commissions, help increase in-store sales and assist with organizing successful group trips.

“Helping PADI Dive Centers and Resorts to be more successful is our biggest priority,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “The PADI Travel Affiliate Program is a concrete way to help our dive centers leverage travel to grow their revenue, while keeping their divers engaged and drive even more divers into their stores. We’re excited to bring this new service to PADI Members.”

PADI Members who’ve been on board with their own dive travel agencies don’t need to be sold on the concept. Depending on location, anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of gross profits can generally be attributed to dive travel and the related purchases. For PADI Dive Centers and Resorts with defined offseasons due to weather or other seasonal factors, dive travel sales bridge the gap during those slow periods. When travel generates sales, dive centers see a corresponding uptick in gear purchases and specialty certifications sales as customers prepare for their dive vacations.

“Embedding travel into a scuba diving business is a proven way to get divers certified, keep them active and ultimately get them to take more courses and buy more equipment,” says Sandro Lonardi, PADI Travel head of marketing. The PADI Travel Affiliate Program is the easiest and most effective way for PADI Dive Centers and Resorts to start or boost a travel business, he says. “Referring divers to a trusted travel website or organizing your own group trips is key to maintaining a community of engaged, loyal scuba enthusiasts. The Travel Affiliate Program is designed as a turn-key program for qualified PADI Dive Centers and Resorts, and offers the tools needed to profit by selling travel.”

The Buzz on Affiliate Programs

In the Digital Age, the old ways of doing business have been broadsided by a barrage of internet-savvy business models that have turned the world of commerce upside down. Among these are affiliate programs. Simply put, affiliate programs (sometimes called associate programs) are business arrangements in which an online merchant pays affiliates commissions to send them traffic or referrals that result in a sale. There are always three parties in this arrangement: the customer, the affiliate and the merchant. These affiliate sites traditionally post links to the merchant site and are paid according to a particular agreement.

The affiliate program method was -pioneered in 1996 when Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon​.com, popularized this idea as an internet marketing strategy. Amazon.com began by having affiliates post links to individual books for sale on Amazon.com, or for Amazon.com in general, and agreed to pay affiliates a percentage of the profits if someone clicked on the link and then purchased books or other items. The affiliate helped make the sale, but Amazon.com did everything else: took the order, collected the money and shipped the book to the customer. Needless to say, the digital affiliate sale model has skyrocketed beyond anyone’s imagination, well beyond books to every aspect of the -consumer marketplace.

The affiliate’s model makes practical sense on multiple levels. Recruiting affiliates is an excellent way to increase a brand presence and sell products (such as travel) online under the banner of an established brand – in this case PADI – which infers quality assurance. It’s also an economical and effective marketing strategy – a great way for a company to spread the word about its products, while increasing its presence through affiliates that can likewise capitalize on the brand association without investing much capital outlay.

Over the past few years, affiliate programs have grown enormously in popularity, taking many interesting forms. For many businesses with website portals that don’t exclusively rely on eCommerce, functioning as an affiliate is a good way to participate in eCommerce while being associated with a large established brand with superior name recognition.

PADI Travel Affiliate Program ABCs

So how does being a PADI Travel Affiliate work? Think of travel.padi.com as the platform for growing the scuba and freediving market. Through participating PADI Affiliates, PADI Travel combines every aspect of the dive travel experience under one virtual roof – from research, dive instruction and certification to travel purchases. The Affiliate Program takes into account the various physical assets, differences, limitations and opportunities of qualified participants, allowing for a customized approach tailored to the specifics of each PADI Dive Center or Resort.

As affiliates, qualifying PADI Dive Centers and Resorts can take the lead and sell any of the hundreds of destinations and live-aboard trips offered by PADI Travel. That means no more surfing to various sites or using search engines to root out dive travel destinations that may not be affiliated with PADI. On a practical level, the program is streamlined into three distinct segments: affiliate commissions; in-store sales; and group trips and charters. Each carries its own degree of profit potential, with considerations given to the spectrum of capabilities and circumstances of individual PADI affiliates. “We’ve worked with numerous PADI Dive Centers and Resorts to create the program from scratch, and it’s really designed to meet the needs of those who use it,” Lonardi says.

With affiliate commissions, the process is simple. PADI Dive Centers earn profits by referring divers to PADI Travel. These dive customers are most likely to prefer independent travel and are unlikely to book group trips. Dive centers can earn commissions in situations where otherwise there would be no sale. To capitalize on this new revenue stream, the shop simply needs to refer them to PADI Travel (ideally by using a trackable link or by placing the reservation directly on travel.padi.com on their behalfs).

The next tier of the program, in-store sales, allows PADI Travel to refer divers to PADI Dive Centers and Resorts. Once customers have booked dive travel, they’re more likely to purchase equipment and sign up for courses or other relevant dive services. After divers book a trip through PADI Travel, they’ll be sent follow up communications suggesting they return to the referring dive center to check out relevant training opportunities and new equipment suitable for their dive excursion.

The final segment of the Travel Affiliate Program, group trips and charters, provides PADI Dive Centers and Resorts with access to unbeatable service, group discounts, extra spots, dive show specials and free diver insurance when they book their group trips through PADI Travel. Additionally, PADI Travel takes the legwork out of organizing group travel. With a 24/7 customer support team, PADI Travel can deal with any issues as they arise – plus, the upcoming PADI Travel Marketplace makes it easy to fill any unbooked spots.

What It Means

If you’re among the PADI community who already sells travel, the Travel Affiliate Program can substantially enhance your efforts. PADI Travel gives affiliates access to a huge global selection of liveaboards and resorts, as well as outstanding marketing support that includes training guides and POS (point-of-sale) materials. For those with an in-house travel agency, you can count on access to the largest inventory of bookable scuba diving properties in the world – 400 and growing. That means any bookings you make through PADI Travel will earn cash at the standard travel agency commission rate.

If you don’t already sell travel, now you can earn an attractive commission for every diver you point toward PADI Travel. There’s no need to organize a trip, no need to do anything beyond being the connection between the customer and PADI Travel. In all cases, PADI Travel will show you the money by tracking referrals as affiliates are provided a special link or tracking code automatically associated with the seller and customer that triggers a commission payment once a booking with PADI Travel occurs. Sellers are also provided with offline materials combined with codes that ensure where and how sales are generated and ensuing commissions.

“PADI Dive Centers and Resorts will gain a trusted travel partner in PADI Travel,” says Lonardi, “Divers will be served by the best-rated travel expert team in the industry. Professionalism and knowledge are two key traits of PADI Travel Customer Service.”

PADI Travel offers a global approach to dive travel that hasn’t existed until now. Through the program, PADI Dive Centers and Resorts can use a powerful service designed to help grow more profitable businesses. “Inspiring and enabling divers to explore the world is a proven way to keep divers active, motivate them to take more courses and purchase the appropriate equipment for dive adventures of a lifetime,” adds Lonardi. “The PADI Travel Affiliate Program will help grow the dive industry and increase dive travel profitability while inspiring divers to travel the world.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the 4th Quarter Edition of The Undersea Journal.

First Aid for Burns

Written by DAN Staff

A serious burn — even a sunburn — can bring a quick end to an exciting dive trip. You can take steps to reduce the risk of burns, but you can’t always prevent them.

On a busy dive boat, accidental contact with a hot compressor or stove, or someone just spending too much time in the midday sun can occur. Knowing how to address injuries and keep divers comfortable can make the difference between a minor hiccup and a ruined vacation. Brush up on your first aid skills for burns and keep your customers happy on your next trip.

Types of Burns

Burns occur when tissues are subjected to more energy than they can tolerate. This energy can come from chemicals, heat, radiation or electricity.

  • Chemical burns, for example, are caused when a caustic chemical touches the skin. If the chemical is dry, assist the victim in brushing off the substance and consult a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which can often be found on the back of the chemical’s container. Otherwise, flush with copious amounts of water unless the MSDS indicates otherwise.
  • More common in diving scenarios are thermal burns resulting from contact with heaters, hot water or fire, but even these pale in comparison to the number of radiation burns divers experience.
  • Sunburns are the most common burns seen among divers. They result from radiation from the sun, rather than heat, and represent the single largest source of burns faced by outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. 

 

First Aid

After safely removing the source of a burn (caustic chemical, unprotected skin under the hot sun, electrical current or source of significant heat), the first step is to assess the injured diver’s airway, breathing and circulation. Barring any medical emergencies this assessment uncovers, the next step is to douse the burn with cool water (either fresh or salt) for at least 15 to 30 minutes. It can be difficult to cool deeper tissues after a burn, and spending a significant amount of time dousing the area in water can prevent further injury. Clothes, boots or shoes, and jewelry or accessories in the area of the burn should be removed while dousing the wound.

Assessing the Injury

Once a burn has been cooled, begin wound assessment and dressing. Burns are typically classified as superficial, partial thickness or full thickness.

  • Superficial burns can be identified by redness, warmth and minor swelling around the site of the burn.
  • Partial-thickness burns involve deeper layers of tissue and often have blisters and cause severe pain.
  • Full-thickness burns are the most serious and affect all layers of the skin, destroying nerves and fatty tissue. Full-thickness burns may appear either black and charred or white and waxy, and are sometimes described as painless due to the nerve damage caused by the burn, but are almost universally surrounded by areas of partial-thickness burn that cause intense pain.

You can treat a superficial burn by gently washing it with clean, soapy water, rinsing it thoroughly and patting dry. The wounds can be cleaned up somewhat, but avoid breaking any intact blisters. Take care not to irritate the wound further before dressing with a non-adherent dressing and double-antibiotic ointment. Change dressings daily.

Small partial-thickness burns can be treated in the same way, but any substantial partial-thickness or full-thickness burns should be evaluated and treated by a physician. These burns can be difficult to manage in the field and present a risk of significant fluid loss and infection. In the case of partial-thickness burns covering more than 15 percent of a person’s body or a full-thickness burn, immediate evacuation to advanced medical care may be indicated.

For more information on treating burns and other injuries, visit DAN.org/Health

Teaching Diving is Teaching Life

As early as the 1950’s, scientific research began demonstrating that sports have significant benefits. Early research focused on physical activity in team sports, but today, research is broader and looks at mental as well as physical changes. It also looks beyond team sports to include adventure/extreme sports like mountain biking, kayaking, base jumping, and (of course) scuba. The latest findings suggest that sports that give an adrenaline rush develop skills that apply to everyday life.

Life Lessons: Confidence, Self-Reliance, Self-Control

Adventure sports tend to be more individual and have a perceived higher degree of risk than competitive team sports. This helps participants learn to rely on themselves as they stretch beyond their comfort zones, which builds confidence. But, many adventure sports (including diving) have strong teamwork aspects, which develops socialisation and cooperative interaction skills much as do team sports.

Anecdotal and research evidence finds that adventure-sport participants tend to be calmer, more confident, mentally stronger, more self-disciplined and better able to handle stress situations. One study found that extreme sport participants who experience fear and close calls not only exhibited more ability to manage fear, but also more humility.

Connected to the Environment

Unlike field/stadium team sports, which are usually played on constructed ball fields, stadiums and parks, adventure sports take participants into the environment because almost all of them require relatively natural settings. The benefit of this is that adventure-sport participants tend to develop a positive, protective relationship with the environment because their activities are integrated with it rather than separated from it.

This social benefit, many argue, develops learners who are environmentally aware and sensitive, which is important because our collective future depends upon our relationship with the environment.

Old Dogs Do Learn New Tricks

Physical activity is known to benefit our health in our senior years, and now it seems that suitable mental challenges prevent – and in some ways can reverse – mental decline. Studies find that older adults who keep learning new skills tend to stay more active and enjoy better cognitive and memory performance. But, research finds that this learning must be challenging with demands on both thinking and memory.

Most adventure sports require new skills, planning, assessing conditions and social interaction, making them good fits for the purpose of helping slow mental decline in older adults, as well as providing physical activity. The limiting factor for seniors is the ability to meet the physical requirements of a given adventure sport.

The Takeaways

Of all adventure sports, diving is probably open to the widest range of age, culture, physical abilities and other demographic characteristics. It is likely the adventure sport with the widest access for senior participants. These characteristics make diving suited to offering benefits to divergent markets with differing, specialised interests and needs.

  1. You’re not just “teaching scuba.” You’re teaching skills that have broad personal applications. This can be a useful message when presenting learn-to-dive opportunities to different groups as well as individuals.
  2. Market these “extra” benefits. Especially with institutions like youth, senior and environmental groups, it is exactly these developmental and environmental connections that add a reason to participate in diving or allow you to offer it to their members.
  3. Target the “nonteamers.” Scuba will appeal to many people who can’t or don’t want to participate in team sports, yet offer many of the same benefits.
  4. Target the “teamers,” too. Diving will also appeal to people who do like team sports. Scuba gives such groups something more individual in nature that they can do together, with some distinct challenges and benefits.
  5. Continue education. Senior divers may feel like they “just” want to be PADI® Open Water Divers, but continuing education offers new, deeper mental challenges, socialization and physical activity – all associated with benefits for older adults.

References

  • Association for Psychological Science (2013) Learning new skills keeps an aging mind sharp. (psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/learning-new-skills-keeps-an-aging-mind-sharp.html)
  • English Outdoor Council. Values and benefits of outdoor education, training and recreation. (englishoutdoorcouncil.org/Values_and_benefits.htm)
  • Adventure sports. (learn.healthpro.com/adventure-sports/)
  • Mathis, B. (2017) What are the benefits of adventure sports? (livestrong.com/article/149821-what-are-the-benefits-of-adventure-sports/)
  • OMG Lifestyle (2017) Major health benefits of adventure sports. (omglifestyle.co.uk/major-health-benefits-adventure-sports/)
  • Scott, K. (2015) The surprising benefits of extreme sports. (coach.nine.com.au/2015/10/19/13/34/the-surprising-benefits-of-extreme-sports)
  • Smart Health Shop (2018) Surprising mental benefits of doing extreme sports. (blog.smarthealthshop.com/2018/04/10/surprising-mental-benefits-of-doing-extreme-sports/)
  • The health benefits of sport and physical activity.(sportanddev.org/en/learn-more/health/health-benefits-sport-and-physical-activity)
  • Vitelli, R (2012) Can lifelong learning help as we age? (psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201210/can-lifelong-learning-help-we-age)
  • The Wellness Seeker, Extreme sports benefits and health promotion. (thewellnessseeker.com/extreme-sports-benefits-health-promotion/)

A version of this article originally appeared in the 4th Quarter 2018 edition of The Undersea Journal®.

Education is Essential

Historian Daniel Boorstin once said, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know,” and that applies to the threats to our oceans and global environment. The threats are not always obvious. Before you protest that they are, let me put it this way. I agree that plastic debris are a major threat, but how can we educate our communities that this is the case? Many people on this planet may not have seen the plastic pollution in the world that we have. Maybe a littered beach, but how do folks learn that it’s a global, not local, problem? It is clear from data-driven temperature and climate graphs that average global temperatures are rising, but how do we help our communities accept that this is an urgent, very real problem – that the upward temperature change rate is unprecedented and has continued steadily since we’ve started measuring it? Similarly, we know that recycling helps, and dumping motor oil on the street hurts, but how do we know?

The reality is that it is difficult to see global problems and solutions alone because they’re too big. We make them visible together,communicating and consolidating what we learn locally into the worldwide mosaic that shows us what’s going on globally. It’s how we know the problems, their magnitude and what works or should work to solve them. The scale of global threats means that education isn’t merely important, but essential in bringing about the social changes needed to restore and protect the environment. Unless we’re taught, most of us can’t know about them, much less our roles in solving them.

Thankfully, education is happening and it works. In a previous blog, I highlighted PADI Pros who educate youngsters about threats to the seas and teach rising generations to prioritize ocean health – after all, saving the seas is really saving us. And, studies find that teaching conservation can start effectively establishing these essential values as young as age four.

In 2015, the Global Education Monitoring report published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) found that “improving knowledge, instilling values, fostering beliefs and shifting attitudes, education has considerable power to help individual reconsider environmentally harmful lifestyles and behavior.” Educating across age ranges is particularly important amid cultures that have not traditionally needed to worry about the environment, but fortunately, recognizing that today we all have to worry about it, a growing number of countries require environmental education, and it’s working. Among them, India has environmental education programs targeted for learners from preschool through adult. It’s estimated that since 2003, in some form or other, these programs have reached 300 million students. The results have been varied and mixed, but generally good and trending positive, these programs are shaping attitudes about individual behaviors, choices and sustainability.

Admittedly, some have questioned the ability to reshape values past adolescence, but a 2017 study in People’s Republic of China studied the effect of environmental education on 287 older (college age) students at Minzu University, Beijing, and found “notable positive effects on environmental attitude.” Beyond this study, China has demonstrated the difference education can make when it supports, and is supported by, government efforts and policy. Formerly the number one consumer of shark fin soup (shark fin soup accounts for about 73 million sharks killed annually), a Wild Aid report says that since 2011 consumption has fallen 80 percent in China.

According to the report, declines in public shark fin demand in China resulted from awareness campaigns (education) coupled with the government’s ban on it for official functions and general discouragement of consuming shark fin. Retired pro basketball player Yao Ming is particularly credited with helping through a highly publicized public education outreach in his home country. Apparently, many people living in China didn’t even know what shark fin soup is (the translated name is “fish-wing-soup”), but now surveys show that more than 90 percent support banning it.

Although this is good news for sharks, the Wild Aid report also shows that shark fin consumption is still high and increasing in other countries. Why? As many as half of the consumers/potential consumers are unaware that shark consumption is threatening the animals and poses health hazards. The fix? China shows that education – similar campaigns in these countries – would likely be a great start.

This highlights a crucial point: We’re not all scuba instructors, college professors nor school teachers, but we are all educators. Whether it’s a dinner conversation with friends or gently correcting misconceptions in social media, it’s our responsibility as the oceans’ ambassadors to inform and influence others to see and understand the problems, and how we can make better choices to keep Earth sustainable.

Don’t underestimate your influence in doing this – as a diver, you’ve seen the underwater world’s wonder and fragility, and likely some of the damage, first-hand. What you can teach is compelling, and passes the sustainability imperative to our rising generation of educators. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Save the Date – PADI Women’s Dive Day 2019

For the past four years PADI® Dive Centers, Resorts and Professional Members have hosted thousands of events in more than 100 countries to celebrate PADI Women’s Dive Day.

With record-breaking participation in 2018, the day brought together divers of all genders, ages and experience levels.

Be part of the fifth annual PADI Women’s Dive Day on 20 July 2019. Promote your business and strengthen both the local and global dive community by hosting an event.

Registration will open soon.

Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

Teaching Advanced Fun

Helping as a PADI assistant instructor or Divemaster isn’t much different in an Advanced Open Water diver course, but in many ways, it can be more satisfying.

As a certified assistant, you’re invaluable to instructors teaching the PADI Open Water Diver course – after all, helping instructors mold new divers is probably the most important role you’ll ever take on. But, taking those newly certified divers and helping them navigate the Advanced Open Water Diver course is just as valuable in its own way, and offers new challenges that may lead you to instructor and beyond.

The main challenge, of course, is becoming familiar with the specialties. Whether it’s for Adventure Dives such as Wreck, Boat, Underwater Navigation etc., you’re not just increasing teaching ratios for the instructor, you’re also able to act as an inwater supervisor during the course – and the more you know, the more helpful you’ll be.

“Many Adventure Dives allow indirect supervision by the instructor,” says Karl Shreeves, PADI Worldwide Technical Development Executive. “This allows a certified assistant to be in the water with student divers providing guidance and supervision. Of course, the instructor is still responsible for assessing performance.” With a few exceptions, as a certified assistant, you can take an active role in supervising Adventure Dives and guiding divers through completing tasks. And, with a few certified assistants, a PADI Instructor can run several different Adventure Dives at the same time.

For example, imagine you’re on a boat with an instructor who is running an Advanced Open Water Diver course. Four divers need to complete the Dry Suit Adventure Dive while two additional divers are doing the Boat Adventure Dive. During the open water dive, the instructor could supervise the four dry suit divers and assess performance of the various buoyancy control skills. You could dive with the other two divers. The key inwater skills for the Boat Dive are navigating to and from the boat, making a safety stop and deploying a surface marker buoy. By coordinating with the instructor, you could make sure the divers navigate back the boat to meet up with the other group near the end of the dive. All divers ascend with you and the instructor, performing the required safety stop together, and then your two divers complete the surface marker buoy skill for the instructor to assess.

Taking things a step further, on some Adventure Dives you can even be the one to assess performance. An Assistant Instructor can teach the Peak Performance Buoyancy course – the first dive of which counts as an Adventure Dive – under the direction of an instructor (meaning an instructor is available, ready to answer questions or help with any issues). PADI Divemasters and Assistant Instructors, after completing instructor training and earning the Specialty Instructor rating, can also conduct the Digital Underwater Photographer course under the direction of an instructor.

It’s rewarding to introduce new divers to scuba diving, but assisting with the Advanced Open Water Diver course offers a change of pace. It enhances your experiences in teaching situations, and you watch the new divers you helped teach grow into more experienced divers.

Mostly, though, assisting an instructor teaching Advanced Open Water Diver is fun and it adds to diver safety. And that’s a win-win, in anyone’s book.

The meaning of agency

Many PADI Professionals seem to be confused about the reason for the required Non-Agency Acknowledgement and Agreement in PADI training programs. The legal concept of agency is something many of us may never have even heard of, much less have considered as a part of our day-to-day professional lives.

In general terms, agency is the concept that a business may be found to be responsible for the acts of others, such as its employees (this is common, something we all probably take for granted). This also means, however, that when a business entity (typically a supplier) controls the actions of another business or individual service provider (such as may be the case in a franchise), the controlling business may be found to be responsible for the actions of the controlled business/individual and the employees of that business/individual.

The PADI organization has long defined the membership’s legal relationship within the organization in membership agreements. The concept of agency is and has been part of those agreements for quite some time as a matter of responsible legal clarity. In the two PADI membership agreements, one for dive businesses and the other for individual members, the following texts appear:

Individual Member:

  1. I understand and agree that this Agreement does not create an agency relationship between PADI and me. Except as otherwise provided in this Membership Agreement, PADI has no control over or involvement with my day-to-day operations and activities and bears no responsibility for the
    same.

Retail and Resort Member:

  1. I understand and agree that this Agreement does not create an agency relationship between my facility and PADI. Except as otherwise provided in this Membership Agreement, PADI has no control over or involvement with my facility’s day-to-day operations and activities and bears no responsibility for the same.

Within the PADI Membership, there is little likelihood of confusion.  Dive stores don’t picture themselves as franchises, subsidiaries or legal business partners of PADI, nor do individual members consider themselves to be PADI employees. However, the critical legal issue is not what we professionals know to be the case, but what consumers may perceive. It is therefore a responsible business practice to make certain the actual relationship – what it is and what it is not – relative to the agency concept is made clear to your students and customers.

For this purpose, the Non-agency Acknowledgement Agreement was created. Similar information appears throughout PADI materials, products and information sources, including diver manuals and videos, on websites, on member business cards and more. Making this issue clear is simply good business practice for us, and a useful, ethical clarification for the consumers we serve.

Dive Fatalities – The Role of Violations of Good Diving Practices

Written by Al Hornsby

As a dive professional, you’re well aware of the importance of following good diving practices during all dive activities. You teach this in courses, have students sign the Safe Diving Practices form and remind divers of safe procedures during dive activities. From all the attention given, you’d expect that respect for good practices – especially among experienced divers – would be so ingrained that the occurrence of deliberate “violations” leading to dive fatalities would be fairly unusual. Well, “expect” again.

Recent Research

A recent study, “Violations of Safe Diving Practices Among 122 Diving Fatalities,” published in International Maritime Health, carried out and written by Karl Shreeves, Peter Buzzacot, Al Hornsby and Mark Caney, investigated the relationship between intentional deviation from accepted diving practices and diver fatalities. The authors examined 119 incidents/122 diver fatalities in North America and the Caribbean, which did not involve diver training, and identified the presence of violations of accepted safe diving practices, as well as whether the deaths were associated with an acute medical event.

The results were very interesting in a number of ways. First, it was found that 57 percent of fatalities were associated with an acute medical event. Because a large segment of the existing diver population is aging, the incidence of medically related dive incidents has been steadily rising. In fact, it was determined that the odds of a death being associated with a medical condition increased approximately nine percent per year of age, or 2.4 times for every 10 years of age. The study delved as deeply as possible into the specific incident causes and discovered that medically related triggers might be even more frequent than previously assumed, as they might be masked by secondary impacts, such as drowning on the surface following a difficult-to-determine cardiac event.

The Most Interesting Finding

The most interesting finding was that 23 percent of medically related fatalities and 75 percent of nonmedical fatalities involved violations of safe diving practice. The sad aspect of this is it means most of these tragedies were possibly avoidable.

The medically related incident violations often involved diving against a doctor’s orders or with known conditions, such as existing cardiac problems. The nonmedical violation causes ran the gamut of simple, basic issues including:

  • Not doing a predive safety check before jumping in with an empty cylinder.
  • Having a regulator attached to the diluent cylinder.
  • Not doing a pre-breathe with a rebreather.
  • Diving deeper than one’s training or experience.
  • Diving solo or continuing to dive after buddy separation without being trained or experienced in solo diving.
  • Entering overhead environments without the proper training, -experience or equipment

Divers who died from something other than a medical cause were seven times as likely to have one or more violations associated with the fatality.

An Interesting Side-finding

One interesting side-finding, with -surprising frequency, involved this scenario:

It’s a lovely dive, buddies or a group are swimming along, everyone has plenty of air, and one diver calmly signals that he wants to go up. The buddy signals “Are you OK?” and the diver indicates OK, but just wants to go back to the boat. The buddy accompanies him to the surface and signals the boat, which begins heading over (or takes him to just under the boat), then heads back down to continue the dive. In the brief moments before the diver can climb the ladder, he is apparently disabled by a medical event, slumps forward into the water, adding drowning to the incident.

Not only does this complicate rescue efforts, but it appears that sometimes medical evaluation concludes drowning rather than a debilitating medical event as the cause (with unfortunate negative effects on the potential for – and the defense of – litigation).

Divers should be aware of this and consider that someone ending an otherwise normal, fun dive for no clear reason might be experiencing vague, but unclear, symptoms of a medical event. Perhaps a way to avoid the potential for these situations is simply to honor the buddy system, and if one buddy wants to end the dive, they stay together all the way back to the boat or shore.

Whether teaching or supervising, remind your divers that established, good dive practices – much like speed limits and seat belts – do prevent accidents and protect divers. It is not just words and formality to teach and remind divers of these critical skills and procedures. We are all helping to establish patterns of behavior that, as now empirically established, can prevent dive accidents from occurring.

A version of this article that originally appeared in the 4th Quarter 2018 edition of The Undersea Journal®.

Earfuls of Trouble

Written by DAN Staff

Ear injuries make up the overwhelming majority of medical complaints from divers. It makes sense because we put our ears through a lot of stress in a dive, and that especially applies to professionals who are up and down, and in and out of the water all day long.

In the first metre/three feet of a descent your ears experience 10 percent greater pressure than they did at the surface. At two metres/six feet that percentage doubles, and at four metres/10 feet there is enough pressure to rupture ear drums, burst blood vessels and draw fluid into our inner ears. Despite this, many divers equalize their ears as an afterthought, or forget to equalize as they try to keep up with others divers while descending.

Ear injuries can occur quickly and without notice, but by firmly establishing the importance of equalization early and often during training, you can help your student divers avoid trouble. Let’s review the most common ear injuries, so you can give your students an “earful” of good information.

Perforated Eardrum

A rupture of the tympanic membrane, or eardrum, is generally the result of a failure to equalize the middle ear, or a too-forceful Valsalva maneuver. The condition often presents with pain, although the rupture may relieve the feeling of pressure on the ear. Vertigo may follow. Most perforations will heal spontaneously within a few weeks, although some cases may require surgical repair. Factors like congestion, inadequate training, and excessive descent rates can increase a diver’s risk of eardrum perforation.

Inner-Ear Barotrauma

Like an eardrum perforation, inner-ear barotrauma can be caused by a failure to equalize, or an inappropriately aggressive Valsalva maneuver. A significant differential between external and middle-ear pressure can cause an outward bulging of the round window of the ear, which can cause inner-ear injuries without a rupture. Should the round window rupture, the loss of fluid in the inner ear can lead to damage of the hearing and balance organs, and surgical repair may be required. Divers with inner-ear barotrauma often experience severe vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, a feeling of fullness in their ear, and involuntary eye movements known as nystagmus.

Middle-Ear Barotrauma

A middle-ear barotrauma is a condition in which pressure in the tympanic cavity (the air-filled space in the middle ear) is significantly lower than the pressure outside of the ear, resulting in a relative vacuum that causes the eardrum to bulge inward, the tissue of the ear to swell, and the fluid and blood from ruptured vessels to leak into the tympanic cavity. This can be caused by a failure to equalize or an obstruction of the Eustachian tubes on descent. Divers with middle-ear barotrauma will generally report initial discomfort that may intensify to severe pain and the feeling of clogged or stuffy ears.

Facial Baroparesis

Facial baroparesis is the reversible paralysis of the facial nerve due to increased pressure in the middle-ear, which in some individuals can stop circulation to a facial nerve that is located close to the ear. This can happen while flying or diving, and symptoms usually include numbness, tingling, weakness,and paralysis of the face. Facial droop can sometimes be seen and  cause concern, but facial baroparesis often resolves spontaneously. Divers who exhibit symptoms of facial baroparesis should seek medical attention to rule out other serious conditions.

PADI’s Mission 2020 Pledge: Join Us!

PADI’s long-standing commitment to ocean conservation began more than 25 years ago with the formation of Project AWARE® Foundation. In 2017, the PADI Pillars of Change were introduced to increase awareness of issues affecting our ocean communities, and to mobilise PADI® Professionals and divers to act together as a catalyst for positive change. Now, the PADI organization is integrating the Mission 2020 effort to reduce plastics in the ocean into its overall commitment to ocean health and corporate citizenship ethos.

Aligning with PADI’s belief that greater change can be affected when working together, Mission 2020 is a collection of pledges from organisations within the diving community to change business practices to protect and preserve the ocean for the future. With a primary focus on single-use plastics, the project sets ambitious targets of changes to be made before World Oceans Day 2020.

PADI’s Mission 2020 Pledge

As PADI moves towards a fully integrated and digital learning system, we will lessen our dependency on plastics and packaging, thereby mitigating the plastic footprint of PADI Professionals and the million divers certified each year. To broaden our impact even further, PADI is committed to rallying our 6,600 Dive Centres and Resorts to reduce their use of single-use plastics by the year 2020. We invite everyone to make a pledge and to change their business practices in support of a clean and healthy ocean.

“We are passionate about creating a preferred view of the future in healthier oceans. We have a strong legacy of environmental conservation behind us and a robust roadmap for continued progress that will drive our force for good responsibility well into the future. This is the foundation of PADI’s Mission 2020 pledge, and it is our hope that this project will inspire the PADI community to make immediate commitments that will lead to lasting change.’ – Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide

Why You Should Make a 2020 Commitment

It’s good for the planet – Changing your business practices to reduce plastics is good for the ocean and good for us too. Let’s protect the places we love to dive and make sure they are healthy for future generations.

It will enhance your business – Consumers are proud to attach themselves to a business with purpose. Show your customers that you care about the ocean and they will reward you with their loyalty.

It’s good for the dive industry – If we come together as an industry to protect our ocean planet, we set a good example for other businesses to follow. If a clean, healthy ocean is our goal, we need all the help we can get.

PADI’s Mission 2020 pledge to reduce plastic with help restore ocean health. Join us in protecting the underwater world we love.

Impactful Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use

  • Prevent debris from getting into the ocean! Remove single use plastics like water bottles, plastic bags and plastic cups from your shop and dive boats.
  • Work with your local community to organise joint beach and underwater clean-up events. This effort brings awareness to everyone about how individual behaviors positively impact our environment.
  • Set monthly and yearly clean up goals for your local dive sites. Log the debris on the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris® App to contribute to data collection that could influence new ocean-friendly policies.
  • Protect your local waters and Adopt a Dive Site™. It’s the ideal way to engage in ongoing, local protection and monitoring of our underwater playgrounds.
  • Carry sustainably made merchandise in your dive centre or resort. Make sure tee shirts, hoodies and other branded goods come from eco-friendly suppliers and are made from non-plastic materials or from recycled plastic fibers.
  • Make the switch to PADI eLearning® and improve your carbon footprint. Going digital reduces production of plastic materials and removes the need for shipping.

Make a Mission 2020 Pledge

All members of the dive community are encouraged to make a Mission 2020 pledge. And what a great time to align your pledge with your 2019 New Year’s resolutions! Whether sustainability is already a key component of your business model or you’re just getting started, we encourage you to join in by making adjustments (big and small) to your business practices in support of a clean and healthy ocean. See what others in the industry have pledged on Mission 2020’s Who’s In page.

We believe that the global PADI family is a force for good that can help play a critical role in protecting and preserving our oceans for the future if we all make conservation a priority at our places of business.

Pledge Now