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What to do if you run out of air while scuba diving

Out of air emergencies and monitoring air supply are prioritised during your PADI Open Water Course, but what if you haven’t refreshed these skills since you did your course 3 or 4 years ago?

Here are the steps to help you in an out of air emergency. Follow these steps if you run out of air during a dive:

  1. Try not to panic – there is nothing worse than the feeling as you breathe in and realise you are out of air while still underwater; but try not to panic – you will be okay.
  2. DO NOT frantically start swimming for the surface; there could be a much calmer, safer and stress-free option.
  3. Look around you and locate your dive buddy.
  4. Signal that you are out of air by moving your arm and hand back and forth across your neck.
  5. As calmly as you can muster, swim to your buddy who has hopefully understood what you are saying.
  6. While you are swimming, try to locate your buddy’s alternate air source. It should be marked yellow, and be stored in the triangle between his/her chin and rib cage. Usually, they are clipped onto your buddy’s right side, tucked into a pocket on the right, or tucked up into the right shoulder strap of the BCD.
  7. If your buddy has not already done so, pull their alternate air source free, put it into your mouth, use the purge button to clear it of water, and start breathing.
  8. Whew.
  9. Once you have caught your breath, signal to your buddy that you are OK and that it is time to end the dive.
  10. Maintain contact as you ascend so that you do not float apart. The easiest way to do that is to hold each other’s right forearms, you can then use your left hand to control your BCD.
  11. Remember that as you ascend, air will expand in your BCD and you may need to gently let some air out of your BCD so that you do not ascend too quickly.
  12. Once you are on the surface, allow your buddy to support you while you orally inflate your BCD.

If your buddy is nowhere to be found, you will need to perform a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA) – We have an upcoming blog where you can find more on that.

If you haven’t been diving for a while, practice these skills with your buddy in shallow water before you begin your dive. Or better yet, sign up for a PADI Scuba Review and fully refresh all of your dive skills.

Have you ever run out of air on a dive? What did you do?

4 Comments
  • Jon tomson
    Posted at 00:33h, 04 September Reply

    Thank you so mush

  • Lhcn Mjkcednjck
    Posted at 01:34h, 13 February Reply

    What if you are diving alone?

  • Layla McQuade
    Posted at 08:37h, 14 February Reply

    What if you are scuba diving alone and you run out of air? Will you just die or is there another solution?

    • admin
      Posted at 12:04h, 14 February Reply

      Hi Layla-

      You should always be diving with a dive buddy – if you do become separated underwater there are emergency procedures that you can use to get safely to the surface. Prevention is always key though – that’s why it’s so important to make sure that you train with a good Instructor!

      Tarryn

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