He was 30 feet down under water…he was out of air and his mask was half full of water. He signaled to his dive buddy “out of air” as he struggled to open the valve on the pony bottle of air. His buddy pushed the pony bottle regulator into his mouth but kept his hand over the purge button. He had no air left in his lungs to clear the regulator and could not access the purge button. His eyes went wide, his lungs began to burn, panic was setting in…what happens now?*
Having recently taken the PADI Rescue Diver class, Tom and Makinon Herbert were glad to share their diving class experiences with me. With Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water and Emergency First Response certifications already completed, both were ready to take their scuba training further. Originally viewing Rescue Diver as just a class, they soon learned it was so much more.
With a full color manual of relevant information, quizzes, reviews and tests, an accident management workslate, and a pocket EFR mask, the Rescue Diver crew packet comes complete with the necessary materials. Beginning with an evening of classroom learning, self-rescue skills were discussed, the importance of safety was gone over and various scenarios were imagined. Upon completion of the classroom training, Tom and Makinon then prepared for the lake on the upcoming weekend.
The day started off by meeting their instructor, Paul Repka, at Pearl Lake in South Beloit, Illinois, at the early hour of 7:30am. Once access to the area was gained they found their desired class location along the lake. Class opened with several self-rescue skills such as weight system, equipment check, and alternate air source. Next, possible uncomfortable situations that could occur were practiced which included flooded mask, free flowing regulator and disorientation. Taking it a step further, those same conditions next needed to be corrected while hovering three feet off the platform at 30 feet down. Thinking they had those skills accomplished and pretty polished, Paul kept Tom and Makinon on their toes by flooding their masks randomly. Once again priding themselves on a job well done, they were surprised to see a panicked diver (Paul) struggling and realized they needed to correct the situation while continuing with their skills. Whew…and that was only the beginning.
Other skills learned throughout their time at the lake included correctly raising a diver from the bottom of the lake, helping an unresponsive diver, missing diver procedures, exiting with a diver, navigation and performing CPR surface rescues. Learning that doing something was much better than doing nothing, Tom and Makinon soon realized the seriousness of safety associated with diving, especially as they found themselves getting tired.
Not only acquiring new knowledge and experiencing tough circumstances, but also reviewing previous dive skills. Tom and Makinon mentioned they most benefited from learning how crucial it is to keep scuba skills strong, hovering and buoyancy abilities steady, demeanor calm and heads on straight in an emergency or under pressure — things they both plan to work on to prevent a possible bad situation from ever getting worse which ensures a more enjoyable diving excursion.
Luckily, though panic was setting in quickly due to his lack of air in the above scenario, the diver was able to gain a bit of air as he ascended. Upon surfacing, he gulped enough air to eventually calm himself. Using the situation as a learning tool, the instructor explained the incident as well as the reactions. Coupled with the course work and the situation awareness training, Tom and Makinon emerged as fully capable and certified rescue divers.
*Based on a true event as told to the author, Jeni Herbert.