Medical Emergencies Abroad

Best Practices for International Diving Incident Preparedness

Divers have the unique opportunity to explore remote areas of our ocean planet. Unfortunately, a dive trip can quickly turn into a misadventure with expensive consequences.

One of the best ways to handle a diving emergency abroad is by being prepared for the worst-case scenario. Imagine you or your dive buddy are diving off a remote island and one of you feels numbness or tingling in your extremities after a dive.

– How and where will you access emergency care?

– What policy numbers, medical history, or other information will you need?

– Will your insurance cover the cost of emergency transportation and treatment?

– If the injured diver cannot return home as scheduled, how will you pay for the additional lodging, airline change fees for the diver and any traveling companions?

Here are some steps you can take in advance of any international dive trip to be prepared when every minute counts.

1. Contact Your Insurance Provider

Contact your insurance provider and find out what medical expenses are covered (and excluded) when traveling. Specifically ask about coverage for scuba diving accidents and emergency medical evacuation. Some medical and travel insurance policies do not cover injuries resulting from scuba diving.

  • Emergency evacuation coverage is essential for divers traveling abroad. If an accident occurs, evacuation by helicopter may be the only option. Many diving destinations are as beautiful as they are remote.
  • Read the fine print of any policy which offers coverage for divers. One major travel insurance provider excludes coverage for dives below 50 feet (15m), or if you are not accompanied by a Divemaster.

2. Know How and Where to Get Help

Know how and where to get help by researching the contact info for the nearest emergency services in the area where you’ll be traveling. Carry a printed copy of this information, including directions from where you’re staying to the nearest emergency care facility. It’s important to note that a local hospital should be your primary destination in the event of a diving accident, not a hyperbaric chamber.

  • Hospitals and urgent care facilities have an unlimited supply of oxygen, intravenous fluids and medications.
  • A physician/emergency care provider needs to rule out other illnesses such as pneumothorax (collapsed lung), myocardial infarction (heart attack), and neurological and musculoskeletal injuries with symptoms similar to DCI.
  • An injured patient needs to be stabilized before and during transport and should be transferred under medical supervision.
  • Transporting a diver without a proper evaluation may adversely affect the diver’s health and treatment outcome.

3. Share Your Travel Details and Copies of Important Documents

Share your travel details and copies of important documents with a trusted friend or family member back home. Collect the information below and make two copies. Travel with one copy, and leave the second copy with someone you trust.

  • Names, address and phone numbers of where you’re staying
  • Phone number(s) to report a lost or stolen credit card
  • Health insurance cards and a contact info for your insurance provider
  • Copies of any prescriptions
  • The number for DAN’s Emergency Hotline +1-919-684-9111
  • A local phone number for local emergency medical services
  • Contact information of someone you know in the area, or a traveling companion

4. Always Dive Within the Limits of Your Training

During your dive trip, always dive within the limits of your training and experience. It’s never okay to exceed your individual limits, and it’s especially dangerous in remote destinations, or areas where you don’t speak the language.

Be Prepared With DAN Dive Accident Insurance

Accidents don’t take vacations. Without proper insurance coverage, a hard-earned dive vacation can quickly nosedive into an unbelievably expensive education on the cost of accessing emergency medical care, particularly for dive-specific injuries, in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. Dive insurance is a turnkey way to ensure you’re prepared for a scuba diving emergency abroad.

  • The average cost for an air ambulance was US$20,000.
  • Hyperbaric treatment costs vary, but US$800/hr is not unusual, and many diving injuries require multiple hours over multiple days.

DAN membership with a preferred insurance plan is less than US$10/mo* which includes US$150,000 in medical evacuation coverage. This coverage applies to both diving and non-diving medical emergencies.

In addition to paying for medical expenses not covered by your primary insurer, DAN Dive Accident Insurance covers the cost for your traveling companion (and/or children) to return home if they cannot use their original airline tickets due to a medical emergency. If a DAN Member is traveling alone with their children, a qualified travel escort will be provided at no charge if necessary. Additionally, if you’re traveling alone and must be hospitalized for more than seven consecutive days, DAN will arrange and pay for economy round-trip airfare for a visitor to travel to the site of hospitalization.

Lastly, when you purchase DAN Dive Accident Insurance, you support the organization that supports divers. DAN promotes diver safety education, assists physicians receiving their first-ever diving injury patient, and maintains the DAN Emergency Hotline – available 24/7 for the entire diving community.

Join DAN