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Where's My Octo??
It is my opinion, that if you run out of air at depth, then you are a moron. However, moron or not, you don't deserve to die (it's bad for business!). With that in mind, let's go back to your Basic Scuba diver course and review two of the different methods and options you were taught to deal with an out-of-air emergency.
You were taught that the independent action is usually preferred. It avoids placing another diver in jeopardy. Thus the first choice is to simply ascend. Even a completely empty tank will provide some air as you ascend. Enough air to give you a breath or two. They are shallow, but do satisfy the urge to breathe unless you panic.
The recommended method next-in-line was to use your buddy's Octopus Regulator - Right? Well, guess what - in a real situation the diver that is out of air can only focus on the regulator that is working - the one that he KNOWS works - i.e. your primary regulator! Therefore, you are the one that needs the Octopus.
This is a very important concept if you are the donor of air. You are at risk of experiencing real fear, as your primary may be jerked from your mouth with little or no warning. So, have a good octopus regulator, wear the hose under your right arm with the second stage attached with some sort of quick release for easy removal.
The most important thing to remember is to Plan and Practice what your actions will be if you inadvertently run out of air, or more importantly your buddy runs out of air. Then, if and when, it happens, you know what to do - without having to think about it.
Oh yeah, and when you and your buddy reach the surface, one of you with an empty tank, what actions do you take? We didn't cover this in the Basic course, but an empty tank won't inflate the BC. Do you let the buddy struggle at the surface trying to inflate a BC orally and tread water at the same time?
I hope not. Instead, allow the out-of-air buddy to continue to breathe from the donor's primary, who becomes buoyant using the power inflation. Then the donor - floating, being the calmer of the pair - can safely inflate the other's BC orally. Both can survive this in an orderly fashion if both know their responsibilities and tasks.
Communication is the key to making any dive work. Underwater hand signals are nice when displayed properly and understood, but may not even be used by someone stressed beyond reasoning. Before you dive with anyone you do not know or have not dived with recently, review hand signals and emergency procedures before going below. This will give each of you more confidence which translates to a wider comfort zone with lower stress levels in case of an emergency.
Dive safe, and clean out your Octo...
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