Choosing A Dive Centre
When buying or choosing diver education there are some fundamental issues to which you should focus your attention and not necessarily ask "How much is your course".
Diving or Sub-Aqua is a thrilling, challenging and relaxing sport. It is also one that requires patience to learn, a degree of self-awareness and the ability to gain confidence and skills relevant to the environment in which you are placing yourself.
Is the first question that should be asked be" How much is the course?" we believe not. Let me ask you a question "Is safety your primary concern" after all it should be.
Would you make a jump out of an aeroplane without a parachute? I wouldn't, as that would be reckless, stupid, and unsafe! The same goes for diving. You want the best equipment, you want an environment that is safe, and you want to be trained well and by people you trust.
It's Not about Cost - It's about value for money
Whilst generally, costs for dive courses tend not to vary that much within geographic areas, the quality of training and its flexibility does. Dive schools have profit margins like any other business. You need to ensure you fully understand a like for like offer.
For example; a price matched or “cheaper” Open Water Course may seem easier on the wallet however, ask yourself:
What is it that you are NOT getting with one that you do the other?
- Is ALL of the equipment you require included, or do you have to purchase or hire some or all of it yourself?
- Is all of the equipment NEW and / or regularly serviced?
- What level of experience do your instructors have?
- What flexibility exists for pool sessions and open water schedules?
- Will you have to pay to reschedule any dates?
- Are you fixed to a Dive Centres training timescales, or do they arrange the dates around your availability?
- What is their insurance cover?
- Are they telling you the truth in relation to their diving experience?
- Are they someone from whom you can learn?
- What is the size of the group in Confined Water (pool) and Open Water?
- How will the training be delivered? - Kneeling (not diving) or as a diver midwater, neutrally buoyant, and moving (diving)?
As a new diver, you are putting yourself in an environment that presents significant challenges. Here in the UK, you’re diving in an environment that has factors beyond those in sunnier climates. Your instructor must be able to demonstrate significant experience of the waters in which not only you plan to learn but also in water that you plan to dive in.
Does your instructor dive only in a teaching / training environment, or do they dive for pleasure so that they continue expanding their own diving knowledge and experience?
It isn’t sufficient to learn based purely on standards of the certifying agency. The experience, insight, mistakes and achievements of your instructor and their team allow SSI/PADI/BSAC/RAID or other agency standards to be achieved in a context of “look, I have done this, I’ve seen this” type of teaching.
How is the Training completed?
How much time will you spend learning the skills on your knees? Ask yourself Is that diving? When learning to dive, that is what you should do - dive. Sounds really obvious, does it not? But there are so many instructors teaching a student in a stationary position, with hardly anytime spent actually diving. Then what happens when you want to clear your mask after you qualify, but there is no nice sandy bottom for you to kneel on (and potentially kill anything in that space anyway)? This is not diving.
All training agencies now talk about training being completed in a neutral or diving position, but Dive Centres and instructors are still taking what they consider the easy route of making their trainees kneel. This does not make good quality and safe divers in our opinion.
Diving is about buoyancy being able to relax, look and if an animal invites you to, to interact with the underwater world, even as a 'learner' you should be able to do this. You should be able to demonstrate the ability to do this and be given the time to practise and become comfortable.
If the response is BUT IT IS EASIER, ask yourself easier for who, the instructor! remember you are the student, an instructors role is to make you the BEST you can be as well as the SAFEST diver, its not about the instructor making it EASIER for themselves!
All of our students learn to dive - if you want to know about some of the skills you will be doing, then you can see for yourself by taking a look at our Youtube videos
What equipment will you be using? Do you have to purchase your own equipment, or is that included in the price, or is it an extra hire charge?
When going to Open Water, will your Instructor be in a drysuit and you a wetsuit? Ask yourself... IF your instructor feels they should be diving in a Drysuit why are they not extending the same courtesy to you the student diver - do not accept "Its easier for you the new diver to learn in a wetsuit or Your buoyancy will be easier"...
All Students at Dive Rutland are trained prior to going into open water to dive in a drysuit, so when you go to Open Water you benefit from the many advantages of wearing a drysuit, the primary reason is for comfort and warmth. A dive in 10 degrees of water in an ill-fitting wetsuit is neither comfortable or enjoyable. Diving is enjoyable with the right equipment!
Is the equipment being used, NEW and / or regularly serviced in accordance with the manufacturers and HSE recommendations? Are the servicing records available if you ask?
Is the equipment to be used CE Marked? The CE mark is required for all new products that are subject to one or more of the European product safety directives. It is a visible sign that the manufacturer of the product is declaring conformity with all of the Directives relating to that product.
Is the air quality in accordance with the air purity required by HSE and being tested at a maximum of every three months with the results clearly displayed?
How clean is the bathroom? When we were children, we used to have all of our holidays under canvas. Mum and Dad would do the planning, choose a campsite and off we would go. BUT, on arriving at any campsite, the first place Dad would go would not be reception to check in, but to the toilet block.
He would check out the toilets and, based on what he saw / found, would determine whether we would check in or move on. His words were, if they can't look after the toilets, what else is wrong!
Learn at Your Speed
You want to learn at your rate don't you? if you want to go quicker and meet the performance requirements to allow you to, you should not have to wait for that student who needs a little more time... but then again, if that is you, then you do not want to feel pressured to master something and be scared or apprehensive. You want to take that extra time to master the skill, then take the time!
Here at Dive Rutland, our maximum group size is two, unless a small family group wants to train together. But we generally then end up splitting you up into smaller groups just because of the scenario described.
Some divers require mentoring. Mentoring is needed from an instructional point of view simply to ensure that you, the diver, have every opportunity to explore and survive the environment they’re in. You may not know at the start that you need mentoring. You may never know. But if you do, you will also realise that mentoring is critical to enable you to enjoy the sport. Look at your instructor(s) and ask yourself if you wish you could be able to do what they do.
Dive centres/schools can claim what they wish in relation to their achievements, their staff, their experience, and their output. However you’ll never know for sure whether this information is true or not, simply because the information is not publicly available.
There are, however, a range of checks that you can do:
- Ask them to show you their certification count. It’s an easy thing for the instructor to do. They can log on to their agencies online profile and look up their experience of teaching.
- If they are a PADI instructor, then ask for their instructor number prior to booking your course. By using their number, for example, mine is 632622. You can Pro Check them and see what level of instructor they are and whether or not they are authorised to teach.
- If they are an SSI instructor, they will not be able to be assigned to teach you if they are not in status as the SSI system automatically handles this.
- Is the Dive Centre and all members of the instructing team insured? Ask for a copy of their Public liability insurance certificate, particularly if it is not visible within the Dive Centre. In the UK, this is a legal requirement. In other countries their requirements vary.
- Does each member of the team hold a current HSE Diving Medical to prove that they are medically fit to undertake the role?
- Does the team undergo regular (minimum yearly) in-water Rescue reviews, i.e., are they Emergency ready
- Does the team monitor their own fitness?
Remember, if anything does go wrong, the team needs to be able to handle the situation.
Have all of the Dive Centres staff been through a full disclosure with the Disclosure Barring Service?
Do not be to swayed by PADI Dive Centres who advertise as PADI Approved youth training centres. This can only be achieved by PADI Dive Centres who ONLY undertake PADI Training. So if a dive centre offers PADI and another agencies courses, it does not mean the policies and procedures are not in place or being corrrectly monitored.
Some of the following policies that should be in place and available for you to read are:
The Child Protection Policy.
Is their Safeguarding for Parents document / policy freely available for you to read and have a copy of?
UK Dive Centres, Diving Professionals and HSE
Here in the UK, all Dive Centres and Dive professionals must work under the Training Frameworks of their chosen training agencies as well as the Health and Safety Executive.
The Health and Safety – Diving at Work Regulations 1997, approved Code of Practise and Guidance. This document covers both the instruction and guiding of people diving for recreational purposes where at least one person taking part is at work, for example, as an instructor.
This regulation applies to all recreational diving projects within the 12-mile limit of territorial waters adjacent to Great Britain.
It applies to us here at Dive Rutland and is fully embedded into EVERYTHING we do. In fact, the HSE has produced an information sheet for recreational divers who are looking to pay for a dive guide or instructor here in the UK, it allows you to shop wisely, and it can be found here
HSE - Risk Assessment
PRIOR to and DURING EVERY training and dive day, a risk assessment is to be undertaken. Risks can and do change during the day, so they should be constantly reviewed, and the risk assessment updated to reflect those changes.
HSE - Surface Support
Where Surface Support is concerned, the HSE states that when a dive professional is working in open water and in the water, the minimum training dive team size should be three people. This consists of a Surface Support, The Instructor, and a Certified Assistant.
The definition of Surface Support is a person who does not have to be a diver but should be familiar with the Dive plan and the arrangements for obtaining assistance in the event of an emergency.
This person should be present throughout the whole time that any instructional team is in the water and ready and able to raise the alarm, if required, OR assist with managing any dive incident.
For us here at Dive Rutland, Surface Support: -
- Is a core member of the Dive Rutland team contributing to the onsite Risk Assessment undertaken at the beginning of each training dive day;
- Keeps assessing and updating the risk assessment throughout the Dive Day, reporting to the on-site Dive Rutland in charge instructor if things change;
- Assists with divers whilst they are kitting up and at the end of the day de-kitting, entering and exiting the water;
- Logs divers in and out of the water. They are the person that EVERY dive team member reports to (including the instructors). The details that they collate include the expected dive time and the overall dive plan. Then, on exiting the water, they are met by the Surface Support, report back and are checked in, and provide all the required information, which is then recorded on the Dive Log.
- The surface support member Is easily identifiable as they wear an Orange Dive Rutland Surface Support Vest.
- They stay at the water’s edge until the team have successfully left the surface and then may if required, relocate to a point where maximum visibility of the dive site can be achieved whilst the dive teams are in the water, returning to the waters edge in readiness for the dive teams expected return. This is so they can provide ANY required support to the in-water team, including actioning the Emergency Action Plan.
- They hold an in-date Emergency Primary and Secondary First Aid Certificate.
HSE - Annual Medical
The Health and Safety Executive requires ALL Diving professionals to have and hold a valid annual medical. This involves going to an HSE appointed medical practitioner and having their fitness tested. Their fitness levels have to be within the framework defined by the UK HSE.
HSE - First Aid
More than one person of the dive team is to be qualified in first aid and to be able to recognise and be qualified to administer first aid. They should be able as a minimum be able to:-
- Recognise symptoms of decompression illness and provide appropriate first aid treatment prior to and during transfer to a decompression facility.
- Administer oxygen to an unconscious patient
- Perform resuscitation using the techniques of artificial ventilation (AV) and external cardiac compression (ECC)
- Recognise the symptoms of shock and provide appropriate first aid treatment
- Administer appropriate first aid treatment for burns, bleeding and broken bones
Not all qualified first aiders are to be in the water at the same time!
The dive team should have available a suitable first aid and oxygen administration set, with sufficient oxygen available to allow evacuation of the casualty to the nearest recompression chamber
An Instructor without a Dive Centre is an Odd Thing
To prolong your diving involvement and offer you a continuous ability to dive, learn and explore the underwater world, look for a Dive Centre that is a full service centre.
A full service dive centre is one that not only provides high quality training, but can provide great advice for equipment, sells equipment, can service dive equipment, has lots of experience, offers and provides ongoing mentoring, offers trips and events and a place to meet and greet other like-minded individuals who want to go diving.
An instructor working independently, devoid of the support provided by a dive centre, is solely offering training services.
Diver education is a choice and an opportunity. As a recreational activity, diving is fun and safe, and along with any approved and appropriately qualified instructional support, you can enjoy the sport and achieve any challenges you may wish to undertake.
Likewise, it is also an activity that has areas of risk. Trust your risk education and awareness in the hands of people who know what they’re doing and remember. Cheap is not always best.
If you wish to see any of our polices and procedures, please do not hesitate to ask. They are freely available.
Price is not a reflection of quality, but as the saying goes, pay cheap pay twice!
Interested in learning or continuing your diving career with us? Then take a look at our course offerings or pop in and meet the team.