A whole new world awaits you beneath the ocean’s surface. Manatees, turtles, sting rays, hundreds of varieties of fish and even shipwrecks may be seen up close while on a scuba-diving excursion off of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

An underwater adventure can be fun, educational, but potentially dangerous, especially if you are not prepared for the rigors and demands of scuba-diving. Before you consider such an exploit, you must be prepared in order to avoid injury or even death.

Most fatal dives involve sightseeing

According to the Drivers Alert Network, 50 people died in 2014 in U.S. diving accidents. Florida had the highest number with 15 fatalities, followed by California with eight. Other statistics from the group’s annual report:

  • 66 percent of the fatal dives involved pleasure or sightseeing.
  • 81 percent of the victims were male
  • A majority of the victims were older than 40, including 84 percent of the male victims and 69 percent of the female victims

Advice for a safe scuba dive

If you want to ensure as safe scuba-diving venture and avoid any accidents, always prepare for such a trip well beforehand. Here are a number of the things you should remember:

  • Proper training is essential
  • Have the right diving gear, and properly maintain all life-support equipment by having it inspected and serviced regularly
  • If you’ve had a long lay-off from diving, enroll in a refresher course. You’ll gain more confidence and your upcoming dive should be safer
  • Get rescue certified. You will learn to become more responsible for your own safety as well as know how to respond in case of an emergency
  • Practice the safe ascents. Make sure you don’t hold your breath while ascending
  • Always dive with a buddy. Never dive alone
  • Stay in good physical shape. You will have more stamina and enjoy your dive more
  • Plan out your dive and gain familiarity with the area you plan to explore
  • Remember your safety zone. Trust your instincts. If you’re uncomfortable with making a certain dive, don’t do it
  • Avoid panicking while underwater. If you become fearful or confused during a dive, try to relax and seek help from your dive buddy
  • Avoid alcohol or drugs before diving

Having a pre-existing medical condition such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease used to disqualify people from the sport of scuba diving. That’s not necessarily the case anymore, but if you are a diving enthusiast who has a medical condition, please consult with your physician. Get his or her OK.

Scuba diving can be a pleasurable and eye-opening experience. Please focus on preparation and safety.