RUNNING OUT OF AIR DURING A DIVE: WHAT TO DO?

HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?

There can be several reasons for running out of air...

Most of the time, it results from poor management of your air consumption under water. Later on in this article, we'll consider what to do in order to react to this incident as well as possible. It can also result from an equipment failure, which we make every effort to avoid, but that cannot really be guaranteed. Other not-insignificant factors can also result in faster consumption: difficult diving conditions with current and/or poor visibility, cold, fatigue, stress, agitation under water, insufficient weighting,… Remember that this incident can lead to other cascading incidents, and lead to dangerous situations such as barotrauma, drowning or a decompression accident…

Running out of air during a dive: what to do?

MAINTAIN YOUR EQUIPMENT

Your equipment is what keeps you safe underwater.

Without it, no diving would be possible! We therefore recommend that you have it maintained every year: regulators, BCD, tank (visual and/or retesting), computer… Don't minimize the importance of such maintenance, your safety depends on it. Also remember to carefully rinse and put away your equipment after every dive. All of these precautions are necessary and essential for safely enjoying your time under water!

All services are available at the workshop of your Decathlon store.

PLAN YOUR DIVE

To avoid running out of air…

Start by choosing a tank with a sufficiently large volume according to your consumption. The needs vary from one person to the next, it's a question of physiology. It's therefore frequent to see women using a 12 L tank, while men will go for 15 L. As you know, depth has a direct influence on your consumption, so pay attention to your dive profile and have a thorough briefing with your dive group: planning your itinerary, regular communication of your level of air, monitoring of your saturation level, use of your reserve… Also remember to check each diver's equipment before jumping in the water, in order to identify the location of the various components: pressure gauge, octopus, etc...

WATER ENTRY

A few safety instructions before jumping in

On the surface, safety instructions are given in order to anticipate and react in case of insufficient air. In most cases, you should return to the boat with 50 bar, as your safety air reserve. Pay careful attention to the steps that should be followed in case of a problem. Depending on the clubs and the weather conditions, an emergency tank and regulator will be suspended under the boat. Sometimes, a club may have a specific procedure that you need in order to request it: waiving your SMB, two SMBs in one hand… This will allow you to safely perform your deco stops, if any, while also preventing the problem from getting any worse. If you dive from shore, you'll have to be extra careful regarding your air and that of your buddy, since there won't be any air available on the surface to help you.
Before diving, make sure that you've opened your tank valve. This seems obvious, but many accidents occur because of an improperly opened tank valve. Before getting in the water, you can put your regulator in your mouth and take a few breaths while watching the needle of your pressure gauge, which shouldn't move; this indicates a properly opened tank valve. Finally, it's part of your buddy's job to remind you, on the surface, of all of the checks that you should perform before diving.

Running out of air during a dive: what to do?

THE DIVE

Diving with peace of mind requires behaving safely!

Always remain attentive to your buddy, and stay close to one another so that either of you can intervene in case of a problem. Your octopus, a source of vital air in case your buddy runs out, must be visible and accessible. Avoid twisting it up in your BCD, your buddy must have access to it quickly and efficiently. Your pressure gauge must also be visible. For anyone using a wireless tank pressure transmitter, also check your pressure gauge to make sure that both of these units are aligned and indicating an identical volume of air. Finally, and we can't say it often enough, regularly indicate your consumption rate and pay attention to the factors that can increase it, such as the current or the cold…

YOU'RE OUT OF AIR!

Despite your precautions, you've just breathed your tank down to nothing, and you're now out of air! A technical problem can always arise, there's no guarantee that it can't happen. As such, we've learned what to do in theory, but the reaction in practice isn't the same for everyone. The first thing is to remain calm, of course.
What to do? Make a sign to your buddy as you swim towards him. He'll help you by offering his octopus. Once you have a chance to catch your breath (literally and figuratively), check your gauges and your respective saturation levels. Turn around, it's time to surface. You know the procedure, if you have to do deco stops, ask for or head for the tank and regulator suspended in the water for safety stops. If you don't have any deco obligations, then back to the surface, naturally at a controlled speed. Once back on the boat, it's important to understand why this problem occurred, and see to it that it doesn't happen again during your upcoming dives.

Running out of air during a dive: what to do?

LAST WORD OF ADVICE

Anticipate!

You must surely understand that we have the means and knowledge to anticipate and react in case of running out of air. Don't coast on the red line of your pressure gauge, and don't scrimp on your equipment maintenance… dive with peace of mind! Don't hang around looking for a "last-minute fish", you'll have an opportunity to come back to the site and maybe even to see it again (anything is possible :-).

In short, diving is a risky sport, let's not forget that, but it's also a great time.… A breath of fresh air in our daily routine!

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ARTICLE CO-WRITTEN WITH

anne retail assistant decathlon village bouc-bel-air
Anne, retail assistant at Decathlon Village in Bouc-Bel-Air

I'm a retail assistant in the diving department of Decathlon Village in Bouc-Bel-Air. I started diving 5 years ago and it immediately got me hooked ! So I decided to get my certifications quickly. I'm currently FFESSM (French Federation of Undersea Studies and Sports) Level 3 and Nitrox certified.

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