Connect with us

Dive Training Blogs

Being Alert: A Subtle Lesson in the Rescue Diver Course



Rescue Diver

“I queried those at the back of the boat about whether Al had gone into the water on purpose, fallen in by accident or something else. No one could say. Confusion threatened to overtake the situation.”

Bill Powers, a San Diego SCUBA instructor, described the above brief moment on a liveaboard in a recent article he wrote regarding a dive accident where a diver entered the water without his dive buddy, became unconscious and immediately sank to 84 feet (25.6 meters). Were it not for a few attentive divers and quick thinking to help the victim, this dive accident could have turned into a tragedy. Lucky for ‘Al’ he lived to dive another day.

Before I was SCUBA certified I had a conversation with an assistant DM who told me about how important being rescue certified was.  After hearing her describe a few scenarios where her rescue certification came into use, I was determined to complete the rescue course as soon as possible. Most divers that I’ve talked with about the rescue diver course agree that it is one of the most fun and rewarding courses to take. Some divers felt that after taking the course, their confidence level skyrocketed and they became better divers because the knowledge they received helped them navigate through scenarios which they previously found daunting. Others were simply happy for the knowledge given during the CPR portion of the class. In the end, the rescue diver course could easily be the most valuable course one can take.

By the time I took the rescue course, I had already spent a lot of time in the ocean and had logged more than 80 dives. I was comfortable in the water and confident in my skills as a diver but still nervous about the class itinerary. Dragging people across the sand? Giving rescue breaths through the surf zone? Am I going to die doing this? My nervousness increased when I realized I was the smallest person in the class with the least amount of body weight and not a lot of upper body strength. I had to get through it! And of course, I did.

But, for me the most important lesson was not learning how to take someone’s BCD off and give him or her rescue breaths at the same time; though I appreciate the knowledge and enjoyed the challenge of it. And despite finding it extremely useful to learn how to protect someone’s airway while bringing them through the surf, I was more nervous about the constant but accidental salt-water sinus flushes when playing the victim (everyone finally did get it right in the end). My arms and legs ached for a few days after dragging a victim across the sand but at least we laughed between the strenuous groaning while accompanied by cheers of “you can do it!” And now I know I can.

At the end of the day, the most significant piece I took away from the course was learning to be alert. We were all told from the start of the course that we should be watching other divers for signs of stress and for improperly assembled gear. One of my favorite classes was when I was instructed to become a stressed diver before we got in the water (mimicking the kinds of stress behavior a diver may exhibit before a dive). I was normally conversational and interacted with fellow student divers, but this time I casually slipped away and sat on the edge of the pool. I wasn’t myself and though it took a while, someone (one of my dive buddies!) finally noticed that I was acting odd.  Another favorite class was when I was asked to strap my tank improperly and my dive buddy had to figure out what was amiss. On another day, we all had something wrong with our gear and had to find and correct it on each other. These moments were for me the moments that changed my perception of my dive environment.

Why was that change in perception important to me? In the open water certification class we learned that a chain of small, seemingly unimportant events may lead to a dive accident. For example, first smashing your toe with your tank, then having to use a borrowed piece of equipment because you forgot yours, added with a new environment and maybe a leaky mask could put you into a panic resulting in a rapid ascent and a trip to the hospital. An attentive dive buddy or group of divers may be able to recognize signs of stress and know how to put their fellow diver at ease, hopefully putting a halt to the sequence before it goes too far. Or you may recognize your own chain of events beginning and do what’s needed to either complete a successful, safe dive or call it if you’re too stressed. It’s important to take note of what you and other divers around you are experiencing and equally important to adhere to buddy checks before each dive. How are the divers around you acting? Where are they at mentally? Were they distracted while gearing up? Are they having trouble with seasickness or are they uncomfortable in waves? What’s going on around you? Are you prepared to exercise the skills you learned in your rescue certification class at any given moment?

Even though I can’t stress enough the importance of practicing underwater skills, through my rescue certification I’ve also learned that it’s equally important to be observant before your dive and practice being alert to what’s going on around you. It’s easy to become preoccupied with the social aspect of the pre-dive that we forget that there are things to look for above and beyond the usual gearing up routine. I think back to Bill Powers and what happened during his liveaboard trip. The divers who remained calm and were alert to a situation that quickly went bad may have prevented a death. That scenario reinforces my belief that it’s smart to keep one eye on your buddy and another on those around you. And while chatting with fellow divers, keep an ear out for sounds that could cause concern. Without the rescue course, I may not have known to be aware of these things, and so much more! I’m baffled at divers who have yet to take the rescue diver course; it is inarguably the best class I’ve taken and I have no doubt that those who have yet to take the class would feel the same way.

For more from Lora, visit

Lora is an avid freediver and scuba diver. Follow her blog where she chronicles her scuba and freediving love affair with the ocean:

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4



Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…

Continue Reading

Dive Training Blogs

Scuba Diving Instructor Ranks Scuba Specialty Classes… the good, the bad and the rubbish!! (Watch Video)



Scuba Diving Specialty Certifications! Which ones are worth your money? And which ones are just rubbish?!

This professional Scuba Instructor has strong opinions about Scuba Specialty Courses, and he’s sharing them with you!

Wreck Diver, Deep Diver, Nitrox, Buoyancy, Boat, Ice, Dry Suit, UW Photography… the list goes on and on. With so many choices for Specialty certs to get you to Master Scuba Diver level, how do you know which dive courses are of value, and which are a waste of time?

We ask 3 simple questions of each Scuba Course and rank each course’s value for you. So before you sign up for your next PADI e-learning course, WATCH THIS VIDEO!

Subscribe here:

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!


Expires on:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

More Less

Instagram Feed

Facebook Feed

Facebook Pagelike Widget