Cave divers and technical divers extensively use reels and lines. As such, emergency we have standard signals to communicate these items.
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.
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.
Signaler: “TIE” over a rock = Use the rock as a tie point.
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.
Signaler: “QUESTION” + “JUMP” = Jump?
Teammate: “JUMP” = Confirming jump.
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.
This sign directs the teams to level off. This can be followed by a number to signify depth.
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).
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.
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.
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.
“UP TO NEXT STOP”
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.
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.
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“DIRECTION OF TRAVEL”
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.
Signaler: “TURN AROUND”
Teammate(s): “TURN AROUND”
“WAY TO THE SURFACE”
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.
Signaler: “QUESTION” + “WAY TO SURFACE” = Which way to our exit?
Teammate(s): “THIS WAY TO THE SURFACE” = Responds to signalers query.
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.
This scuba sign notes that there is an issue. The signaler then points to the problematic item to complete the sign.
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.
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.
Signaler: “Question” + “Way to the Exit” = which way home?
Signaler: “Question” + “Deco” = How much deco obligation?
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.
This is the primary team check and status sign. The expected return signal from the teammate(s) is an “OK” sign.
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.
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.
Receiver(s): “Hold.” – receiver does not move
Reciever(s): “OK” – receiver(s) are free to move.
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).
Let’s compare the three common methods.
Cave Diving/Technical Diving
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.
Each finger is 100, and the signals are arithmetically summed. In the above example, 1000 + 800 = 1800.
Each finger is 100, and the signals are arithmetically summed In the above example, 500 + 500 + 500 + 300 = 1800.