Rescuing an unresponsive diver at the surface – Rescue Diver Exercise 7


One of the skills that is drilled into you is rescuing an unresponsive diver at the surface. You must complete this exercise when your doing your Rescue Diver, Divemaster, IDC and IE. It is so important to get right as you could be the one person that makes a difference.

I think completing your Rescue Diver course is something that all divers should aspire to do and regular practice of the skills is a definite must. A lot of scuba divers that I have spoken to have said that the Rescue Diver course is one of the most demanding but most rewarding courses that they have done.

So how does it go down.

1. Approach the diver and establish contact

Normally an unresponsive diver will be face down in the water. Approach with caution, surveying the area for any dangers. Call to the diver and splash them with water. If no response – you can assume that they are unresponsive.

2. Turn the diver over

As they are face down they could be breathing (if they are breathing) from the reg or worse they could be mouth open in the water. So as you approach maneuver yourself so that you have easy access to the top of their cylinder. As you have established they are unresponsive turn them Over using the cylinder to help you.

3. BWMs

Buoyancy is first up. Inflate their BCD, then inflate yours
Weights are next. Remove their weight belt, and then yours. Integrated weights aren’t much of a worry because they will be removed when you take the BCD off.
Then removed the mask.

Don’t forget to take their regulator out.

4. Check for breathing

Put your hand under the head of the unresponsive diver and position yourself so that your ear is next to their nose and mouth and your eyes can see along your chest. You are listening, looking and feeling for any signs of breathing. You might need to remove your hood.
Check for 10 seconds you do this by saying 1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000, ……. , 10-1000. Call for help!

5. Begin rescue breaths

Since you have now established that you have an unresponsive non-breathing diver give them two rescue breaths. You may wish to do this mouth-to-mouth and then take out your pocket mask. Now get into a rhythm. You give one rescue breath every five seconds. You can use the 1-1000 method. I prefer to count slowly, 1, 2, 3, 4, BREATH. Stay in this rhythm. If you lose track, just give two rescue breaths and then start the rhythm again. It’s better to do two that to miss one.

6. Equipment removal

Depending on the conditions, dive site, how far you are from boat or shore will factor into this part. So use your judgement. It might be better to remove your BCD first and leave theirs on, or remove both or neither. However, it will be easier to get them out if the water if both BCDs are removed as wet kit can be quite heavy. So use your judgement.

Usually in the training exercises you unclip their BCD, unclip and remove yours, then remove theirs. Remember it is important that this is done in the rhythm. You should also be careful not to get water on the unresponsive diver’s face so flick any excess water off if your hand. Also one hand must support the divers head at all times. So perhaps you might adapt the pattern to BREATH, CLIP, 3, FLICK, 5. Speak to your instructor and see what the suggest.

7. Swim to help

As you are now removing the equipment and giving rescue breaths you can start “towing” the unresponsive diver towards help. Help might be a boat, the shore or something else.

Once you reach the place where you will remove the diver from the water give two rescuer breaths and the start to remove them as quickly as you can. Once they are out if the water start your normal ABCDs and make sure emergency services are contacted.

Here is a video from Utila Dive Centre demonstrating the rescue of an unresponsive diver at the surface.

First and foremost let me state that you must receive formal training from one of the many dive organisations before attempting a dive. Without formal training you risk injuring yourself. Please get training before attempting anything you have read or seen in this post. I will not be held responsible for you attempting to use the methods contained in this post. The following post is for illustration purposes only.

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