Safety Stop

The first place I ever dove after certification was Bermuda. On one boat dive we were briefed by the divemaster in preparation for our first dive. He asked if there were any questions.

"Yeah, should we make a safety stop", I asked. Fresh out of my checkout dives, I couldn't remember the rules for when to make a safety stop.

The divemaster scoffed at me. "We'll hardly be going deep enough to require a safety stop."

Safety Stop
Fast forward a few years. I've read a mountain of material for fun and as part of my professional development. Looking back on this occasion, what would I have done knowing what I know now? I most definitely would've made a safety stop.

In case it's been a while since you've had one, a safety stop is an approximately three minute stop made at 15-20 feet (5-7 meters) at the end of a dive. For deeper dives greater than 60 feet / 20 meters, they are usually considered a requirement, and optional for anything less.

The idea is that this brief time at a relatively shallow depth will eliminate a large amount of microbubbles, an effect strongly correlated with decompression sickness. Studies have shown that a safety stop eliminates virtually all detectable bubbles, decreasing the chances of decompression sickness drastically.

I'm sold.

In fact, unless I'm short on air or in a hurry, I always make a safety stop. Even for 50 foot dives. If you have a proven way to decrease your risk, why would you not?

I don't blame the Bermuda divemaster for what he said. If there is ever a time when it is perfectly reasonable to forego a safety stop, it is on the first dive of the day (unless it's a deep dive). Nevertheless, I see no reason to scoff at the suggestion, as they are something everyone should take seriously and include in their dive planning.

Photo by tslane888