I was recently at a class updating my CPR/AED training. It was a class for people who were not medical professionals and there were about 20 people in the class in a range of ages. When the class started, the instructor went around and had everyone give their name and why they were taking the class. Around half the class were taking the class for job-related reasons, two worked in a fitness center, another two in a dental office, some teachers, and a few other jobs.

One couple stated they just had a baby and wanted to be prepared if something happened. One young lady was there with a young man her age (boyfriend most likely, possibly a husband), a younger sister and her mother. They answered as a group, each placing a hand on a well along baby bump and just answering “family”. Each had their own reasons. For myself, my certification had expired and since I am around more “aged” individuals lately I thought it would be prudent to get updates. I have had first aid training since I was a child, ongoing when I was in the military and afterward. My brothers have also and a couple of them were volunteer EMT and they have children who are also EMT’s. Most of the people in my class were taking the course for the first time, so the “why you are taking this course” question interested me.

Why Take A Rescue Diver Course?

After the introductions were done, the instructor gave her overview of the course. She stressed that the course would be informal and we would be “graded” by our actions during the practices sessions without a “final” exam. We were grouped into pairs, assigned a CPR dummy and told to kneel alongside it. The instructor said that while the class was informal, it was still serious and not something for fun. If we lost that focus, just look down and imagine that the mannequin we were working on was a parent, spouse, or our child. God forbid one day that might just be the reason you are using the skills you were learning.

The mind does funny things since CPR is a requirement to become a rescue diver my thought went to why do we become a rescue diver? To many, the rescue diver course is just a stepping stone to becoming a dive professional. Not to mention PADI by name, but a leading accreditation agency calls the training serious but fun. Their promotional video shows “students” splashing water on each other like a bunch of 8-year-olds. One of the “students” states they faced each simulation “with a smile on their face”.

I am sure that I will be “attacked” and will be told I do not know what I am talking about from my viewpoint. I am not a rescue diver, however, I started my dive training many years ago. Maybe I was lucky with the instructors I had decades ago in classes that I was not able to complete. And lucky with instructors I have had over the last two decades that I have been certified. The skills that are in the rescue course have been skills I have been taught in other training. I have practiced all the task and exercises that are in the rescue diver course.

Sadly those skills have been called on three times as an assistant and once as a rescue. Happily, my efforts made a difference. If I was not there and aware of what to do, would the diver had a fatal encounter? I do not know, it is possible. To me that is the primary reason to take rescue training, you do not know what would happen if you were not trained and a rescue was called for.

The Course

The rescue diver course of the different agencies introduces you to thinking about diving differently. Your Open Water Training has a few things about helping your buddy, however, the focus is really your skills. Advance Open Water is the same. In the different training and the diving, Buddy diving is stressed. However, helping your buddy is mostly limited to surface buddy checks, staying close together, sharing air and a tired buddy tow. While important and able to fend off many problems, is it enough? As an autonomous diver, you and your dive buddy can dive on your own. No supervision nor help underwater. When you were a newly certified diver, could you trust yourself to help your dive buddy in an emergency beyond sharing air? Or even sharing air for that matter. That is with a cooperative buddy.

Would you be able to help your dive buddy or another diver nearby if they were uncooperative or unable to respond? That is what the rescue diver course is about.

Step away from the “fun”, this course can mean the difference between life and death for someone. The course, like most scuba course, has a knowledge, confined water, and open water portions. The PADI course has the requirements broken down into ten exercises and two scenarios. You will be working with situations involving responsive and cooperative diver, to those that are in a panic to those unconscious. Another very important aspect of the rescue course is protecting yourself. There is a review of self-rescue, but more importantly, much of the course is about effective rescues limiting the risk to yourself. Many times when a diver dies, it is with someone they were trying to rescue or because of them. In many ways, the rescue diver course is an underwater version of a lifeguard course.

Who Do You Dive With?

We often see in the newspapers or online stories of people watching those they love die in their arms because they did not know what to do. They have to live with that trauma the rest of their lives. It is that thought that motivates people, like in the class I was in, to take first aid and CPR classes. As divers, we can face similar situations. Could you live with yourself, if you could not help a diver that lost conciseness underwater? You hear people talked how it impacted them that someone on a dive boat died. What if that person that died was your dive buddy, your spouse or child?

The skills that a diver learns in a rescue course are important. Important in helping save someone’s life as well as protecting yours in the process.

Forget a rescue course being “fun” or as a stepping stone to something else. Learn the skills because they can be the difference between life and death.

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