One has to be a certified AOWD to take the rescue diver. It is also required to have done the emergency first response (EFR) or equivalent CPR & first aid training within the last 24 months. I started with the EFR.
The book for the emergency first response course was slender at less than 100 pages. It contained some theory on emergency practices and then steps on handling various emergencies. I then headed to a class where three of us trainees watched a training video and went through the material with an instructor. At the end was a 25-question multiple-choice quiz for which we had to get 75% right.
Once we finished with the videos and the questions, we got started on the practical. We practiced CPR and rescue breathing on a dummy, practiced rolling over a live human into the ‘rescue position’ and practiced dislodging objects choking a person.
There were two of us doing the rescue diver theory. We sat through an hour and half of PADI’s videos before we could get to discussing the theory exercises. We had both done our homework and answered the exercise questions before attending the class. My buddy Rana had copied the answers verbatim from the original text into the answer spaces, having taken much care to not process any of it himself. It was very dull and only instructor Oliver’s occasional elaborations and experiences interrupted the tedium. The exam was a 50 MCQ quiz at the end.
As of the time I did it, the pool practice for rescue diver was the most fun that I had had in a dive course. Rana was training with me again this day. Our instructor Ally timed us as we assembled all our gear from scratch. We then took it apart and did it again, faster. We did it a third time while looking into the distance, assuming that we had to assemble our gear while keeping an eye on a drowning person.
Ally asked us to try free-diving the 15m breadth of the swimming pool. I went under on one side of the pool, moved my legs in unison and emerged, 20 seconds later on the other side. This was so thrilling that I tried to free-dive the 25m length of the pool and got to the other end without breaking the surface.
We were just getting started. Ally got us to stay on one side of the pool and dropped our scuba equipment underwater on the other side. We had to put them on without breaking the surface. I dived down and reached the other end with no difficulty. I quickly reached for the regulator and put it in my mouth. So far so good. I then struggled as I put on my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and found that the velcro straps were stuck behind me. I had to take it off, take the velcro apart, and put it on again.
The panicked diver underwater scenario was the one that there were no clear directions for. We had to use our judgement and natural abilities to ensure that the diver didn’t harm the rescuer while panicking, and then try to save his life. We also practiced helping unresponsive, panicked and tired divers underwater and at the surface. One interesting thing that I had not previously known about was the heavy emphasis on the rescuer’s safety. The rescuer is not supposed to put himself at risk to save the victim’s life. It makes no sense to split the resources from one victim to two potential victims.
Towing divers is energy-sapping. In the case of a tired diver one can focus on just getting the diver to safety. In the case of an unresponsive diver, one may need to provide emergency resuscitation and take off the diver’s equipment while towing the diver toward safety – and also ensure that the boat has called emergency and is ready to handle the situation once one arrives. Once at the boat / shore, the challenge of getting the diver on it remains. We practiced a couple of techniques to get the diver up the boat once they get there. Ally is tiny, so we practiced with a few brawnier dive masters / instructors who happened to not be too busy at the moment when we practiced.
We were at the pool from 9 to 4 that day. It was an exhausting day and my hands felt weak after, but it was quite fun. I am looking forward to doing it all in the sea soon.