The Advanced Lifesaver (ALS) skills development course is one of those SDCs that people put off doing until they have to, the reason being because it is hard work and tests a skill that we all think we are brilliant at, but are we ?
Paul and Chris joined a Scotland Southern region event at Loch Long being run by Rob Sewell, the regional coach and ‘Boss’ed’ by Pete Bicheno, one of our locally active National Instructors who is always willing to help out on such events. Guy from Aberdeen and Alex from Stirling made up the rest of the course candidates. The venue switched from Largs due to the wind was the Loch Long Chalets, diving off a boat lent by Thistle divers and the conditions in the bay were fair (enough) .
So what is it all about ? The ALS assesses diving lifesaver skills at a level that an Advanced Diver would be asked to perform, so rescue from a depth of 20m and following the BSAC safety principle of lifting to 6m then stopping, doing a safety stop, ascending normally to recommence the rescue drill once on the surface. Of course diving in Loch Long you will always have the challenge of low vis and darkness which adds a degree of realism to the proceedings. Once on the surface, recovery to both boat and then to the shore after an exhausting 100m tow with rescue breaths which was undoubtedly the most strenuous diving activity I’ve done in years. Landing a casually on your own putting them in a recover position and then, using a manikin, provide Basic Life Support until assistance arrives.
All these skills we have covered many times during our training, but the effectiveness of the course is that it provides a scenario where you link the skills in their natural order and thereby providing a realistic vehicle for assessment. And yes it is an assessment, not a teaching course!
Additional, written , verbal and first aid scenarios finished the day after we had recovered the boats and changed into dry clothing and moved into the rather nice cafe at the Chalet reception and shop.
So what was my opinion and thoughts on the day ? Firstly and to be completely honest I could have done much better! I felt rusty and slow on the practical aspects and my theory was not quick enough. So here are my areas for improvement !
On the lift, I could not see my computer so was using the shot / datum to gauge my ascent rate. That was fine but I was late in stopping at 6m. Next time, I’ll switch the back light on or perhaps just learning how to turn it on would be a good idea. Usually I just shine my torch on it but not enough hands to do that during a lift.
Lifting people into the boat , need to review different techniques and practice parbuckling.
Throwing and non-contact rescues, all good stuff. No problem for the men!
Towing and rescue breaths while making a good seal, practice practice and practice! You can always do better and a 100m tow is a long long way! Fitness could be better as it impacts effectiveness of technique.
Landing, need to do this without trying to break peoples arms and should note that techniques will differ and are dependent on the ease of the exit, so learn more than one.
Recovery position: How can you get this wrong……? very easily, let me explain! Well it wasn’t really wrong, it was just another way of doing it!
BLS practice, practice and practice again, again was far too rusty for comfort, but it did get better as I got into it. Good extension, checked for effective breaths and lots of ‘Nellie the elephant’ and ‘Staying Alive’… casualty assessment every….
Communication, communication and communication.
If anyone was interested in doing this assessment, I’d either recommend being 100% up to date with your practice or a complete refresher session beforehand, it’s the full on nature of the exercise that is so useful and at the same time so challenging.
All in all a very worthwhile event. Thanks are due to Rob and Pete for managing it and to Thistle Divers for the use of their boat. For prospective Advance Diver candidates this is a really good course which covers off several requirements in the training syllabus, for other diver, unless you have an alternative requirement to do it, it is very hard work , a good level set of your rescue skills and ultimately very rewarding.
( It should be noted that some people forgot certain pieces of basic equipment. Certain people forgot their fins while others didn’t even bother to bring their dry suits.. I suspect that some people did not really want to dive in Loch Long which with visibility of less than 2m and being dark at 4m was perhaps understandable. Names will be named unless performance improves on future trips! – Ed)