The Pre-Dive Safety Check for Scuba Diving

A diver laughing on a scuba boat

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Do you consider flying dangerous? Most people will agree that while there are certain risks associated with flying, traveling by plane is fairly safe. One of the reasons that air travel has a fantastic safety record is that pilots complete a long checklist to make sure that a plane is working properly before it ever leaves the ground. Scuba divers have a similar checklist, the pre-dive safety check (or buddy check), to review their scuba gear before hopping into the water. Thankfully, scuba equipment is much less complicated than an airplane, and once a diver becomes comfortable using the pre-dive safety check, reviewing scuba gear before a dive takes only a matter of seconds. The Safety Check is Completed With the Dive Buddy

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Why Perform a Pre-Dive Safety Check?

Scuba Divers Converse on a Boat
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Most divers check their scuba gear as they are assembling it. Why is it necessary to check the equipment again before entering the water?

Performed Once a Diver is Wearing Their Gear

Between the time that a diver sets up his scuba equipment and the time that he rolls off the boat, a number of changes may be made to his gear. "Helpful" crew may close the tank valve so that air is not lost during travel to the dive site. A bumpy boat ride may shift gear around and damage or disorganize it. Even donning the scuba gear may cause some of the hoses to become entangled. The pre-dive safety check is a last-minute review to make sure that all of the gear is still functioning properly and arranged to the diver's satisfaction.

The Safety Check is Completed With the Dive Buddy

A diver may be one-hundred percent certain that his gear is perfectly assembled, but does he have the same level of confidence in his buddy's gear? Consider that if a diver's buddy has an equipment-related problem underwater, it is the diver who has to help him. This can delay or even ruin a dive. Using the pre-dive safety check in buddy teams familiarizes the divers with each other's gear, helping them to assist each other efficiently in the unlikely event of an emergency. A good dive buddy may also catch small mistakes in equipment assembly that his partner has overlooked.

Zen and the Art of Scuba Diving

Crowded dive boats and dive sites can be disorienting, full of divers hustling about in excited anticipation. The pre-dive safety check helps divers to stop, focus on their gear, and enter the diver mind set before jumping in the water. I find the pre-dive safety check is a great way to mentally prepare a diver to enter the underwater world.

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The Five Steps of the Pre-Dive Safety Check

The Five Steps of the Pre-Dive Safety Check
Natalie L Gibb

A standard pre-dive safety check consists of five steps. As an instructor, I have found that it helps divers to run through the steps of the pre-dive safety check in the same order before every dive. Divers are less likely to forget a step when they use a methodical system. The steps of the pre-dive safety check are:

1. Buoyancy Compensator
2. Weights
3. Releases
4. Air
5. Final Okay

PADI uses an acronym to help divers remember the steps in order –
Begin With Review And Friend
Creative dive instructors around the world have come up with other acronyms to remember the check, some more politically correct than others.

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B: Check Your Buoyancy Compensator

Scuba divers setting up and checking equipment on a dock.

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The first step of the pre-dive safety check is to check the divers' buoyancy compensators (BCDs) for function and to make sure that both BCDs are inflated before the divers jump in the water.

Inflate your BCD to make sure that the inflator button works, and then check each of the BCD's deflators to confirm that they function, and that the dump/pull strings are unencumbered. While checking your own gear, your buddy should be checking his. Visually confirm that your buddy's BCD inflates and deflates, and note the position of the inflator and deflator mechanisms in case you need to assist your buddy in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Once you and your buddy confirm that each other's BCD functions properly, make sure to inflate the BCD enough that you will be able to float on the surface when you enter the water. Check that your buddy does the same.

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W: Check Your Weights

Scuba Divers Checking Their Weights During the Pre-Dive Safety Check
Natalie L Gibb

The second step of the pre-dive safety check is confirmation that the divers' weight systems are in place. First, check to make sure that each diver is wearing his weight system (whether it is a weight belt or integrated weights). Then, confirm that the quick-release system for the weights is visible and unencumbered.

A diver wearing a weight belt should check that it is oriented as a right-hand release (the diver wearing the belt can pull it open using just his right hand), that the free end is visible, and that the belt is clear of other gear so that it can fall away easily when opened.

If a diver is using an integrated weight system, make sure that the weight pockets are inserted securely into the buoyancy compensator (BCD). Next, confirm that both divers understand how to release the weights in an emergency, as quick releases for integrated weight systems vary according to the type of BCD.

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R : Check Your Releases

Scuba divers check their BCD releases during the pre-dive safety check
Natalie L Gibb

The third step of the pre-dive safety check is to check the buoyancy compensator's (BCD's) releases to make sure that they are snug. Tug on each of the releases to confirm that that clips are correctly closed and that the straps are adequately tightened. Each diver should check his buddy's gear to confirm that the tank band connecting the BCD to the scuba tank is snapped closed, and that the band is tight enough that the tank will not slide out once the diver jumps in the water.

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A: Check Your Air and Regulators

Scuba Divers Check Their Regulators and Air During the Pre-Dive Safety Check
Natalie L Gibb

The fourth step of the pre-dive safety check is to confirm that the regulator is functioning properly, that the tank valve is open, and that the scuba tanks are full.

Each diver takes his pressure gauge in hand, confirms the tank pressure (a full tank is close to 3000 psi or 200 bar), and then breathes from his regulator several times while watching the pressure gauge needle. As long as the pressure gauge needle does not drop significantly (to nearly zero after three or four breaths), the tank valve is open. Confirm that the regulator breathes comfortably and easily.

Next, each diver should explain to his buddy where his alternate air source (or alternative second stage) is located and how it deploys. Breathe a few times from the alternate air source to confirm that it functions, and watch your buddy do the same.

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F: The Final Okay

Scuba Divers Make a Final Okay During the Pre-Dive Safety Check
Natalie L Gibb

Now that the each diver has confirmed that his gear is functioning properly, the last step of the pre-dive safety check is to glance over the gear and make sure that everything is in place. Are all the hoses secured in their proper positions? Are both divers wearing fins and masks? Have both divers remembered to take their sunglasses and hats off? Yes? Then you are good to go! Have a great dive!

Special thanks to Natalie Novak and Ivan Perez of for taking the time out of their busy teaching and diving schedule in Mexico to help me with the photos!