What Does a Rescue Diver Do?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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A rescue diver is an individual who has been trained to retrieve people or things from a body of water during crisis situations. Some rescue divers utilize their rescue training during recreational diving emergencies, and may be employed by a diving company or may themselves be recreational divers. Other rescue divers are employed by a police department or emergency medical team, and focus primarily on retrieving people or evidence from underwater following an accident or a crime. Becoming a certified rescue diver generally involves extensive training.

In many cases, a rescue diver uses her training to intervene when a crisis arises during a recreational dive. This type of rescue diver may work as part of a diving company, accompanying customers during dives to provide emergency assistance when necessary. Alternatively, she may simply be a recreational diver who is certified in rescue techniques, and is thus able to aid fellow divers if needed.


Rescuing recreational divers can be difficult and dangerous, and usually involves much more than simply helping a distressed diver to the water’s surface. In order to increase the chance of saving a distressed diver’s life, this type of rescue diver must be able to identify and react to the diver’s problem within seconds. She must provide oxygen if needed and help free the diver from an obstruction if he has become trapped. Additionally, she must help the distressed diver to the surface in such a way that neither individual will sustain decompression sickness, must administer first aid if needed, and must be prepared to deal with panic. She must also be able to navigate a wide range of water conditions.

Another type of rescue diver concentrates mainly on retrieving people or things from the water after a crime or an accident. This kind of rescuer is usually part of an emergency medical team, police department, or fire department. She may help an individual who has accidentally fallen into a body of water or may recover a deceased individual’s remains following a drowning. Sometimes, this type of rescue diver may be involved in dredging a body of water to search for evidence following a crime.

Attempting to perform an underwater rescue without proper training can result in the injury or even death of not only the distressed diver but also the rescuer. Consequently, those who wish to become rescue divers generally must complete a certification course. A rescue diver certification course typically consists of a combination of classroom-based learning and hands-on training. In most cases, separate courses exist for those who want training in recreational diving rescue and those who want to work as part of a professional emergency response team.


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