Ten basic tips on how to set up a newly purchased buoyancy compensator (BC) for diving are offered. BCs need to be set up in such a way as to suit its user’s personal needs and intended diving environment.

If you are about to shop for your first I buoyancy compensator (BC) or have just purchased one there are a few things you should know about setting it up for diving. There are many things you can do to convert that standard BC into a customized personal survival device – a BC that can provide everything imaginable in an emergency situation.

Here are 10 basic suggestions for setting up your new BC 10 Hints to suit your personal needs and intended diving environment:

1 SELECT A BC THAT FITS YOU WELL: A good fit is perhaps the most important criterion in BC safety. When shopping for a BC, make sure you select one that fits your body snugly. It should not slide or allow the tank to roll or twist on your back. Also, take into consideration the dive suit you intend wearing. For example, a one-quarter inch wetsuit might require a larger size BC than a Polartec or Lycra suit. Most BC manufacturers offer their best models in at least five different sizes: extra small, small, medium, large and extra-large.

2 ADD A POWER INFLATOR: Some 2BCs are sold with a power inflator as standard equipment – others are not. If your BC does not have a power inflator, you should consider purchasing one. The power inflator allows you to use your BC as a buoyancy control tool rather than just a surface inflation device. The power inflator makes it easy and convenient to add small, controlled amounts of air to your BC at depth or on the surface. Be sure to purchase a power inflator designed specifically for your brand of BC as these devices are not standardized.

3 CONSIDER A COMBO POWER INFLATOR/OCTOPUS: And, while we are on the subject of the power inflator, you may want to consider purchasing a combo inflator/octopus instead. Such devices feature a safe second stage (octopus) built right into the inflator. This eliminates the need for a standard octopus and hose, thus streamlining your scuba system.

4 TRIM THE WAIST STRAP: If your BC 4has a waist strap (like a car seatbelt), put the BC on – over your normal exposure suit – and check how much of the webbing sticks out of the buckle when it is secured. You should have approximately five to six inches of webbing protruding from the closed buckle. If there’s more, the belt could get tangled or folded over during an emergency removal (on the surface or underwater). If the webbing is not too long, you may only need to adjust the belt assembly. If it cannot be adjusted, you may need to trim the excess webbing.

5 USE ACCESSORY HOSE FASTENERS: There are numerous accessory manufacturers that have designed some very clever hose fasteners with quick disconnect devices. These hose fasteners allow you to clip the octopus and the instrument console precisely where you want them on the front of your BC. Most BCs are designed with numerous D-rings or clip rings positioned at the shoulders and lower part of the BC.

6 ATTACH AN EMERGENCY MINI KNIFE: Several manufacturers offer small utility knives or knives designed to attach to a BC – either on a shoulder strap or front pocket. Such knives are designed for emergency situations, such as becoming entangled in monofilament fishing line, nets, etc. Having such a knife attached to your BC makes it easier to reach and you are not likely to dive without

7 ATTACH AN EMERGENCY SIGNAL WHISTLE: There may be times when you will have to rely on sound rather than sight when signaling the dive boat. Should there be heavy fog or dense rain and you drift away from the boat, a loud whistle may be the only way to attract the attention of the crew. Dive accessory manufacturers have designed special corrosion resistant whistles that require very little maintenance but will work when needed.

If you desire something louder, you might want to attach a Dive Alert or Supra Horn to your power inflator hose. These miniature air horns produce an amazingly loud, piercing sound that can be heard up to one mile away on the surface.

8 ATTACH A SAFETY SIGNAL TUBE: A safety device that has become very popular in recent years is the inflatable signal tube – sometimes called a Safety Sausage, Scuba Tuba, Signal Tube, etc.. Constructed of inexpensive plastic, this bright red or orange device rolls up into a small package six or seven inches long and one to two inches in diameter. It can fit into a BC pocket or its own pouch. If a diver surfaces a long way from the boat and the seas are a bit rough, the signal tube is unrolled on the surface and inflated with the regulator second stage. It forms an air filled tube that stands 6 to 10 feet above the surface.

9 ADD AN EMERGENCY MINI LIGHT: Another device that can improve your safety margin in an emergency situation is a mini dive light. Such lights are the size of a fountain pen or slightly smaller – making them easy to slip into a BC pocket. You put the light in the BC and leave it there, except for washing, maintenance or replacement of batteries. Since it is part of the BC, the mini dive light is always with you and may come in very handy should a strong current carry you away from the boat during a night dive or at dusk.

10 ADD AN UNDERWATER SLATE: One of the most difficult challenges is communicating with your buddy (or another diver) underwater. Wildly gyrating hands and arms may not be dearly understood but a few well-chosen words scribbled on an underwater slate can get the message across quickly and accurately. Dive accessory manufacturers have produced a wide selection of mini dive slates and underwater notebooks that will easily fit into a BC pocket or can be snapped onto a BC attachment ring. By adding these safety accessories and attachment devices to your BC, you will better prepared for any emergency or difficulty you may encounter. And, keeping your BC trim and compact will ensure nothing is dragging on the bottom or snagging onto coral.


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