With diving becoming a popular recreational sport in the United States by the 1970s, the Undersea Medical Society (which eventually became the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society) decided that a national organisation was needed for divers to call for a medical specialist by telephone at all hours of the day. In September 1980, the Divers Alert Network (DAN) was founded as a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving safety for all divers after Dr. Peter B. Bennett was awarded a two-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NOSH) to form America’s first “National Diving Accident Network” at the Frank G. Hall Hyperbaric Center at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, United States.
DAN offers medical advice for all divers and first aid training for diving accidents to the public while providing a diving accident hot-line, diving accident and travel insurance to its members. It also maintains databases on diving accidents, treatments administered for diving related ailments and fatalities including databases crowd-sourced from volunteers, which are used for research programmes.
In 1981, DAN published its first “Underwater Diving Accident Manual and received 305 calls for help and information. In 1982, DAN implemented a medical/safety telephone helpline to assist recreational divers nationwide with non-emergency queries and officially changed its name from “Diving Accident Network” to “Divers Alert Network”. DAN also hosted the “first annual Diving Accident and Hyperbaric Treatment continuing medical education course at the Duke University Medical Center”.
U.S. Federal grant monies decreased by half in 1982 and then to 25% in 1983. Today, DAN is the largest association of recreational scuba divers in the world that is supported by membership dues and donations.
Dr. Alessandro Marroni founded what would become DAN Europe in 1983 by setting up the International Diving Assistance (IDA) as an all-hours diving emergency assistance service with members receiving insurance benefits. In 1987, Professor Yoshihiro Mano of the University of Tokyo Medical School started helming the Civil Alert Network (CAN), which began assisting diving emergencies in Japan. The CAN would eventually become DAN Japan. With DAN Europe and DAN Japan within its fold, DAN membership reached 32,000 in 1988.
In 1990, DAN was granted its non-profit status by the IRS and DAN introduced the “Oxygen First-aid Training Programme” and DAN Travel Assist the next year.
As the popularity of diving took off around the globe with divers everywhere needing medical advice, International DAN (IDAN) was set up in February 1991 to support the regional IDAN members – DAN America, DAN Europe, DAN Japan and DAN Asia-Pacific.
DAN Asia Pacific was founded 1994 as DAN Australia by John Lippmann OAM, an Australian diver, after DAN America and Dr. John Williamson of the Australian Diver Emergency Service (DES) approached him to set up a DAN in the Asia Pacific region. In 1996, DAN South Africa was inducted into the IDAN family with Frans Cronjé as CEO.
For his contribution to the dive industry, Dr Bennett received the 2002 Diving Equipment and Marketing Association Reaching Out Award. He retired on June 30, 2003 and was succeeded by Dan Orr. William Ziefle is the current President and CEO of Divers Alert Network.