Tag Archives: scuba signs

Scuba Signs – Line and Reel

Cave divers and technical divers extensively use reels and lines. As such, emergency we have standard signals to communicate these items.

Scuba signs - line and reel usage

This signal denotes a line. Depending on situation, order can be the dive team’s line, physician the anchor line, or a side passage line.

This command can either be the object or an action, depending on context.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “QUESTION” + “PICK-UP” + “REEL” = Pick-up reel? Or leave the reel for the next dive?

It is not uncommon that a team member will be in a position to see better tie points. The “TIE” command tells the person with the reel to tie around a specific point or object.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “TIE” over a rock = Use the rock as a tie point.

Scuba signs - line and reel usage

Sometimes you get stuck. This signal is denote that you or your dive buddy is entangled.

In order to make a jump, the action needs to be communicated. This sign requires a confirmation from the team before preceding.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “QUESTION” + “JUMP” = Jump?
    Teammate: “JUMP” = Confirming jump.

Scuba Signs – Position in the water column

Team diving is best when teammates are at the same level in the water column. It facilitates communication and allows for comfortable diving.

To facilitate this, there are a few useful signals. These can be used during the dive, but are great for decompression stops and safety stops.

Scuba signs - level off, up, and down

This sign directs the teams to level off. This can be followed by a number to signify depth.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “LEVEL OFF” + “20” + (PAUSE) + “DECO” + “5” = At 20′, 5 minutes of deco time.
    Teammate(s): “LEVEL OFF” + “20” + (PAUSE) + “DECO” + “5” = At 20′, 5 minutes of deco time, confirming the plan.

Used to tell a teammate to move up in the water column. This sign can be followed by head shaking if you want show disappointment (only do this with friends).

Used to tell a teammate to move down in the water column. Like the, “UP” signal, you can follow with head shaking. If you want to be very demanding, you can point at your teammate and then signal move down (only do this with really close friends).

Scuba Signs – Deco stop / safety stop

At the end of the time, we need to communicate our decompression obligation and stops. For recreational dives, these hand signals can be used to communicate safety stops.

Scuba signs - deco, next stop

This signals the team’s required decompression time and is followed by numbers specifying the amount. When combined with the “LEVEL OFF” sign, then this denotes the amount of time required at a specific stop.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “DECO” + “10” = ten minutes of deco time.
    Teammate(s): “DECO” + “10” = ten minutes of deco time, confirms the plan.

    Signaler: “LEVEL OFF” + 20 + (PAUSE) + “DECO” + “5” = At 20′, 5 minutes of deco time.
    Teammate(s): “LEVEL OFF” + 20 + (PAUSE) + “DECO” + “5” = At 20′, 5 minutes of deco time, confirms the plan.

This signals tells the team to move up to the next stop. The team should repeat the signal back to the deco captain (person leading the decompression stops) to confirm the move.

While this signal can also be used to change team position or x-change an item, it’s most associated with gas switches. During the predetermined gas switch stop(s), the deco captain will signal switch to commence the sequence.

Scuba Signs – Directions

Here are some useful signs to provide team direction.

When these commands are given, it’s good procedure for every team member to respond with the same signal if there is agreement.

Scuba signs - direction, <a href=treat turn around, way to exit” width=”600″ />

This sign directs the teams path of travel.

This sign simply tells the team to turn around. In a cave, this sign is used turn the team around but still continue with a dive. If the diver wants to terminate the dive, then “THUMBS/END OF DIVE” command signal is used instead.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “TURN AROUND”
    Teammate(s): “TURN AROUND”

Also known as “way to the exit,” this communicates the direction to the team’s exit. The exit can be a entrance/exit of the cave system, the upline to the boat, or the direction of shore.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “QUESTION” + “WAY TO SURFACE” = Which way to our exit?
    Teammate(s): “THIS WAY TO THE SURFACE” = Responds to signalers query.

Scuba Signs – Issues

We can’t communicate with only (though I know some divers who like to try). We also need to let people know that there are issues – to tell someone there is a problem, to tell someone no, and to ask a question.

Scuba Signs - Issues, No, and Question

This scuba sign notes that there is an issue. The signaler then points to the problematic item to complete the sign.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “Problem” + points to ear = equalization issues
    Signaler: “Problem” + scooter = scooter/battery issues

Used when the signaler disapproves or disagrees with his teammates actions. This action is best done as if you’re a grade school teacher scolding a naughty student. Extra style points if you have your other hand on your hips.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “No” + points to your camera = no more photos
    Signaler: “No” + points to the primary tie = incorrect tie

One of the most useful signs, this starts a query to your teammates.

Usage Examples:
    Signaler: “Question” + “Way to the Exit” = which way home?
    Signaler: “Question” + “Deco” = How much deco obligation?

Scuba Signs – Command Signals

The most commonly used scuba signs are the command signals. These are “command” signals because these signals explicitly demand a response – either an affirmation of the command signals or an alternate sign.

Scuba Signs - Command hand signals

This is the primary team check and status sign. The expected return signal from the teammate(s) is an “OK” sign.

Usage example:
    Signaler: “Are you OK?”
    Receiver(s): “I am OK”

A “No” sign or a non response tells the Signaler that there is an issue. Unless the issue is resolved and the entire team signals “OK”, the dive must be aborted.

“End of Dive / Ascend”
Alternately known as “Thumbs”, this signal is a hard termination of the dive. In an overhead environment, this means that the signaler is telling the team to exit. In open water, this means that the signaler is telling the team to ascend.

Usage example:
    Signaler: “End of Dive.”
    Receiver(s): “End of Dive.”

In an overhead environment, there is no question on the “End of Dive” signal. “Anyone can call (terminate) a dive at any time for any reason,” and the signal must be respected.

The “hold” scuba sign tells the diver to maintain position and do not move. This is useful signal especially when a teammate is entangled and you need to resolve the issue.

Usage example:
    Signaler: “Hold.”
    Receiver(s): “Hold.” – receiver does not move
    Signaler: “OK”
    Reciever(s): “OK” – receiver(s) are free to move.

Scuba Signs – Numbers

One of the most often used, visit web and often disagreed upon, scuba hand signs is numbers. The following hand signals are used by cave divers and other technical divers because it can be implemented with one hand. In addition, these signs work as an alphabet, and does not require addition or counting of subsequent signs (ex. flashing 5’s).

scuba signs for numbers, used by cave divers

Let’s compare the three common methods.

Cave Diving/Technical Diving
Cave diving scuba sign example
Each hand signal is a number, and the signals are concatenated. In the above example, 1 + 8 + 0 + 0 = 1800.

Some teams prefer to omit the last zero signals, since hundreds can be implied. Especially if the “question”+”gauge” signal was used to ask the team’s pressure.

OW/Two Handed
Open Water scuba sign example
Each finger is 100, and the signals are arithmetically summed. In the above example, 1000 + 800 = 1800.

Counting 5’s
Counting fives scuba sign example
Each finger is 100, and the signals are arithmetically summed In the above example, 500 + 500 + 500 + 300 = 1800.