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What Are the Different Diver Down Flags and Their Meaning?

Published on
October 19, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT October 19, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDTth, October 19, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT

When you decide to go scuba diving, there are a few things you can’t imagine going underwater without: a gas tank, scuba suit, and scuba diving or diver flags. Perhaps the latter is not the first thing that pops into your mind, but they are almost just as important as the other equipment.


Without further ado, let’s dive right in and explain what diver-down flags look like and how they are used.


Names, Function, and Distance


Diver-down flags go by several names, such as dive flags or scuba flags. Their main purpose is to warn the surrounding area that there is a diver underwater and that all nearby floats should pay special attention.


If the diver-down flag is present, the surrounding vessels should keep their distance of at least 300 ft (if the diving takes place in open water). Alternatively, in cases when the diver goes underwater in a channel or an inlet, the distance to be maintained is at least 100 ft.


Of course, vessels are not the only ones to comply with the diver down flag rules — divers have their share of responsibility too. A diver or snorkeler is to remain within 150 feet of the flag during their exhibition.


Diver Flag Is Not Just for Divers


Though the name makes a clear connection to (scuba) divers, the dive down flag is a must-have for any water enthusiast (personal watercraft users and kayakers included).


Diver Down Flag Types


Now that we cleared the water regarding compliance, let’s discuss the flag’s appearance. There are two types of scuba/diving flags. To put it simply, there is the red diver down flag and the blue one.


The Red Scuba Flag


In the US, what is usually considered a diver-down flag is a red flag with a vertical white stripe (going from the upper left to the bottom right corner). This is a commonly accepted and regulated flag signaling the presence of a diver or snorkeler.


The flag was designed by Navy veteran, Denzel James Dockery, in 1956, though it owes its popularity to Ted Nixon of US Divers. The flag is accepted and used not only in the States but in Canada and some other countries, such as Italy. In practice, you can see this flag onshore too — it is commonly displayed by scuba diving services on land to advertise their services, or you may have seen it as a bumper sticker on various vehicles whose owners are scuba divers.


The Blue (Alpha) Flag


The blue signal flag or the Alpha, Alfa, or A flag carries the same meaning as the red diver down flag: steer clear of the area and keep at low speed because there is a diver under the surface. However, its appearance is much different, not only color-wise. The blue flag is a blue and white colored pennant tail flag.


This is an internationally recognized symbol, and it is pretty much used everywhere else except for the Stats, Canada, Italy (occasionally), and countries that have been historically under the great influence of the US (e.g., the Caribbean).


Besides this, the Alpha flag can also be used in signaling as the (you guessed it) letter “A”.


How to Properly Display the Diver Flag?


The most important rule is to make the flag(s) clearly visible. Ideally, the highest point of the vessel is the perfect location for the diver down flag. by the way, the flag’s smallest dimensions are 20 inches by 24 inches.


The second option would be to place the flagpole and the flag on a buoy or a float in the water. The diver down flag has to be erected enough to be visible even in choppy waters or above waves. In addition, the buoy or the float has to be stable so that it doesn’t topple over. The flags for buoys and floats are smaller than the ones flown on the vessels — they’re at least 12 inches by 12 inches big.


AI Diver Down Flags


While flying a physical diver down flag is required by the US and international laws, at this IT time and age, it would be a shame not to mention there are apps that display dive flags too.


For instance, a KnowWake app lets other users of the app see your diving location. You just need to access the app, let it know your location, and select “Dive Flag” from the menu. Next, you choose the option to warn the other vessels or divers in the area of your actions.


The Importance of the Different Diver Down Flags


Digital or real-life, diver down flags are of utmost importance when going scuba diving. As the name suggests, their function is to warn the other vessels of the diver(s) and to make sure everyone is safe during the underwater experience. 

At Carrot-Top Industries, we take pride in providing quality products and exceptional customer service. If you are looking for Nautical flags other than the diver downs flags, we have various products to choose from. If you are looking for something specific, please contact our flags experts using our contact us form.