Unless there’s a red-and-white “diver-down” flag somewhere on your bumper, chances are you’ve sped down U.S. 15-501 through Durham plenty of times, wondering what D.A.N. stands for, on that big red sign in front of the square building with the mirror windows. Or maybe you’ve driven right past without noticing it at all, just another office building blending into the Bull City suburbs. But when it comes to worldwide name recognition for Triangle staples, this company has more cachet in some circles than SAS, Red Hat, and three ACC sports teams all rolled into one. For those who’ve never indulged in the rapture of the deep, reached out to pet an eagle ray or watched the sunset from 60 feet under the horizon, this is a guide to Divers Alert Network, the Triangle’s own international scuba research and education institution, the planet’s only “Red Cross of Diving.”

What is DAN?
DAN is a non-profit, tax-exempt membership organization that grew out of Duke University in 1980. Recreational scuba divers pay annual dues ($29 per person/$44 per family) for access to a 24-hour/7-day hotline for diving accidents and emergency evacuation. They also consult DAN for non-emergency information about diving-related health issues and receive DAN’s magazine, Alert Diver. Members have the option to buy insurance that will pay for expensive, specialized medical treatment for diving injuries, such as decompression sickness (“the bends”). Insurance premiums run $25, $35 or $70 per year, depending on the level of coverage. DAN also offers related products, such as life insurance and policies that cover underwater cameras and gear. In the last year, DAN fielded 2,990 dive-emergency calls, 10,347 non-emergency inquiries and 3,403 e-mails.

What does DAN do?
In addition to the membership services detailed above, DAN acts as a general think-tank for diving-related medical research and education. It funds and conducts various studies aimed at improving recreational scuba diving, often in partnership with Duke’s Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology, with which it is closely affiliated. One current project, for example, is collecting, compiling and studying data downloaded from the dive computers of healthy divers vacationing all over the world. So far, Project Dive Exploration, as it’s called, has compiled profiles of 32,000 dives.

How is it funded?
According to DAN’s 2001 annual report, 53 percent of its revenues came from membership dues, 14 percent from product sales (like oxygen kits that dive boat operators carry on-board) and 10 percent from subsidiaries (more on that later). Charitable contributions from the public; education and training fees; and royalties each provide 6 percent, with the remaining 5 percent coming from sponsors, advertising and investments. DAN’s 2000-01 tax return shows total revenues of $8.6 million.

What are DAN’s subsidiaries?
DAN owns and operates two for-profit subsidiaries: DAN Services, based at DAN headquarters in Durham, and Accident and General Insurance Company, based in the Cayman Islands. DAN Services, created in 1998, handles the retail end of the business, such as selling insurance policies, oxygen kits and other products and services. In 2000-01, DAN Services reported $750,000 in revenue.

AGI, formed in 1993, insures the risk for DAN’s member policies. After holding reserves to pay claims and operating expenses, AGI pays quarterly dividends back to its non-profit parent, to help fund the research and education mission work. In 2000-01, AGI reported $5.2 million in revenue, bringing the combined total of DAN, DAN Services and AGI revenue to $14.3 million.

For more information see www.diversalertnetwork.org