Blackout lurks at the door of every freediver and no one is exempt from this threat. But we can learn how and why freediver blackout happens and what we can do to ensure we survive blackout if it happens to us. How can you be more proactive in securing your own safety while freediving? This video demonstrates why the issue should concern you.
The rescuers in this video are to be commended for their quick-thinking under tremendous stress and for successfully reviving their dive partner. They worked together as a team to save their buddy and he’s alive today because of their actions.
The advent of the use of GoPro cameras in freediving has allowed us to witness blackouts as they unfold, helping us to better understand how to manage these events. These inadvertent records of blackout scenarios afford us the opportunity to use them as learning tools. I’m grateful to these divers for making this video available to the public via YouTube so we can become more aware of the dangers of blackout and how and why we should plan to survive it.
As a take-away from this event, take a minute to read through the list of Freedive Safety Guidelines below which was developed through the collaborative efforts of industry experts in freediving and spearfishing. If you need to, watch the video again and honestly assess your own dive practices against the guidelines provided below. Note how you can be more engaged in ensuring your or your partner’s survival should blackout happen to either of you. Discuss this with your dive partner(s) and make a plan together to survive blackout. Safe Diving!
- Dive with an evenly matched partner and conform to the level of the least capable diver.
- Weight yourself correctly by being positively buoyant at the surface after a full exhalation.
- Do not hyperventilate to excess.
- Dive one up/one down maintaining constant visual contact of the diver.
- When conditions allow, each diver should have a dive flag; if a boat is involved a dive flag should be conspicuously displayed.
- Maintain close, direct supervision of a freediver for no less than 30 seconds after he surfaces, even if he has signaled he’s okay.
- Make your minimum surface interval twice the duration of your dive time.
- Do not take every dive to its limit; maintain a reserve.
- Review, practice, and discuss how to recognize and handle blackouts and near blackouts.
- Get victim to surface immediately; establish positive buoyancy for both of you.
- For a witnessed blackout remove mask and snorkel, tap the face for 5 seconds while vocalizing encouragement to breathe. If no response, immediately begin rescue breathing, 1 breath every 5 seconds.
- Get victim to land or boat ASAP; manage ABCDs (airway-breathing-circulation-deadly bleeding) and start CPR with 30 compressions to 2 ventilations, as needed.
- If evacuation from water is prolonged, monitor Airway and Breathing and provide rescue breathing (1 breath every 5 sec.) during transport if needed.
- Seek help from EMS (emergency medical services) 911, or hail the Coast Guard on Channel 16 on VHF radio.
- Following a blackout a victim should STOP diving and immediately seek medical evaluation.
The Freedivers Recovery Vest (FRV) is an excellent tool designed specifically to return an unconscious diver face up to the surface if he exceeds his present depth or time. The latest, most streamlined version – the FRV Mark II-S is available now. Learn more about this life-saving device and how you can obtain one.
Breath-hold incidents should be reported to Divers Alert Network. It’s easy, can be anonymous, and can be done right from this site. Year-end collective analyses of these reports are useful in pointing to common triggers for blackout events and help us to provide better safety education in the sport.