Rescue Diver means Responsibilities

The reality of diving is summarised in this rule of thumb.

"A diver certified for Open Water is the equivalent to earning one's driver's license.
Achieving Advanced in diving means you're clear to head out on the highway.
But only after having completed your Rescue Diver course will I let you drive around with my mother."  - Prof Oakley & Hazel

Scuba diving is unlike all other recreational hobbies. It allows us to explore an amazing world that defies the gravity that we're accustomed to and is home to an entirely different realm of species.  Such a unique experience can produce a wide array of effects on each of us both mentally and physically.  With diving in particular, small problems can lead to much larger safety and health problems when not dealt with properly.  Becoming a Rescue Diver helps you to both recognize and respond to these situations as they become apparent.

As of today, I am a certified Rescue Diver.  Completing this course with TRACC has been one of the most entertaining, frustrating and empowering things I've ever done.  

Unlike other dive facilities, there was basically no time restraint which meant plenty of time for practicing [unscheduled] rescue scenarios.  While I can't admit to always being excited about this aspect, I think it had the desired effect; by the end, not only did I find myself keeping an eye on all potential safety hazards for those around me, but over time (debatably too much in some cases- weight belt (?!?)) I actually did learn from my mistakes.  Here are a few of the things that I learned:

1- Anything can happen at any time.

While loading a boat full of divers, Sonny (staff member) managed to impale his eye on the cleat in the front of the boat, blood everywhere.

Despite having gone on a leisurely dive, Tom (intern) became an unresponsive diver at 10m underwater. 

Matteo (volunteer) became a drown victim while on the way to help me rescue Gon (dive instructor).

Jason (staff) was found unconscious, not breathing and drifting with the current, away from the boat at the surface after a work dive.

Gon, a certified dive instructor, managed to do a textbook list of "things not to do while diving" throughout an entire dive. For example, despite having serious anxiety and doubts about diving, she was going for the dive; her breathing was rapid and uncontrolled underwater; she attempted to touch EVERYTHING (lionfish?! Cone shell?!)- Oh, and of course she also ended up  unconscious around 9m...

There was such an abundance of missing divers that I dare say I'll tie ropes to everyone!

2- Stop. THINK. Act.

In an attempt to help someone as quickly as possible, I often managed to do more harm than good.  

In one scenario I left so abruptly to fetch an unresponsive swimmer that I neglected to consider how much more quickly I could have brought the victim to shore, had I just grabbed the fins that sat beside me.

On another occasion I left the boat (with nothing but fins) to help a unresponsive diver at the surface without having realized that she had already removed her BCD- hence, we had no flotation device.

3- Drop the weights.

In almost every scenario I encountered, the victim wore a weight belt. 

In basically all of these scenarios I neglected to remove the belt first.  

This added drag (in the water) and mass (on land) which inevitably resulted in slowing down the rescue, potentially critically affecting victim survival.

For one beach shore rescue the victim I'd dragged out of the water and onto the shore was wearing at least 8 kg on his weight belt.  The staff member was already significantly larger than me to begin with and I'd not done myself any favors by neglecting to remove the belt.

Make life easier. Drop the weights first.

4- Learn from your mistakes

At times, my mistakes seemed to outnumber my accomplishments.  Why didn't I think to bring fins? ?..remove the weight belt (again)? ...ask a bystander if the victim was wearing a BCD?  At this point, some of you may be hoping to never be in a situation where you're the victim and I'm the only one around...

The GOOD news is that I did improve!  The training and ongoing scenarios with TRACC gave me the confidence in a rescue situation that I didn't have before. After making a mistake, THAT mistake was typically one of the first things that came to mind when another situation came up.  I now have a list of things that went well or poorly and why; this is what I've started to revisit with each scenario and will continue to come back to when/if a rescue situation ever comes up.

The dedication of the staff at TRACC to helping me with this course was immense! They were dragged through the water and sand (not always very gracefully), stained with fake blood (that stuff REALLY doesn't want to wash off!) and always up for finding ways to get hurt and die.

From the bottom of my heart, thanks guys!


More info about learning to dive or volunteering to help save the ocean with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 
TRACC seriously recommends that all divers get certified to rescue.  This is why.