05 October, 2008

Lost Divers

The following post is courtesy of DAN AP and provides us all with some useful tips and reminders about simple gear that, when carried along on a dive, can make a serious difference to the outcomes of a potential emergency situation:

We have all heard about divers Richard Neely and Allyson Dalton and their recent incident in Cairns, so I won’t rehash the facts.

John Lippmann (Divers Alert Network Asia Pacific - Executive Director) had several conversations with the couple, both DAN Members, following their experience during which they advised they had the following safety devices on them during their incident: o 1.2m Safety Sausage o Whistle.

Allyson and Richard normally dive with a flashlight but as they were travelling space and weight were limited and so they made a decision to leave the torch at home. This incident provides a timely opportunity to review the safety devices that DAN considers an essential part of every divers kit.

Safety Sausage/SMB

A safety sausage/SMB is recommended on all dives. They are light, fold down to a small size so don’t take up much space, are easy to deploy and effective in gaining attention. However, length is an obvious issue. In Richard and Allyson’s case the 1.2m Safety Sausage they deployed was not effective, so size is a definite issue! DAN recommends a length of at least 1.8m. In addition to standing up out of the water to attract the attention of boats, they can also be laid flat on the water to signal aircraft, adding to their overall value.

Dive Alert/Other Compressed Air Signalling Device

Dive Alert is an air driven sound alert that attaches to a divers inflator hose. It is loud and some can be used underwater as well as on the surface. However, these are useless if there is no air left to draw from.

Safety Whistle

Safety whistles can be useful in alerting your dive boat or companions if something untoward happens in the sea. Safety whistles can equally be useful if a scuba diver suddenly becomes injured or disabled and there is no way to get help. Safety whistles can work in and out of the water and some can be heard as far away as 1.6km. Whistles, however, will lose their effectiveness if the boat you are trying to gain the attention of is upwind and/or has the engine on. But given their small size and light weight they should be an essential part of your kit.


The small glow in the dark from a torch could prove to be a lifesaver. A strobe is a high-intensity white light that flashes at regular intervals from 50-70 times per minute. Both are very practical for a diver as they are available in a small size, are affordable, and make an incredible difference in terms of alerting your position and existence. Strobes flash upwards as well as around, which will ensure you are seen even in rough seas.


A mirror or CD will work to catch sunlight and attract attention to you. These are small and light to carry and can prove effective in drawing attention to your location, so they should accompany you on every dive. Of course to be effective you need to create a visible and ongoing reflection of light in the direction of your dive boat and/or potential rescuers.


A small wreck reel or explorer reel can be used for navigation, towing a flag & staying connected to your dive buddy if you end up in a stranded situation together, so should also be incorporated as part of your safety kit.

Dive Knife or EMT Shears

Effective if you need to cut through line or if you find yourself tangled in something. These above items will ensure you are prepared for whatever situation you may be faced with. As a bonus they are small in size, light in weight and therefore a logical addition to your safety kit.

Don’t get caught out. Make sure you have each of these elements in your safety kit. Finally, it is essential that you know how to use your safety equipment to maximum effect. And don’t be shy in using your devices. Deploy your safety devices immediately should you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t assume you have been seen or think that you may be overreacting to a situation. Wouldn’t you rather laugh at your overreaction from the safety of your dive boat or in the bar with your buddies once on shore?

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