Divers are typically educated and trained on the use of the diver down flag at some point during their initial certification process, but Florida governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law on Friday that further clarifies the responsibility for both divers and boaters, violation of which will result in civil penalties.
The current law states that all divers must deploy a diver down flag — the red square or rectangle with a diagonal white stripe down the center — whenever they are diving unaccompanied by a boat; the flag must be a minimum of 12 x 12 inches. If rectangular, the height cannot be greater than the length, and the stripe must start at the at the top staff-side of the flag and extend down to the opposite corner. The width of the stripe must be 25 percent of the total height of the flag in order to be compliant with the law, and a wire or other stiffener is required to ensure the flag remains unfurled and extended.
Divers must make a “reasonable effort” to remain within 100 feet of the flag throughout the dive if diving in inlets, rivers, or navigation channels. Any other open water that is not a designated swimming area requires that the diver make a “reasonable effort” to remain within 300 feet of the diver down flag. Boaters are required to keep the same aforementioned distances away from any diver down flag.
The new law, which will go into effect July 1, 2014, now allows for the use of a diver down buoy interchangeably with the diver down flag, provided the buoy prominently displays the dive flag symbol measuring 12 x 12 inches on three to four flat sides, prominently visible on the water’s surface. The onus of establishing your presence while diving isn’t just on divers, however, as boater education and safety courses will now be required to include information regarding diver down flags and buoys.
To summarize, the changes to the law give divers a choice when it comes to how they want to notify vessels of their location in Florida state waters, but it is important to note that snorkelers are required to uphold the same regulations as those who SCUBA dive. Leisure Pro carries a great selection of both diver down flags and buoys for those who wish to stay on the right side of the law.
Image via MyFWCmedia