Do you feel like a competent diver? Are you ready for a new scuba diving challenge? If so, you can push your skill set to a whole different level by becoming a PADI Rescue Diver.
Ask any PADI Rescue diver for feedback on their Rescue course and the same comments are continually made. They will tell you how rewarding they found the course, and how comfortable they personally feel as a diver after completing course.
The PADI Rescue Diver course empowers student divers with the confidence to deal with potential problems related to both themselves and other divers, both on the surface and underwater.
The PADI Rescue Diver Course
The Rescue course is scheduled over 3 days – although like any PADI course it is performance based so can sometimes run into a fourth day.
The course provides the student diver with an essential toolbox to combat every feasible rescue scenario a diver may encounter. As a PADI Rescue diver there are different techniques and strategies to approach, manage and handle any accidents that may occur.
Some of the situations and problem solving solutions that may arise on any dive include:
- Helping both tired and panic divers on the surface
- Helping distressed divers underwater (distressed diver situations include: panic diver, out of air diver, uncontrolled ascent, overcoming vertigo and overexerted diver)
- Searching for missing divers underwater using a variety of search patterns such as expanding square pattern and U-pattern (aided by compass navigation) and circular search pattern (aided by the use of a line and reel)
- Bringing an unresponsive diver to the surface
- Providing in water rescue breathing to the unresponsive diver on the surface
- Towing the unresponsive diver to safety
- Exiting the unresponsive diver onto the boat or the beach
- First aid for diving related injuries
- Administering Oxygen to a diver
Recently I conducted a rescue course with two students, Reece and Simon. When I first met the guys I immediately knew were ready for some action with their positive attitudes, which is a great asset to have when doing the rescue course.
We started with the Emergency First Responder course where we went through basic first aid training to give Reece and Simon techniques to help people in need. It was a good opportunity to get to know the guys and form a good rapport before getting into the full swing of the rescue course itself.
The Crystal Way
The next day we got started with knowledge development, covering topics such as the psychology of rescue, recognizing diver stress, being prepared for and responding to diver emergency and accident management. Once we prepared ourselves mentally we ventured to the swimming pool to begin our first practical exercises and scenarios.
Although not compulsory, practicing the rescue skills in the swimming pool in a perfect no-stress environment is ideal. This allows student divers to learn new skills in perfect conditions and hone those skills before entering open water.
Simon was keen to do the rescue course in a shorter time frame and skip the pool session as he was on a tighter schedule than Reece but I advised him of the benefits and importance of performing the skills in an ideal controlled environment.
Simon ended up taking that option and later said how glad he was that he completed the course over a longer time frame, feeling completely comfortable and competent by the end of the course.
Back To Basics
The following day we finished off the knowledge development, providing Reece and Simon with all the knowledge required to increase the chance of saving a diver’s life. Following this classroom session Reece and Simon were shown how to navigate search patterns using a compass.
Navigating is definitely one of trickier skills to master as a diver, especially when you are under the stress of searching for a missing diver underwater, so practicing the expanding square and the U-pattern on the beach first was vital, and made mastering these search patterns underwater easier. They were then shown how to assemble the emergency oxygen equipment, and then give the opportunity to practice themselves.
As a rescue diver you are allowed to assemble the oxygen, however you need to become a certified oxygen provider to be able to administer the oxygen to a patient. The oxygen provider course is a great additional piece of training to become a well rounded rescue diver.
Keeping It Real
On the afternoon of the second day we ventured onto the dive boat to put into practice the skills my students had mastered the previous afternoon in our swimming pool. This time they would be performing these skills in the realistic environment of open water. Over the following 4 hours the students dealt with a number of rescue scenarios that randomly cropped up throughout the afternoon.
Most importantly we spent a lot of time practicing 4 skills that are essential to giving an unresponsive diver that extra chance of survival. These included searching for an unresponsive diver using the appropriate search pattern. Once the diver was located Reece and Simon had to safely bring the diver to the surface a lot of time was taken perfecting these skills. The following day things gets turned up a few notches and are made as realistic as possible during the final scenarios so it’s important the students are ready for this.
The Final Test
On the final day, the boys passed their final written exam with flying colours. After lunch we went out on the boat for the in water examinations – Rescue course final scenarios. Simon and Reece where confident and well prepared to take on whatever was thrown at them but little did they know there was another enthusiastic PADI Instructor helping me – McKenzie, who took it upon himself to make the day that little bit more difficult for them.
Simon and Reece were quick to find this out when they had to rescue McKenzie, who was playing the role of a panicked diver on the surface. McKenzie was quick to spot out any faults that were made, such as approaching the panic diver too close from the front and let Reece and Simon know about it.
After a few of these encounters, the two boys were even more alert and prepared for the rest of the day’s scenarios. They quickly learnt from their first mistake and few more were made. Simon and Reece were now prepared for anything, building on the previous two days of training and learning quickly from their little run in with McKenzie and hour earlier.
Reece and Simon performed just about all the skills required without flaw, apart from one little hiccup with the search pattern to find the missing diver. It’s crucial to find a missing diver as soon as possible, but rushing a rescue mission means some mistakes will ultimately be made. This rushing caused Reece and Simon to navigate in slightly the wrong direction and miss the lost diver completely.
It is a common mistake in a rescue course, and can be combated by good communication and team work both before entering the water and while underwater.
On their second attempt they did exactly those things in low visibility and managed to find the missing diver without problem. Once the missing diver was found they surfaced at a steady pace and transported the diver back to the boat while providing rescue breaths every five seconds. The final challenge of the whole scenario was climbing up the boat ladder with the unresponsive diver. They have 30 seconds to complete this difficult task in order to pass the final scenarios.
Both Reece and Simon managed this very well, although both where extremely relieved once it was over.
Sure enough on our return to Crystal a hard earned cold beer was in order. Three full days of mentally and physically draining learning and working contributed to mission accomplished. Reece and Simon where certified PADI Rescue divers and where very happy holding their beers in their hands. As they say in Australia, ‘A hard earned thirst calls for a big cold beer’.
Go home, or Go Pro
Simon left on the night ferry that night to return home to Denmark. Reece took the next step and started his Divemaster course with Crystal.
The PADI Divemaster program is the first step to becoming a professional diver and Reece told me he felt well equipped after the Rescue course to begin the next step in his diving career and Go Pro.
Good luck Reece!
Author: Niek van Riel (PADI MSDT #344046)