If you are someone that is utterly terrified of scuba diving, it is likely that you have this fear due to a number of reasons. Obviously, one of the main reasons that people are scared of diving is because of Hollywood’s unrealistic portrayal of how prominent sharks will be in your scuba experience. However, aside from sharks, another reason that people are so afraid to take the plunge into the depths of the water is out of fear of being lost.
This is a fair fear to have, due to all of the documented cases of people going missing when on a scuba trip and the long list of those who entered the water and never came back. For as long as there have been scuba diving, there has always been the risk of this happening. However, over the last few decades, scuba divers have been taking special steps to avoid this.
One of the main ways that scuba divers have started to combat the threat of being lost at sea or injured in the water is by using diver down flags.
What is a Diver Down Flag?
A diver down flag is a flag that can be attached to a vessel or floating device and indicates that there is someone under the water diving. It is usually used to deal with water traffic, as when a diver ascends or descends, they are sometimes at risk of being harmed by an unsuspecting boat or jet ski. They are at least 12inches by 12inches in diameter, which means boats and other aquatic vehicles can see them in the water and know to avoid that particular area. When you look up any refresher tips for scuba diving, diver down flags is one of the main bits of kit that they recommend you taking with you on any diving excursions. This is because scuba diving can be a risky activity, so it is just smart to take every precaution you can to ensure your own safety.
Two types of Diver Down Flag
Though you may think that there is just one universal diver down the flag that indicates a divers location, this is not the case. In fact, there are two types of diver down flag, each with its own meaning. But what are the two flags, what do they look like and what do they mean?
The Red and White flag
The red and white flag is arguably the most noticeable of the two and is used worldwide and has been for a long time. This is a very noticeable flag and is one of the more known flags to indicate that there is someone under the water. However, it has fallen out of fashion in recent years due to the flag being adopted by dive supply shops and over retail stores to indicate that they sell diving equipment.
The Alpha Flag
This blue and white flag is the second most recognized diver down flag, in fact, it has risen in popularity and can usually be seen more often than the red and white flag. This flag is usually used on vessels and has a very clear message. This is that there is someone diving in the water and that you should slow down your vehicle or avoid the area completely.
Why these flags are so widely recognized
Among those that spend a lot of time at sea, there is a code of conduct and areas of knowledge that it is important to know. As previously stated, the sea can be a dangerous place so it is important to keep everyone safe. This has especially become the case in the last few years as freediving has grown in popularity Diver down flags are extremely important due to how free divers hold their breath on their own, meaning they will ascend back to the surface of the water randomly and won’t have time to wait for a boat to pass above them quickly.
Snorkeling and diver down flags
A very common misconception that is found when it comes to aquatic activities is that you don’t even need to diver down flags if you are doing an activity like snorkeling. Even if you are only doing surface snorkeling, you are still at risk of being missed by oncoming boats or jet skis. This is because when people are doing other water sports, they are usually done at a high speed which means that they won’t really have time to watch out for a floating body in the water. Usually, if you are doing scuba diving or snorkeling then you are usually wearing muted colors in order to not bring attention to yourself from sea predators. Though this protects you, it also makes you unnoticeable in the water. This is where the flags come in and make people aware of your presence in the water.
Toeing the line
An easy mistake that divers have made in the past is towing their flags incorrectly. Really the correct way to use a flag is to attach it to a buoy or vessel and just leave it there and remain within 50m of where you have attached the flag. A lot of eager divers want to explore further than the limitations of 50m and so may attach the flag via a line to their actual body. This is something that you must avoid as this can be incredibly dangerous as a boat could easily catch your line and drag you through the water. You shouldn’t attach the line to any part of your body, however, this does not mean that you can’t toe the line when underwater. You are not expected to resurface to move the line and you can do it safely simply by holding it in your hand and pulling it along. This will mean that you can quickly let go of the line if it happens to get caught on something, which will prevent you from potentially being harmed.