>To avoid injuring or killing divers with vessel strikes or propellers, boat drivers must be vigilant about maintaining a safe distance from dive flags. In open water, a safe distance is at least 300 feet from the flag; in rivers, inlets or navigation channels, that distance should be at least 100 feet.
>Simply adhering to these guidelines is not enough to ensure diver safety. It's also important for boaters to constantly look for people in the water; realize that glare, waves and other factors can make seeing divers challenging; be able to provide first aid; establish clear communication with divers and swimmers; and ensure the engine is off before allowing any boarding or disembarking.
>Boaters cannot keep their distance unless they know where divers are; it's therefore incumbent upon divers to appropriately use their diver-down or alpha flag. Once a flag is in place, make sure to stay within 300 feet of it while diving in open water or within 100 feet in rivers, inlets or navigation channels. Try to surface as close to your flag as possible.
>Beyond using appropriate signaling devices, you should take additional steps to enhance your safety in the water. Strive to remain visible, adhere to local laws and establish clear communication with boat operators. Be vigilant: Scan for boat traffic during your safety stop, create an emergency action plan, and remain clear of propellers at all times — even if they're disengaged.
>For dive flags to be most effective, they should be stiff, unfurled and in recognizable condition. The most commonly used dive flag is the diver down, which should always be flown from a vessel or buoy when divers are in the water. The internationally recognized alpha flag indicates that other vessels should yield the right of way.
>Surface marker buoys are also common and are typically deployed during a diver's ascent. Divers may also choose to use an audible signal (such as a whistle), a dive light or a signaling mirror to notify boaters of their location.
>Because regulations vary according to location and vessel type, your action plan should accommodate local regulations and access to emergency services. Make sure you know how to respond and whom to call in case of a collision. To treat a laceration wound, stem blood loss by applying direct pressure and bandages, and get the injured person to medical services as quickly as possible. For more information, visit DAN.org/Health.
>© Alert Diver — Q2 Spring 2017