General concerns with respect to diver rescue training revolve about the primary question of what we expect the diver to be doing during their diving "career." Many members feel that because our divers are given a lifetime certification to dive anywhere in the world without supervision, they must be able to take complete care of themselves and their buddies under all circumstances. A pair of divers diving without any other supervision should certainly be able to care for themselves.
Contrasting this view are arguments that new divers lack the time in water to attain proficiency in diver rescue. New divers are generally self‑centered and lack the physical stamina and general water skills to effectively perform a rescue. It might be acceptable to reduce the emphasis on rescue skills in entry level courses for the large number of divers who dive only at resorts under the supervision of trained divemasters or instructors. However, this solution ignores the fact that these same divers have the capability to dive by themselves in any circumstances they deem prudent.
Perhaps it is time to consider differentiating divers by certification levels which allow them to dive only under specified supervision. Some divers might choose a course which allows them to dive only with an instructor as their buddy (similar to a Resort Course). Others might opt for a course of instruction leading to a certification allowing them to dive under the direct supervision of divemasters or instructors. "Advanced" divers might have the capability to dive with others of similar training without supervision at all.
Received for this column were responses from fifteen members. The suggestions made and opinions expressed were equally divided between a strong rescue "ethic" for entry level divers, and the thought that rescue skills should be taught progressively through successive certification levels. Summaries of their thoughts and underlying rationale follow below.
QUESTION: "How much in the way of rescue skills should we present to Openwater I, Openwater II, and Advanced students? Why?"
A. Based on student needs and wants while in Openwater I, I feel that rescue skills should be limited to self‑rescues, and simple buddy rescue skills like weight belt drops, buddy tows, and BC inflation. In Openwater II more buddy rescue skills should be taught, such as an introduction to recoveries from depth and surface ventilations. At the Advanced level, capabilities should include the ability to perform a complete rescue.
This is reasonable when you examine student needs and capabilities. The Openwater I student is self‑centered, and concentrates primarily on maintaining personal safety. The Openwater II student has made a basic committment to the sport, and is willing to accept and handle increased responsibilities. The Advanced Diver is fully committed to the sport, and has the general attitude of the ski patrol type person. He has the skills, and the dedication to learn to effectively perform full rescues.
‑‑Lou Fead, NAUI 1413; Miami, FL (Training Director for Pisces Divers, NAUI Pro Facility; Past Training Director for UNEXSO in Bahamas, past NAUI Director, author of diving texts, taught all levels of diving from Introductory Course to ITCs.
A. This has been a favorite subject of mine for some time. Personally, I believe we spend far too much time, energy, and enthusiasm on rescue and first aid as it is now in the basic SCUBA training programs (including Openwater I and II as "basic" programs). I think the intention is noble and impressive if not too effective. Personally I would rather encourage a diver to gain some easy experience, then take a good healthy specialty course in diver rescue. Here some adequate time can be spent conditioning the diver and learning the necessary skills to become competent at water rescue while teaching the rescuer some regard for their own personal safety!
In truth, it's probably more prudent to develop a diving rescue specialist and hire them to monitor every NAUI open water checkout. Swimming instructors are all lifeguards; but the best lifeguard is one that is watching and waiting and not preoccupied with a hundred other instructional details. Diving instructors do not necessarily become better overall instructors because they specialize in some area, including diver rescue. Sometimes, our classes become a platform for our specialties and we forget to teach enough general diving information.
I also believe that we spend too much time concentrating on Rescue and First Aid (after the fact topics) than preventing (before the fact). That is a mistake. It is like putting mattresses around the base of a building instead of railings around the balcony. I think we need to develop a strong section of training slanted toward the prevention of diving accidents rather than the treatment of diving accidents.
‑‑Spence Campbell, NAUI A‑20; Renton, WA (Private professional instructor and diving consultant, Vice‑President National Association of Commercial Scuba Divers, past General Manager of the Ocean Corporation.)
A. Since divers try to get as far away from civilization as possible (where the best diving is found), they must be prepared to take care of their own problems. In our entry level classes we discuss mouth to mouth resuscitation and first aid for loss of blood. Students must demonstrate "tired swimmer," "panicked diver," and "drowned victim" rescue procedures. We hope to instill confidence that they can do something in case of an emergency. In most rescues, success or failure is due to prompt action. In advanced class they must become expert in all rescues and also assemble a personal first aid kit.
‑‑Roy Damron, NAUI 207; Kona, Hawaii (Diving instructor, current NAUI Board of Advisors member. Past NAUI Director, Chapter Leader, West Pacific Branch Manager, and ITC Director. Recipient NAUI Outstanding Service Award.)
A. I believe that the current emphasis on what I would term advanced rescue techniques at the entry level is missing the point of the instruction. We are better off emphasizing strong basic skills and the positive results of those rather than our current tack that seems to imply rescue problems are indeed common and the need to use the skills frequent. The concentration in my entry level class is on tired diver assists and similar support activities as well as the thought processes and awareness that make for good prevention. Students are also exposed to more advanced skills but from an approach aimed at educating them as to the level of skill involved with these techniques. They are not expected to be proficient with the skills at this point. Openwater I should be a place to emphasize assists for tired divers and prevention through awareness of one's own limitations. In Openwater II students should begin working on more advanced techniques such as in‑water artificial resuscitation and retrieving a diver from the bottom, stripping gear in the water, etc. Enough time should be spent to strengthen and reinforce the skills instead of just being able to make it through them once. In Advanced training all the skills should be brought together with a strong emphasis on management and coordination of others, in addition to strong and repeatable personal skills.
‑‑Keith W. Wood, NAUI 4709; Seattle, WA (University instructor, primarily entry level courses. Also teaches a student recreation diving program. Senior ITC staff experience.)
A. Optimally, I would like to make all entry level students competent to perform a full rescue‑‑but it is not practical within the bounds of safety of new divers. For Openwater I the diver should be exposed to basic dive rescue skills on the surface of the water for both conscious and unconscious divers. They should have surface rescues demonstrated and then given an opportunity to try them, up to using the do‑si‑do tow. Openwater II students should conduct a surface rescue including the resuscitation of the victim. The Advanced Diver should conduct a full rescue from underwater of unconscious and conscious divers, including bringing the divers to the surface, resuscitation, towing to point of exit, and exiting the water.
‑‑Ronnie Damico, NAUI 5489; Long Beach, CA (Diving Officer for California State University at Long Beach, South Pacific Branch Manager, ITC Director. Recipient of NAUI Outstanding Service Award. ICUE Conference Chairman.)
A. One prerequisite for entry into a scuba course should be some type of training in lifesaving and CPR. This insures that the person has basic swimming, lifesaving, and first aid skills. Then all the training in lifesaving and rescue skills a diver gets would be done in an entry level course. Divers are not prepared to buddy dive after completing the current entry level course, because they cannot fulfill one major obligation of buddy diving: the rescue of their buddy.
‑‑Lee Somers, NAUI 813; Ann Arbor, MI (Diving Officer for University of Michigan, past NAUI Director, Member NAUI Board of Advisors.)
A. At Openwater I level, students need to understand a good tow system (do‑si‑do or tank tow), and how to bring a victim up off the bottom. In other words, have the ability to get the victim to shore. Drownproofing and bobbing techniques should be reinstituted as very inportant means of self rescue. By the time they get to Openwater II, they should have completed a full specialty course in diver rescue. This should be completed immediately after the Openwater I course. If a diver is going on to leadership level certifications, they should be required to complete a rescue program which is more comprehensive than those currently available through the sport diving agencies.
‑‑Walt "Butch" Hendrick, NAUI 1724; New York, NY (President Lifeguard Systems, NAUI Director, past North Atlantic Branch Manager.)
A. Self‑rescue and recognition of limitations due to diving conditions as a form of "pre‑rescue" or rescue prevention are skills every diver should know. Actual rescue situations require that the non‑breathing diver be ventilated immediately upon being brought to the surface, while still in the water, before being transported to a support platform, boat, or beach. Every entry level diver should be able to perform these first breaths of life in the environment in which they have been trained to dive. Openwater II and Advanced divers should meet the same requirements. The only difference between levels are that the environments are progressively more severe, so the divers must be in better physical condition, more comfortable in the water, and competent in adverse conditions.
‑‑Bob Sheridan, NAUI 2992; Chicago IL and Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Owner of Anchor International Dive Shop, Past Mid‑America Branch Manager, recipient NAUI Outstanding Service Award. Taught all levels courses up to and including ITCs.)
A. I have always believed that rescue skills should be taught in all levels. However, teaching full blown rescues from the beginning is too much‑‑the skills required are beyond the capabilities of the students. Entry level materials should be confined to self‑rescue. Further rescue techniques should be taught slowly and with lots of practice. Openwater II students should know straightforward tows and removal of persons from the water. They should be strongly encouraged to have CPR training. Advanced students should be exposed to a significant amount of rescue skills for a variety of events in several environments. First aid training should also be taught. A diver rescue course is strongly recommended anytime after completing an Openwater II course.
--Ken Heist, NAUI 1036L; Crownsville, MD (Current Board of Directors member, past Branch Mid‑Atlantic Branch Manager. Teaches primarily Openwater II and leadership level courses.)
A. My opinion may be in the minority, but I think rescue skills should be practiced in all NAUI certification courses, beginning with Openwater I. To me, lifesaving and rescue work should consist of five components: (1) Making a victim buoyant on the surface and underwater, (2) Tows and carries, (3) Rescue of the submerged diver, (4) Diver resuscitation, and (5) Out of air emergencies.
Rather than teaching new rescue skills progressively from Openwater I to Advanced classes, I recommend reviewing skills from each of the five areas listed. This should be done at every certification level. I also believe Jim Corry's Accident Management program should be implemented as a fully recognized specialty course, or as a part of some other advanced rescue course. Perhaps this course should be required for all leadership level persons.
--Tom Griffiths, PhD, NAUI 6448; State College, PA (Director of Aquatics, Penn State University, Instructor for 15 years primarily in colleges, entry level to ITCs taught.)
A. All students should be trained first in proper weighting and self rescue, ie. surfacing safely from an undesirable diving situation without panic and then establishing positive buoyancy and resting. Most important to effecting this result is establishing diver competency in the use of snorkel and manual inflation of the BC. As a dive operator on the Atlantic Ocean, I have observed a great deficiency in this area among divers of all certification levels.
Furthermore, all divers should be trained to assist their buddies with the aforementioned skills. Openwater II and Advanced students obviously should be able to complete tired diver rescue proficiency and should demonstrate unconscious diver rescue.
--Joanie Wright, NAUI 7501; Islamorada, Florida Keys, Florida (Operator, Lady Cyana Divers. Resort courses to ITC staff.)
A. Openwater I students should be trained to bring a diver to the surface, apply ventilations, remove equipment, and transport to a place where they may conduct CPR. CPR should be taught as a part of the course. Rescue skills should be taught contiguously with self‑rescue and accident problem solving and prevention. Actual repeated practice in dropping weight belts should be conducted in the pool and openwater as the most important self rescue skill.
Openwater II and Advanced students should get continued reinforcement in these skills. Advanced skills such as helicopter rescue and long distance problems should be covered in a specialty course.
Reasons for my beliefs are as follows: (1) Openwater I students are often considered as "children" in the diving community. This is not so. With a certification card, they are deemed competent to dive safely on their own. Rescue skills are an important part of this ability. (2) Many non‑ diving accidents, such as heart attacks, occur while diving. Buddies must be prepared to cope with these. (3) One only has a short time to prevent brain damage and save a life with a rescue of an unconscious victim. The ability to give ventilations in water as soon as possible is of critical importance. (4) Students learning these rescue skills in a class increases confidence in themselves and their buddies, by knowing their buddies can assist them if necessary. This will in itself help prevent accidents from occuring.
--Jim Gatacre, NAUI 6969; San Clemente, CA (Program Director of the Handicapped Scuba Association.)
A. My feeling is that Openwater I students should be introduced to rescue techniques, and practice self‑rescue and buddy rescues with emphasis on what the average diver actually can accomplish. The progression of rescue skills presented should increase as the class level increase. The value, in my opinion, is that having performed a simulated rescue, the student experiences physically the effort of rescuing a buddy and thereby becomes aware of his/her personal physical limitations. Stressing safety for oneself first, the student must know what he/she can actually do before attempting a rescue.
--Judith Jennet, NAUI 5365; Anaehoomalu, HI (Owner of Captain Nemo's Ocean Sports. Teaches primarily leadership level courses and specialized Openwater I courses. Author of Snorkel Diving for Young People.)
A. An entry level scuba diver should be trained for self‑ rescue. Putting oneself into a safe position as an alternative to panic is a learned behavior. It is a survival skill. Most drownings in scuba diving occur when a diver loses control of a situation on the surface, in the transition from diver to surface air breather. The diver fails to recognize the situation as it develops. Training in self‑rescue would give the diver an alternative for survival.
An Openwater II diver should be able to rescue self and another diver of equal size. I feel an Advanced diver should have a formal background in Diver Rescue Techniques.
--Jack Cheasty, NAUI 6171; Fort Bragg, NC (Physician's Assistant 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Diving Supervisor for the Multinational Force and Observation Sinai Penensula, where he trained about 400 divers last year.)
A. Various aspects of self‑rescue can be introduced throughout Openwater I training. The skills which most instructors call "diver rescue" should be introduced in simple form during Openwater II. Then, a concentration of typical rescue skills should be targeted during Advanced training.
--Bill High, NAUI 175; Seattle, WA (President, Professional Scuba Inspectors. Past President, NAUI, past North Pasific Branch Manager. Recipient of several NAUI Outstanding Service Awards.)
[NOTE: The views contained in this column are opinions held by the individua; members referenced, and are not those of NAUI or the editors of NDA News.]
Questions for the next issues:
For the March/April issue: "Should there be a standardized way of wearing an auxillary second stage (or octopus) while diving? If so, where should it be worn, and why?"
For the May/June issue: "Should NAUI require photo ID certification cards? Why/why not?"
All members are encouraged to respond. This column is for you, the membership, to develop. Answers should be kept fairly brief, preferably no more than two or three paragraphs. Responses to each question will be collated by the editor, condensed if necessary, and printed in this section. New questions may also be posed for discussion. Questions should be concise, and should stimulate a wide crossection of the membership. Include with your responses or questions the following information: your name, address, NAUI membership number, dive‑related employment, past diving accomplishments, and a review of your dive teaching experience. Send your materials to Jeffrey Bozanic, c/o NDA News, P.O. Box 14650, Montclair, CA 91763‑1150.
NAUI Members' Forum #3
Dive Rescue Skills Training
NDA News, Jan/Feb 1988, pp. 22-25.
Compiled and Edited by Jeffrey Bozanic, NAUI 5334L
All content, images and text copright © Jeffrey Bozanic (except as noted). All rights reserved worldwide. No images or text may be copied, duplicated, modified, or redistributed in part of whole (except for printing for personal reference) without prior written consent from Jeffrey Bozanic.