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I joined DAN, the Divers’ Alert Network September 19, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies, Technical Diving.
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Living in a country where health care is included in our tax bill, and working for companies that provided out-of-country health insurance and other benefits, as a certified diver I refrained from joining DAN, the Diver’s Alert Network, for 28 years.

This changed in late August for two reasons. The first was that I was about to attempt a wreck called the “Roy A. Jodrey”, which lies on the New York side of the St. Lawrence River at a depth of 140’ to 240’. The dive plan called for a maximum depth of 180 feet and I felt more comfortable having DAN insurance in case I ran into trouble there. While I’m confident that my out-of-country health insurance would have covered the cost eventually, I expected that the local facilities on the USA side would recognize DAN and perhaps cut down on the time taken to initiate treatment. I’ll describe that dive in a future post, as it didn’t turn out quite like we expected.

The second reason was their offering of the audio and presentations from the DAN Technical Diving Conference in January 2008. If you’re interested in the state of the art of diving, whether it be rebreathers at 200 plus metres or the latest information on decompression or Oxygen toxicity, this is well worth the price of membership. While you don’t have to join to download the video and .pps (read-only PowerPoint presentations), members can get a DVD with Quicktime movies of the presentations which are better quality than the downloaded versions. I discovered this gem from the Rubicon Foundation web site, which is described in an earlier post.

I learnt a lot of new stuff from this material, and I applaud DAN for making it available so freely. It’s full of fascinating information and most importantly contradicted some of my training, refining my knowledge of handling emergency situations. I hope there is another conference in 2009. I might even go.

Another resource DAN provides for free download are the annual diving reports. Like they say in aviation “Learn from the mistakes of others, you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself”. Some of the saddest I’ve read are the divers who are woefully out of shape and have heart attacks under water (diving can be physically demanding and stressful) or who are on a cocktail of medications that are contraindicated for diving and drown for unexplained reasons.

I completely understand and sympathize with divers who are so eager that they gloss over health problems rather than stop diving. I have less understanding why they wouldn’t be motivated to deal with these problems with diet and exercise, quitting smoking, moderate drinking or abstinence, and so forth. OK, so maybe I’m being a bit extreme, but taking glee in abusing their bodies is a kind of macho pride with some individuals. Diving motivates me to take care of myself, and the older I get the more I want and need to do so. I don’t want to deteriorate to point I can no longer dive anytime soon.

Whew! Glad to get that off my chest – and don’t get me wrong, I don’t look down on these divers and some of them are my friends. I just hope I don’t have to recover their bodies some day. But don’t forget about DAN – its an amazing service and cheap to join.

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