1Underwater Writing Slate
Prep your slate tablet. Using a soft-leaded pencil and slate write down commonly occurring questions or observations before you enter the water. This way you can simply point to them underwater and receive nonverbal responses.
Make sure your slate covers the basics. The slate should refer to things like elapsed time, air supply, directions, etc. You can also list common fish you are likely to encounter while on the journey.
Leave an area of the slate blank for writing less common questions or remarks while underwater. This will be important and potentially useful in case of emergency.
2Underwater Sign Language
1Remember your training and practice the basics. Scuba divers learns basic universal signs during training, which should be practiced and reinforced often.
- Individuals should practice and review signs on land before entering the water.
- If you are partnered with someone you don't know, take a moment and go over some signs with them and the dive master to make sure that you are on the same page.
2Learn the "Okay" hand signal. The "Okay" signal is made by joining the thumb and index fingers to form a loop, and extending the third, fourth, and fifth fingers.
- This signal can be used as both a question and a response.
- The "Okay" signal is a "demand-response" signal, meaning that if one diver asks another diver if he is okay, the latter is expected to respond with either an "Okay" signal or a "Not Okay" signal.
3Learn the "Not Okay" or "Problem" signal. This signal is made by extending a flattened hand and pivoting it slowly at the wrist, similar to how people signal "so-so" in a normal conversation.
- A diver communicating a problem underwater should then point to the source or location of the problem using their index finger. The most common use of the "Problem" hand signal is to communicate an ear pressure problem.
Learn the "Ear Problem" hand signal. The "Ear Problem" signal is similar to the "Problem" sign. The diver, after giving the problem sign, points to their ears.
5Learn surface communication signals. The "Okay" and "Problem" surface signals involve the whole arm, so that boat captains and surface support staff can easily understand a diver's communication from far away.
- The surface "Okay" sign is made by forming a circle with both arms raised over the head or, if only one arm is free, by touching the top of the head with the fingertips.
- The "Help" or "Problem" signal is made by waving the arm over the head to call for attention. Note: don't wave "hello" to a dive boat on the surface, because the captain is likely to think you need assistance.
6Learn the "Up" or "End the Dive" hand signal. The "Up" or "End the Dive" hand signal is created by doing a thumbs-up sign.
- The "Up" signal is one of the most important signals in scuba diving. Any diver can end a dive at any point for any reason by using the "Up" signal.
- This important dive safety rule ensures that divers are not forced beyond their comfort level underwater. The "Up" signal is a demand-response signal. A diver who signals "Up" to his buddy should receive the "Up" signal in return so that he can be sure that his signal was understood.
Learn the "Down" hand signal. *The "Down" hand signal: The thumbs-down hand signal communicates "Go Down" or "Descend" while underwater.
8Learn the "Slow Down" hand signal. The "Slow Down" Hand Signal is made by moving down a flat hand with palm facing downward.
- "Slow Down" is another basic signal that is taught to all student divers before their first scuba dive. Instructors use this signal to tell enthusiastic students to swim slowly and enjoy the incredible underwater world.
9Learn the "Go in This Direction" hand signal. "Go in This Direction" hand signal is used to indicate or suggest a direction of travel. Scuba divers use the fingertips of a flattened hand to point out the desired direction.
- Using all five fingers to point out a direction of travel helps to avoid confusion with the "Look at" signal, which is made by pointing with a single index finger.
10Learn the "Level Off" hand signal. The "Level Off" hand signal is made by extending a flattened hand, palm down, and slowly moving it side-to-side horizontally. This signal means "remain at this depth."
- The "Level Off" signal is most commonly used to communicate that divers have reached the planned maximum depth for a dive, or to communicate that divers should hold a previously designated depth for safety or a decompression stop.
11Learn the "Buddy Up" hand signal. For the "Buddy Up" or "Stay Together" hand signal a diver raises both index fingers side-by-side to indicate "Buddy-Up" or "Stay Together".
- Scuba diving instructors use this hand signal to remind student divers to stay close to their buddies. Divers also occasionally use this signal to reassign buddy teams while underwater. For example, when two divers in a group are low-on-air and ready to ascend, they may communicate "we'll stay together and ascend" using the "Buddy Up" hand signal.
Learn the "Low-on-Air" hand signal. The "Low-On-Air" signal is made by placing a closed fist against the chest.
13Learn the "Out-Of-Air" hand signal. The "Out-Of-Air" is indicated by moving a flat hand across the throat in a slicing motion to indicate that a diver is "cut-off" from his air supply.
- This signal requires an immediate response from the diver's buddy, who should allow the out-of-air diver to breathe from his alternate air source regulator while the two divers ascend together.
Learn the "I'm Cold" hand signal. The "I'm Cold" hand signal is made by crossing his arms and rubbing his upper arms with his hands, as if he were trying to warm himself.
3Using Electronic Communicators
Learn the basics of electronic communicators. The communications from a helmet or full facemask have been around for quite some time. Several first-responder units use these, as well as certain other public agencies to help with underwater communication.
2Choose your device. Casio has a device that uses a "bone microphone" to communicate. Known as Logosease, the compact 3.8-ounce (108-gram) transceiver attaches to the mask’s retaining straps, resting against the side of the diver’s head.
- Using bone conduction (the vibrations carry through the wearer’s skull), the microphone on the Casio is able to pick up what the diver is saying. Words will be a bit garbled because the divers have regulators in their mouths and plugs in their noses.
- The system reportedly allows divers to communicate within visual range, a distance that varies wildly, depending on water conditions. The unit itself is watertight to a depth of 180 feet (55 meters); plenty for most recreational divers.
3Understand communication protocol. Using these devices is like using 2-way radio communication protocol. Parties take turns speaking, and use clear, short sentences, indicating when they have finished and whether a response is expected.
- Like radio, this is done to ensure that the message has a fair chance of being understood and that the speaker is not interrupted. When more than one recipient is intended, the caller will also identify the desired recipient by a call-up message, and will also usually identify him/herself.
- The surface caller should also give the diver a chance to temporarily suspend or slow down breathing, as breathing noise is often so loud for the message to be heard over it.
4Limited Visibility Communication
Create a plan for communicating during times of limited visibility. Diving in low light is common. Usually the best way to communicate with other divers is by using a combination of hand signals, electronics and slates.
Consider rope tugs as a way to communicate. Rope tugs or line tugs are often used by cave divers to communicate with their buddy. Before the dive be sure to talk about your signals and practice them to ensure you will both understand what is being said underwater.
3Purchase and use a dive light. A dive light is good for illumination and signaling. Hand signs may not be visible without a light. The light itself can also be used as a signal.
- The first rule of using a dive light underwater is never to shine it at another diver’s face. That may attract his or her attention, but all they will see is a point of bright light coming from your direction. Point the light towards yourself, and make sure you are not blocking your hand signals.
- To attract your buddy’s attention, move your light rapidly back and forth across your buddy’s light beam. Back and forth horizontal movement signals “I want your attention.” Up and down vertical movement signals danger or emergency.
- Dive lights are also used for signaling from the surface at night. Here again, keep your light beam pointed at yourself unless you are trying to attract attention from a distance.
- Signal “OK” using one or two arms over the head, pointing the beam of your light down toward your body. If you are in distress, point your light toward the boat or shore and wave it back and forth over your head.
Learn alternatives for attracting your buddy’s attention at night. You can bang on your tank or use a noisemaker, but it is difficult to tell where the sound is coming from when you can’t see the person making it. In addition to an audible signal, you can use your light.
- At night, buddies should remain close enough to each other that the beams of their dive lights overlap.
- The underwater slate comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. The most complicated of these are wrist slates.
- Practice your signals. This is important for non-divers as well. Non-divers can get you forgotten items.
- Make sure you are prepared for the environment you are diving in.
- Test all of your equipment before entering the water
- Check out your buddy's equipment.
- This article contains introductory information only. This should not take the place of information received during a diving-certification course.
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