Scuba Diving Safety: Are You Ready For Rebreathers

Do you know what diving rebreather safety entails? Safety is paramount, whether you’re a new diver or one with twenty years of diving experience. Circuit diving is something only a select few trained divers can handle and rebreather diving is certainly unique. It’s rewarding on a whole new level, but at the same time, requires retraining for you to use a rebreather safely.

A circuit rebreather is vastly popular but divers are required to learn the proper safety measures to use them. So, is a rebreather safe to use? What do you need to know about scuba diving safety and how can you tell if you’re ready for a rebreather?

Have Proper Dive Training for Rebreather Diving

You may be a certified scuba diver but you need to be specially trained for rebreathers. It’s a different system and your body is not used to it. Even an experienced scuba diver can feel out of their depth the first time they use a rebreather. Every diver, even those with diving experience, must undergo rebreather training to get certification in rebreathers. To be eligible to undergo diving training for rebreathers, you must be over 18 and have at least 25-logged dives under your belt.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Rebreather

Rebreathers offer many benefits, including:

  • No Dry Mouth – A diver doesn’t have to worry about the rebreather leaving them with cotton or dry mouth after diving. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but with the rebreather, it’s possible to reduce that effect after diving.
  • Silence – The rebreather offers a silent way to explore the underwater kingdom. There are no roars of breather exhausts and that enables you to get closer to marine life. It’s ideal for photographers and marine researchers alike. You aren’t invisible, of course, but are less alarming to the fish.
  • Dive For Longer And Explore More – A diver can use their rebreather to dive longer. Diving with standard scuba equipment can reduce the amount of time a diver is able to spend in the water. They have to make decompression stops and carry more air. However, a rebreather can hold less air and enable the diver to remain underwater for longer. They can explore the sea floors easily with the rebreather.

Diving with a rebreather does offer many good benefits, like the ones above, but also have a few minor drawbacks, including:

  • Fatalities – While diving deaths are fairly low, they do occur. Using a rebreather can be dangerous, especially in the hands of an inexperienced diver. There will always be risks with diving, whether the diver has ten years of diving experience or one. A rebreather could cause death if the breathing supply is compromised or if the diver can’t get back to the surface in time.

Divers must know and understand the disadvantages and risks so they can determine if rebreathers are suitable for them.

Rebreather Failures Can Be Fatal So Be Prepared

Divers face risks above and below the surface. Underwater, a diver can run into dangerous marine life and have trouble with their rebreather. Above the surface, there are still risks but those are considerably lower for divers because there’s no chance of drowning on land. However, anything can go wrong with the rebreather. Rebreathers mix the gas in the breathing loop and if something goes wrong, it can be fatal to the diver, as said above. That’s why an open-circuit bailout bottle and regulator is needed when you go diving. It’s a safety net that may one day save your life. 

Think About Your Overall Expenses

Diving can be a wonderful experience but you have to factor in the overall costs associated with rebreather diving. You’ve already gone through diving training, but additional rebreather training will be required to use a rebreather. Then, you have to consider the costs of maintenance and much more. Rebreathers themselves are very costly and that’s another factor to remember. While rebreather safety doesn’t cost much in the long-term, it’s something to consider, nonetheless. Also, rebreather safety procedures must be followed at all times.

How Ready Are You For Rebreather Diving?

Rebreathers are a personal choice. While most divers enjoy technical diving, a rebreather is quite different from open-circuit breathers. Closed-circuit rebreathers do have their downsides, including the fact they could malfunction. However, this is a risk all divers take, even with open-circuit breathers. If you’ve undergone training and become certified, you’ll be well aware of the risks and rewards. Rebreather diving can be very exciting; however, it’s not for everyone.

If you aren’t too keen on using the rebreathers, you don’t have to. Remember, they aren’t for everyone. Also, if you aren’t comfortable using a rebreather for a particular dive, you don’t need to. This is a personal choice and comes down to how confident you feel about technical diving with a rebreather. Keeping up with the maintenance of the unit is something you’ll need to consider too.

Closed-circuit rebreathers look far more intimidating than open-circuit breathers and are often considered more dangerous. The reality is that all divers face the same risks, whether they use open-circuit breathers or rebreathers. There is a risk of hypoxia and problems with the air supply. Rebreather diving takes skill and many hours of practice. Also, proper safety procedures must be followed closely to avoid further risks. Rebreather safety procedures, along with standard diving safety measures must be observed at all times.

Scuba Diving Safety Procedures to Follow

Rebreather diving isn’t without risks. All rebreather divers must be cautious in and out of the water. Closed-circuit diving takes real skill and care; it’s essential to follow good safety practices.

  • Always Check Your Unit:

Divers should always check their equipment – before – they dive, and it’s especially true with rebreather divers. Every diver should check their equipment in full and should make rebreather safety a top priority too. Everything from the bailout gas canisters, to scrubbers, and the pressure bar, oxygen cylinders, and breathing bag should be examined carefully. This will ensure they’re usable. Maintenance is essential and you should never take your equipment for granted, even if it’s a new rebreather.

If something goes wrong, you could face oxygen toxicity or even death.

  • Stay Within Your Comfort Zone:

You’re experienced with open-circuit breathers and have moved onto rebreathers and building experience. You gradually go deeper and reach 60-feet below surface level. It’s exciting but that’s as far as you’re happy to go. Stay there. There’s nothing wrong with keeping to a dive depth you’re most comfortable or happy with. You should always dive to a comfortable level whether you’re using a rebreather or otherwise.

  • Not Comfortable? Call The Dive Off:

You’re a good diver and know how to safely use the scuba equipment, but, when you’re not feeling comfortable, it’s time to call off the dive. Okay, so some divers will say it’s chickening out, but the reality is you’re playing it safe. The mark of being a good rebreather diver is about knowing when to call a dive off. If you’re feeling unwell or uncomfortable with the equipment (or unsure about the dive), don’t.

For safety, you have to be 100% comfortable before, during, and after the dive. If you’re not sure about going beyond your limits, you could panic and you don’t want that. Instead, don’t dive or change your plans. You should always stick to the diving level you’re qualified for.

  • Keep Your Physical Health And Fitness In Top Condition:

You’re a rebreather diver and it requires a lot of work. You’re carrying around a heavy breathing unit and it can put a strain on your physical fitness. You don’t have to be the perfect specimen of fitness but you have to be in fairly decent shape to dive. Remember, technical diving puts a lot of strain onto the body and requires lots of physical strength. Scuba diving is hard work because you’re swimming for longer and with gear strapped to your back. Conditions in the water can change rapidly too so you have to be able to handle those things.

Also, you’re more than likely going to be carrying an open-circuit backup breather just in case something goes wrong. So your fitness levels have to be good.

  • Divers Should Have A Dive Buddy:

You’re out on the open water, you’re free. There are miles of open ocean waters around you and it’s magical. Unfortunately, being out there alone potentially brings trouble. While some training schools offer solo diving certification, it’s not always the most sensible option. Anything can go wrong and you’re out there by yourself; if you get into trouble, there’s no-one there to help you. It is dangerous being in the open water alone; for your own safety, you need a dive buddy. You should always have a dive buddy. You may be a competent diver, but that doesn’t mean things won’t go wrong.

  • Have A Dive Plan:

You feel great using a recreational rebreather but do you know where you’re going? Rebreather diving can be very fun but that doesn’t mean to say diving safety should go out the window. You should always research the area you’re going to dive in and have a diving radius in place. Circuit diving isn’t without its risks, remember, and if you don’t have a plan, you may run into trouble. For instance, you’re down in the water for 2-hours and come across a shipwreck. You want to explore it but does your oxygen cylinder hold enough oxygen for you to safely explore the wreck and get back to the surface in time?

Unfortunately, some new rebreather divers don’t consider this and run into difficulties. For some, they’ll have to abandon the wreck or could run out of air. For safety, you should always carry bailout gas to get you safely back to the surface. This usually is an open-circuit scuba breather; however, they’re essential and should be carried at all times.

That’s why a plan is needed.

Safety and Decompression

Divers always have to be wary of hypoxia. Oxygen toxicity is also a real possibility with diving and a diver must be very careful how they manage their equipment. For safety, all checks should be made before a dive is made. The oxygen rebreather needs to be thoroughly checked for malfunctions or errors. The gas volume should also be inspected to ensure things are working as they should and to avoid rebreather fatalities.

However, as careful as you are, accidents and incidents can happen and may result in oxygen levels decreasing rapidly without any explanation or warning. A build-up of carbon dioxide could occur in the breathing loop and cause unconsciousness. Even with a new rebreather, accidents can happen. This is especially true during decompression. A rebreather requires less decompression time than the standard breathing unit; however, a diver can still get the bends. Rebreathers carry risks like open-circuit breathers.

That’s why you have to be careful, even if you’re using a recreational rebreather.

Are Rebreathers Are Worth Buying?

Closed-circuit rebreathers are a worthy investment for divers that take their diving seriously. Marine photographers, recreational divers, and of course, military personnel love to get their hands on a rebreather unit. Rebreather technology is smart and makes technical diving far more interesting than ever before. New possibilities are opened with this equipment and you can explore more underwater. You can have as many practice sessions as you like to get used to scuba diving and the new rebreather.

Making the Move to a Rebreather

If you have the necessary diving experience behind you and are confident about using a rebreather, undergoing training can be worth it. Of course, you have to find the right training agencies and learn everything you need to about the rebreathers. However, it’s a special sport to take part in. When you are certified to use a rebreather, it’s essential to follow safety procedures at all times. Learn and follow the basic safety measures and stay safe while using the rebreather.