Shallow Water Blackout Prevention is a non-profit organization that was founded by the Milner Family after the tragic loss of their son, Whitner Milner, who was practicing breath-holding in the family pool and succumbed to shallow water blackout. Our mission is to prevent senseless deaths from shallow water blackout through awareness and education. 

News About SWB: U.S. Swimming Pools Ban Long Breath-Holding After Deaths - USA Today

WHAT: Shallow Water Blackout results from hypoxia (low oxygen) to the brain. What triggers one to breathe is elevation of carbon dioxide (CO2), not low oxygen (O2). One basically “blacks out” or faints in the water. For some, their lungs will take on water leading to drowning while others simply suffocate or die of other causes brought on by the breath-holding. **Death can be a result of the prolonged breath-holding, even if not from so called “Shallow Water Blackout.” Breath-holding may stimulate genetic triggers leading to various causes of death.

WHEN: Frequently, Shallow Water Blackout occurs WITHOUT ANY WARNING of its onset. In fact, because of the hypoxia and detached mental state one can feel euphoric and empowered to continue breath-holding. Unlike regular drowning where there can be 6-8 minutes before brain damage and death, there are ONLY about 2 ½ minutes before BRAIN DAMAGE then DEATH with SWB because the brain has already been oxygen deprived coupled with warm water as in swimming pools, hastening brain death.

WHO: Shallow water blackout (SWB) can affect anyone who is breath-holding, even the physically fit swimmer. It is especially seen in competitive swimmers, Navy SEALs, snorkelers, spearfishermen or anyone who free-dives. Blackouts cut across the spectrum of freediver training affecting all levels. No one is protected from succumbing to an underwater blackout.

WHY: Shallow Water Blackout occurs because of the LACK OF EDUCATION, AWARENESS, and UNDERSTANDING of the dangers of breath-holding. It also occurs because of the lack of safety training for swimmers, freedivers, snorkelers, and spearfishermen. The breath-holders do not understand how to prevent Shallow Water Blackout or how to survive if it happens to them. Unfortunately, training does not inoculate one against SWB. All too often trained freedivers succumb. 

HOW CAN WE HELP: Coaches can talk to their teams and parents about the dangers of underwater breath-holding. Teams can help spread the word in the community through education during swimming lessons, flyers, signs in the pool and other forms of information. Signs to post in your pool can be purchased, with $5 from every sign going back to support Shallow Water Blackout Prevention programs. Teams can also help to raise funds for the Shallow Water Blackout Prevention program which continues to help spread awareness nationally and internationally. For more information visit the Shallow Water Blackout Prevention website at


Shallow Water Blackout Diagram


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