Divers should become aware of basic emergency CPR techniques. The first step in CPR involves determining victim responsiveness and then calling for help. The victim should then be laid on his or her back to check for breathing. If the victim is not breathing, two rescue breaths via a pocket mask or mouth-to-mouth should be administered alternating with chest compressions. Oxygen can then be administered once the victim’s breathing resumes.

Review the basics of the life-saving skill every diver should know.

STEP 1 Check for Responsiveness and Call for Help.

If a diver seems dazed or unconscious, tap him or her firmly on the shoulder and shout, “Are you all right?” If you get no response, have someone call for help while you go on to …

STEP 2 Check for Breathing.

Lay the diver on his or her back and open anything like a wetsuit that might restrict breathing. Check with your finger that the mouth is clear, as near-drowning may cause vomiting. Open the airway by either the jaw thrust or the head tilt/chin lift method. Jaw thrust: grasp the lower jaw where it hinges to the skull and lift. Head tilt/chin lift: press down slightly on the forehead with one hand while lifting the point of the chin with the other, keeping the mouth open. The goal of both methods is to move the tongue so it does not block the airway. Now put your ear to the diver’s mouth and listen for breathing while you try to feel it on your face and look for the diver’s chest to rise and fall. Be careful: breathing may be faint and hard to detect. If the diver is not breathing, go on to …

STEP 3 Two Rescue Breaths.

Use a pocket mask if you have one, sealing it against the diver’s face with your fingers and thumbs. Pocket masks are fitted for administering oxygen, which should be available on dive boats. Oxygen should be started now if possible. If you don’t have access to a pocket mask, begin mouth-to-mouth, by steadying the diver’s forehead with the heel of one hand while you pinch the nostrils with your fingers. Use your other hand to open the airway by either method in Step Two, take a deep breath, seal your mouth over the diver’s and blow a long, slow breath. Let the diver exhale and give the diver a second breath, then go on to …

STEP 4 Check for Breath and Pulse.

Check again for breathing as above and check for pulse. You can feel it best at the carotid artery: put three fingers on the larynx, then slide them to one side to the groove between the larynx and the neck muscle. If you don’t feel a pulse on one side of the larynx, try the other. Be careful: the pulse may be faint and giving CPR to a person with a pulse can make the situation worse by interfering with the heart’s function. Never practice CPR on a person with a pulse. If the diver has no pulse, move on to …

STEP 5 16 and 2.

Kneel next to the diver with your knees touching the rib cage. With a finger, trace along the lowest rib toward the center until you find the lower tip of the breastbone. Measure up another finger width, then place the heel of your other hand on the breastbone just above that finger. Place your first hand on top of the second, lock your elbows and bring your shoulders over the diver’s chest, depressing the chest about 1 1/2 or 2 inches. Immediately release the pressure then press again for a total of 15 compressions in about 10 seconds. Then give two breaths as in Step Three and 15 more compressions, repeating the 15 and 2 cycle until you detect a pulse or are relieved.

STEP 6 Administer Oxygen.

Once the victim is breathing on his or her own, continue to monitor respiration and administer oxygen if available. The administration of oxygen has been proven valuable to victims of all diving injuries.

Ed.’s Note: The information contained in this article should not be used as a substitute for CPR training and certification. Even after CPR certification, it is important that you regularly undergo retraining to stay proficient at these skills.


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