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Avoid Running Out of Air SCUBA Diving | Under Pressure Divecast | Episode 012

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Avoid Running Out of Air SCUBA Diving

One thing we can count on when we’re on land is that we don’t run out of air. When we’re diving though, this becomes a possibility with serious consequences. The good news is that an out of air emergency is very preventable before the dive and air issues in the water can be successfully managed by following basic recreational dive principles. Let’s dive into avoiding out-of-air emergencies when we’re SCUBA diving!

Avoid Running Out of Air SCUBA Diving


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?The surface interval’s over…

get out there and dive!?

The Data

As with all things SCUBA the data about running out of air SCUBA diving is hard to pin down. This is compounded by the fact that out of air incidents that do not result in accidents are rarely reported and don’t factor into the data we can find. I’ve added a number of reports in the references below and I won’t bore you with statistics here. The bottom line that is of practical use for divers is that most dive accidents can be either directly or indirectly associated with running out of air.

Why Divers Run Out of Air

There are articles and websites that will list a myriad of ways that divers run out of air. For recreational SCUBA divers, there are really only two. Why make things complicated when we might be narced anyway?
  • Not regularly monitoring your tank pressure.
  • Equipment failure.
That’s it, simple right? The issues that cause divers to run out of air when equipment is operating normally are all just situations where the divers aren’t monitoring their air pressure regularly enough. Equipment failure for good quality SCUBA gear that is well maintained is rare… and I mean rare. The principles, manufacturing techniques, materials, and processes have gotten to the point that the gear we use is highly reliable and rarely fails so catastrophically that it causes a bonafide out of air situation.

Preventing Out of Air Incidents

During our training, we are taught everything we need to know about preventing out of air incidents.
  • Use Good Gear
  • Know Your Gear
  • Maintain Your Gear
  • Pre-Dive Checks
  • Plan Your Own Dives
  • Understand Dive Parameters
  • Good Buddy Communication
  • Deep Dive Training (if you’re going >60 Feet)

Handling Out of Air Incidents in the Water

Once you’re in the water you still have the opportunity to prevent an out of air situation by regularly monitoring your tank pressure and communicating with your buddy about your own and their tank pressure. It’s also important to understand the symptoms of stress and nitrogen narcosis in yourself and others as these can affect our air consumption and decision-making ability. If you find yourself out of air, what you do in the next minute or so will determine whether you make a safe ascent to the surface or not. Stop, Breathe, Think, Act. “But SKuba Steve… I’m out of air… I can’t breathe!” Fair enough, but it’s important to take even a few seconds to center your thoughts and think about the right action to take next. We train for out of air situations in our course materials, pool sessions, and open water training dives. By keeping your buddy close enough to be of assistance if they need it or receive assistance if you need it we keep ourselves safe and keep our sport safe and comfortable.