Out-Of-Air Situations

Out-of-Air situations frequently occur because the diver neglected to monitor his gauges. When buddies hasten into the water, tanks are sometimes left off, or only partially turned on. Some divers rely on a J-valve, and forget to set it before a dive, or accidentally activate it during the dive. Regulator malfunctions seldom cause out-of-air situations, being most regulators malfunction in an open position. If your buddy has dual tanks to your single, it can minimize the danger. However, seeing your buddy is of no use if you cannot reach him. The time a diver finds out he is out of air is when he takes his last breath. Prevention by monitoring gauges is the best possible policy.

When buddy breathing air is used twice as fast, and can tax the first stage of even the best regulator. A near panicked diver may need 12 cubic feet of air per minute. This demand may be more than the regulator can deliver when air supply is below 300 to 500 psi.

Buddy breathing with the same second stage is basically passing the regulator back and forth between two divers, after each has taken two breaths. The first time the regulator is passed the receiver may need an extra breath or two to regain composure. Keep the purge button unobstructed. The donor must be in control of the second stage always. Try not to guide the regulator to the receiver's mouth. Remember not to hold your breath, and try to insure the other diver does not either. When the receiver is not continually exhaling, do not punch or push on his midsection. Stop your ascent. Gain his attention, and point to your lips as you exhale. Never force someone to exhale under any circumstances especially emergency ones, stop and get their attention.

At times the victim due to the stress of the situation, or lack of practice, may fail to return the second stage. Always before the first pass take an extra breath. When you fail to get the second stage back, try rotating it rapidly down and towards the lower lip. Surprise is essential. As a last resort, the donor can grasp the second stage and push off the receiver's chest with his feet. If the mouthpiece is left in the victim's mouth the second stage will still work. Rescuers should practice breathing off a second stage without a mouthpiece.

A safe second or alternate air source, as it is sometimes is called, is a second, second stage. It allows the diver to buddy breath without the passing back and forth of the same second stage, thus reducing the chance of air embolism. Every diver should have a safe second, and practice using it, along with practicing buddy breathing without one. The safe second's primary job is providing air to another diver. For this reason it should be of the left hand design, with a longer than normal hose. When a rescuer uses a standard second stage as a safe second, the hose will have to be twisted to function properly, thus causing the mouthpiece to tug, and be uncomfortable, adding to the stress of the situation. If any swimming must be done, it will be awkward. By adding the extra length to the hose, and left hand design the victim feels more comfortable, thereby reducing stress. When providing air with the left hand design it is a simple handing of the stage.

Trying to buddy breathe with a near panicky diver is extremely dangerous. When you give up an air source do not expect it back. Try to get the victim to stop and think though it usually is ineffective. If you feel it is to dangerous to yourself to attempt to buddy breathe, start up and they may follow.

When surfacing while buddy breathing by any manner, stop to gain composure. Check both SPG's. Be sure that the BCD control or dump valve, is held during ascent. This is to prevent expanding air form causing to rapid an ascent. Remember that if the water temperature is around 42oF, regulators can freeze up. When using a safe second the chances of freeze up increases due to the extra work load on the first stage. When tank pressure is low, stress is high, two second stages may over-breathe a first stage.

Pony bottles provide a true alternate air source. They are a completely separate system consisting of a tank and regulator. With proper mounting they offer the safest and easiest means of controlling an out-of-air situation. Like any other piece of gear they require practice in pool and open water, to gain proficiency. At this time they are not used by many divers except cave and wreck penetrators.

As a last resort the diver can breathe from his buoyancy compensator. Air in the BC is either from the tank, or the diver's own lungs, and is still breathable. Breathing it makes oxygen available in an out of air situation, rather than dumping it into the water. The deeper you are, the more air will be available. Never breathe from a fully inflated BCD because the internal pressure could be greater than ambient pressure, and over expansion injuries could develop. If the CO2 cartridge has been discharged, do not breathe from the BC.

To breathe from your BCD, depress the dump valve after placing your mouth over it to receive air. The pressure on the air bag will make the air flow easily to you. You exhale into the water, thus as you rise, you are not only receiving air, but also venting the BCD. Remember that as you near the surface more air may need to be vented to control the ascent.

Another way to breathe from a BCD is if your second stage fails. The low pressure inflator of the BC can be used as an air source. Breathe through the mouth piece by pressing both the dump valve, and inflator at the same time. Exhale through the nose.

This procedure should be practiced in the pool to get the proper rhythm and feel. The technique of breathing through a BCD should only be done when the person doing it, has practiced it several times in the pool and in open water training. This is an advance self rescue technique that requires a lot of practice. Problems with this procedure are water may be in the BC mouthpiece, and it must be cleared before inhaling. A chance of fungus growing in your BC also may be present. Before practicing this technique, rinse your BC out with pool water several times. This is an emergency breathing technique to be used only in an extreme situation.

In a rescue situation with an out of air diver and you do not have an alternate air source, you can give the victim your second stage, and breathe from the BCD inflator. Never give an out of air victim a buoyancy compensator inflator hose to breathe from. This procedure requires lots of practice. The professional rescue diver should have an alternate air source, but sometimes situations may arise, and as the professional, you are always prepared.

To prevent out-of-air situations the SPG must be used. Buddies should constantly monitor each others air supply. Practice out-of-air situations at every dive site. Be sure you can operate your buddy's equipment before each, and every dive. Sometimes it is good to switch gear to learn its operation.

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