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Do You Have What it Takes to be a Rescue Diver?

by Dr. Thomas Powell:
dive rescueWhat is a Rescue Diver? Around the world, divers often have a misconception about the skills, capabilities, and responsibilities of a person who holds the title “Rescue Diver”. The purpose behind the rescue diver certification from Scuba Diving International (SDI) is to help individuals develop the skill sets and knowledge base needed to perform self-rescues, basic first aid, and buddy assists. Essentially, when a problem arises during a typical dive, a rescue diver has been better trained to deal with stress and to recognize a potential problem. He or she is then taught how best to mitigate problems and make sure that a diving pair can return home.

The term rescue diver often elicits thoughts of the actions and activities that are performed by public safety dive teams. Harrowing conditions, bad weather, odd hours, and unique situations come to mind. The reality is that rescue diver classes are designed to be a core program available to any diver who wishes to learn more.

During a typical rescue class, a diver will first learn about the prevention and causes of dive-related accidents. Essentially, topics such as stress, fitness, dive equipment, and panic will be discussed in relation to one or more people. This information will show a diver how small factors that can cause discomfort may create fear and worry. Fear may lead to panic and possible harm. For this reason, a diver must look to eliminate or mitigate possible factors that may stress a diver or dive buddy.

Second, many types of diver “rescue” will be discussed. These topics include assists, self-rescue, surface and subsurface approaches, diver in-water transport, exit techniques, first aid, CPR, and even oxygen provision. The objective is to work with a student to help him or her better understand how to handle a problem once it has been recognized. Each of these actions will be related to potential scenarios and then practiced in the water. If a diver has the opportunity to practice and fail, he or she will grow more confident and be better prepared to provide assistance in a real world rescue situation.

Finally, during a rescue course, divers learn about how hyperbaric medicine may be used to help dive-related injuries and how to manage an accident situation. This type of knowledge helps a diver to be mentally prepared during a problem situation. Understanding and learning how to collect information for a medical professional, how best to pre-plan medical emergency locations, gather data, and provide assistance will mean that a trained rescue diver may have the best chances of assisting his or herself, or another diver, until medical professionals can take over care. Similarly, an understanding of liability and legal considerations will help a diver to better understand that they can help others but also how to protect his or herself and properly file incident reports.

During an SDI Rescue Class, divers learn to better understand how to cope with cramps, exhaustion, breathing difficulties, and even how to search for a lost diver. The program was designed so that any diver, not just trained professional rescuers, can provide assistance when problems arise. The reality is the program is often fun. Divers experience stress in an environment where things will not always go exactly as planned. These possible issues during training will show a diver how to adapt when needed to best help one’s self or others during a real world situation. Every diver who loves the sport and wants to learn more about safe diving and how to be better prepared for unplanned problems should strive toward learning to be a rescue diver. Most individuals who love scuba diving have what it takes to become a Rescue Diver. The best way to learn more is to visit a local SDI shop, ask about the course, and talk to the instructor. From there, new fun awaits and it is the type of fun that can make scuba diving an even safer sport.


– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC

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