The safety guidelines and rescue skills listed below are the result of a collaborative effort involving elite freedivers, spearfishers, scientists, and safety advocates in our country, including DiveWise. This information is based on the common triggers for blackout as revealed in fatal and near-fatal reports submitted to the Divers Alert Network Breath-hold Incident Database, developed and maintained by Research Director Neal Pollock, PhD.

By incorporating these guidelines into your regular dive routine you should greatly reduce your risk of succumbing to freediver blackout.

Freedive Safety

  1. Dive with an evenly matched partner and conform to the level of the least capable diver.
  2. Weight yourself correctly by being positively buoyant at the surface after a full exhalation.
  3. Do not hyperventilate to excess.
  4. Dive one up/one down maintaining constant visual contact of the diver.
  5. When conditions allow, each diver should have a dive flag; if a boat is involved a dive flag should be conspicuously displayed.
  6. Maintain close, direct supervision of a freediver for no less than 30 seconds after he surfaces, even if he has signaled he’s okay.
  7. Make your minimum surface interval twice the duration of your dive time.
  8. Do not take every dive to its limit; maintain a reserve.
  9. Review, practice, and discuss how to recognize and handle blackouts and near blackouts.

Rescue Skills

  1. Get victim to surface immediately; establish positive buoyancy for both of you.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. If evacuation from water is prolonged, monitor Airway and Breathing and provide rescue breathing (1 breath every 5 sec.) during transport if needed.
  5. Seek help from EMS (emergency medical services) 911, or hail the Coast Guard on Channel 16 on VHF radio.
  6. Following a blackout a victim should STOP diving and immediately seek medical evaluation.

Freedivers Recovery Vest

Dr. Terry Maas developed the Freediver Recovery Vest which is designed to automatically deploy and send a diver to the surface face up if he exceeds his preset depth or time.  To learn more contact Julie Richardson.

To report a fatal or near-fatal event visit DAN Incident Report.