My SSI Diver Stress and Rescue Course in Amed, Bali

I am super excited because I have just made a huge step forward with my scuba diving training – I have completed my SSI Diver Stress and Rescue course. The course was led by David from Evolution Diver in Amed, Bali. Read on to find out how it went and what to expect if you decide to do you Diver Stress and Rescue in Amed with Scuba Schools International (SSI).

Theory – React Right – Day 1

As it is usual with the scuba diving training, theory comes first and usually there is quite a bit of material to go through before the fun begins. React Right is another course that divers typically do in conjunction with Diver Stress and Rescue. It is a basic first response and first aid training so no diving is required to complete it. Whether you do it in Amed or any other place in the world will not make a lot of difference.

The theoretical part involved learning about how to approach the scene of accident, evaluate the situation and take appropriate action. My instructor and I spent a few hours discussing how to act when a person is injured, in shock or even if someone is unconscious. I was also taught how to use the AFR, how to do CPR and how to administer oxygen. Once the theory part was done, a couple of situations were staged in the dive shop to test my knowledge.

Diver Stress and Rescue PreDive Briefing
As part of React Right and Rescue Diver combo I had to lead a pre-dive safety check for my “group” – Photo by Kristina – February 2019

The course concluded with the usual test which was not difficult to pass. A minimum of 80% score is required to pass.

Theory and dive 1 – Diver Stress and Rescue – Day 2

On day 2 we started working through the SSI diver stress and rescue course material. This course can be broken down into four sections or scenarios. These are: conscious diver on the surface, conscious diver underwater, unconscious diver on the surface and unconscious diver underwater. All of the scenarios have dry and wet runs and the trainee has to be comfortable handling all of those situations to pass the course.

Diver Stress and Rescue Unconscious Diver Evolution Diver Amed Bali
Andrius getting an “unconscious” diver from the bottom of the ocean during his Rescue Diver training – Photo by Kristina – February 2019

As soon as the theory part (everything is done online on MySSI App) and the presentation was complete we started working through these four scenarios dry. The course of action for each was explained to me and we practiced in the dive shop with a mannequin.

In the afternoon we did a dive in shallow water to make sure that all the skills taught during my open water training were still up to scratch. The reasoning behind this is that a rescue diver should be comfortable fixing his or her own problems underwater to be able to assist others. In practice, a lot of the situations where stress occurs are simple problems that can easily be solved. A few examples are water leaking into the mask and poor buoyancy control. By clearing the mask and inflating or deflating BC to achieve neutral buoyancy divers can easily avoid situations where stress leads to panic.

Dry Runs and dive 2 – Diver Stress and Rescue – Day 3

Repetition, repetition and more repetition is probably a good way for describing my experience of Diver Stress and Rescue in Amed. On day 3 we did a few more dry runs in the shop for each of the scenarios described above and did another dive.

The second dive was a lot more fun than the first one where we just did the basic skills. As soon as we got into the water David started “drowning” without any notice so I just had to react in the best way possible. Of course, I did not have my mask on when he started panicking so when he jumped on me I went underwater without a mask. Also, I did not deflate my BC so I struggled to get out of his reach.

The correct course of action when a fellow diver is in panic on the surface is to clearly instruct him or her to inflate the BC first. In majority of such cases the diver is not drowning but in fact is sinking which causes the stress and panic. If the BC is fully inflated staying on the surface should not be a problem.

If the mentioned stressed diver is unable to follow the instructions (common when someone is panicking) the rescue diver should prepare to inflate the BC for the panicked diver. The best way to do this is to deflate your own BC, go under and around the panicked diver, grab him or her from behind and power inflate their BC.

It is essential to have your own mask on an regulator in to be able to see and breathe underwater.

At this point, some of you might be thinking why is it necessary to go underwater and why it could not be done above water. The answer is actually very simple. The natural instinct in a panic situation is to use anything within your reach to hold on to in order to keep yourself afloat. In the middle of the ocean a fellow rescue diver might be the only thing to hold on to! Now, if someone is sinking or, in their head, drowning, the last thing this person will ever do is willingly chase someone who has just gone underwater. As a matter of fact going underwater is the very thing they are trying to prevent from happening.

By going underwater, rescue diver protects himself from being used as a buoy and is also able to approach the panicked person without getting into his or her reach. Holding panicked persons tank or BC from behind will ensure they can’t turn to face you and push you down.

Dive 3 and Search and Recovery – Diver Stress and Rescue – Day 4

On day 4 we did another dive where we practiced all the skills related to four different scenarios covered during the Diver Stress and Rescue course. By this time the “panicked diver” situations had become a lot easier to handle as I trained myself to expect this to happen any moment. During the dive we also spent a good amount of time in shallow water practicing handling situations where someone is found unconscious underwater.

In the afternoon we ran through a couple of search patterns which can be utilized when someone goes missing. In emergency situations like this it is important that rescue divers can quickly organize and manage these simple rescue situations. One of the most important things that I learned is that if anything happens emergency services have to be summoned as soon as possible before search and recovery commences. If help is on the way or is on site already by the time the person is found and brought to the surface there is a much better chance a life can be saved.

Diver Stress and Rescue Search and Recovery Training
Practicing Search and Recovery of a missing diver – Photo by Kristina – February 2019

Note: Although I do not have Search and Recovery specialty it feels there is a fair bit of it covered under SSI Diver Stress and Rescue. Unless you are a card collector I do not think Search and Recovery would add much to your knowledge, especially if you have Navigation specialty.

Stress Dive – Diver Stress and Rescue – Day 5

Without a shadow of doubt day 5 was the most fun of all. I think some people will be dreading this moment but to me it was the reason why I did the training in the first place. It was super exciting to put everything that I learned to test and in my opinion Evolution diver in Amed team did an awesome job here.

My day started by arriving to the dive shop but instead of me being the trainee I became the dive guide for a bunch of very impatient and poorly trained bunch of scuba divers. Now, I have a feeling this might not be in the books but I had to make sure everyone in the group (other divemasters and instructors) had their equipment set up correctly and that they were ready for a safe dive. And let me tell you these guys have done some really crazy shit I would not have thought about.

Once we got to the water one of them started drowning so I had to jump in and show that I know how to handle a panicked diver on the surface. After descending the fun also known as stress dive began.

I had my mask ripped off so many times it was not even worth counting, buckles that I did not know I had have been unbuckled and my fins were taken away from me several times. As part of the stress dive I also had to undo my gear to secure my tank back into place (no mask, no fins and BC all unclipped of course) while everyone was having fun spraying air in my face, inflating my BC and doing their best to make the dive as uncomfortable as possible. Just to add to the fun, from time to time my “customers” would randomly start panicking and I had to find the reason why and help them fix it.

Diver Stress and Rescue Stress Test Evolution Diver Amed Bali
Stress test is doable with some preparation but it is not easy – Photo by Kristina – February 2019

It seemed as if everyone was having a jolly good time underwater (including Kristina filming it all from above) apart from me but that was kind of expected.

Once we surfaced I noticed that one of the divers was missing so I sent two people to call for help and got David to help me carry out search and recovery of a missing diver. We used one of the patterns we learnt about earlier to find the missing person and I also had to get the person out to the shore.

Once I got back to the shore with a “drowned” diver on my back my stress dive was officially done. I received a lot of good words from the team so I think I did well.

I am a Stress and Rescue Diver and you can be too!

Without hesitation I can say this was the most fun and rewarding course I have done so far. The SSI Diver Stress and Rescue course really improves your ability to control yourself and others under and above water.

Yes, the theory is a bit boring and the dives that you do are heavily focused on practicing skills (not really much of fun diving and exploring) but the satisfaction you get at the end is worth it. I do think, however, that the team you work with is important too and I am happy I chose Evolution Diver in Amed, Bali for my course. The guys were so much fun with all the acting before and during the stress dive I would not want to change a thing.

If you are in doubt about whether you should do Diver Stress and Rescue course just go ahead and do it. I can guarantee you will remember the experience for the rest of your life!

Also, if you are just starting out read Kristina’s story about her Open Water Diver course which is the first recognized recreational scuba diving certification.

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