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Cheat Sheet

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling For Dummies

Make sure your underwater dive experience is fun and safe by learning the basic hand signals used in scuba diving and snorkeling and going through an equipment and procedure safety check before your dive with your scuba diving buddy.

Common Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Hand Signals

Once you get the attention of your scuba diving buddy, usually done by rapping on your tank with a hard object, use these hand signals to communicate the most common messages underwater:

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Scuba Dive Buddy Check

Having a buddy when you scuba dive is a foolproof way to stay safe. Dive buddies stick together during a dive, help each other put on and check equipment, monitor depth and air, and help each other in case of an emergency. Do the following equipment and procedure checks with your scuba diving buddy:

Procedure check

Before you enter the water, make sure that you and your buddy have discussed a few of the following ground rules:

  • Establish entry and exit points and techniques.

  • Choose a course to follow.

  • Agree on a maximum time and depth limit.

  • Establish and review communication procedures.

  • Establish an agreed-upon air pressure for returning to the surface.

  • Discuss the technique that you'll use to stay together.

  • Agree on what to do if you're separated.

  • Discuss what to do if an emergency arises.

Equipment check

After you're suited up for the dive, check your buddy's equipment and have your buddy check you, too

  1. Check the BC. The BC must be snugly adjusted, with all releases firmly secured. Also check to see that the BC — including the low-pressure inflator and the oral inflator — operates properly.

  2. Check the weight belt. The weight belt should have a right-hand release, and be free and clear of other equipment and straps for easy, fast, one-hand removal.

  3. Check all releases. You should be familiar with the operation and location of all of the releases on your buddy's equipment.

  4. Check the air supply. Check that the air is turned on, the tank pressure is somewhere near 3,000 psi (pounds per square inch), and the regulator is functioning. Make sure the hoses aren't tangled or trapped by straps. Know where the alternate air source is and how it's used.

  5. Give the final okay. After completing Steps 1 through 4, give an overall inspection, looking for dangling straps and missing equipment.

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