What does a Diver-Down Flag Look Like?

What does a Diver-Down Flag Look Like?

The distress flag, or diver-down flag, is an internationally recognized symbol used to mark vessels in distress on the high seas. All vessels are required by law to fly this flag when a crew member has been injured and the ship is in need of assistance. The term diver-down flag is something that is normally used by divers.

It is required to be used while you are scuba diving. It is used to alert other divers that you are present in the water. For any diver, this is very important. This is because it can save your life. You always carry this flag with you while you are in the water but you don’t know what does a diver flag looks like. It is useful in more than one way.

The diver-down flag is a brightly colored flag that has specific colors and signal flags to show off. This flag is used as a signal to the boat to slow down and approach with caution so as to avoid hitting divers as they surface to breathe. This blog is an introduction to what does a diver-down flag looks like and what it means.

Types of Diver Down Flags

There are several different types of diver down flags.

Divers Symbol

Red with a white diagonal stripe extending from the top left to the bottom right corners distinguishes this flag from the rest. This signal is frequently used to warn other boaters of scuba diving and snorkeling activities in the water. Denzel James Dockery, a US Naval officer from the year 1956, was the man who came up with the idea for this flag. The navy made extensive use of it, and it has remained popular in the United States.

If you are diving in state waters, it is required that you display it afloat. The flag is intended to protect individuals in the water, rather than those on the boat, and is designed to do so primarily. In open water, you must keep your distance from the flag within 90 meters (300 feet). You must keep to a distance of 30 meters or less in inlets, rivers, and navigation channels (100 feet). As a diver, you should make every effort to resurface within a 45-meter (150-foot) circle around the flag.

diver symbol

International Maritime Signal Flag Alpha (Alfa)

The left side of this flag is white, and the right side is blue. The blue half has a triangular notch carved out of the edge that matches the rest of the half. Other vessels are alerted to the presence of a diver or a group of divers in the water by using this signal. As a result, the boat is unable to travel very far, and this serves as a warning to keep the boat from colliding with other vessels. Additionally, it can be employed in various situations when the mobility of a vessel is constrained.

This flag is sometimes referred to as Coda Flag A in some circles. Whenever it is in operation, it must be raised at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) above the ground and be readily visible from all directions.

Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) or a Surface Location Marker

It is required that the Alpha flag be flown on boats and other vessels when they are in federally controlled waters. It is also known as a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) or a Surface Location Marker.

A surface marking buoy is a third type of use marker that is more particular (commonly referred to as SMB). While it is not strictly a diving “flag” that may be used to communicate with outside parties, it is a marking that can be used to more precisely pinpoint a diver’s location for pickup purposes.

As a matter of fact, an SMB provides a more precise pinpoint of where a particular diver is located, whereas a normal dive flag serves as a generic signal for neighboring boat traffic.

Divers bring uninflated surface markers with them on their dives, and they inflate them when they return to the surface to signal to the dive boat that they are ready to be picked up and where they are. Using this type of marking is especially beneficial while drift diving because you normally do not return to the point where you first dropped in to get back on the boat.

divers on boat

It is common for SMBs to be bright neon yellow or orange in color, and their shape is often that of a long and narrow cylindrical shape.

How to Tow a Diver DownFlag?

  • When a dive flag is being used, you must remain within 15 meters (50 feet) of the flag in order to avoid being hit by it. It may be necessary to tow the flag to a different spot if your position in the water needs to be adjusted.
  • As you dive, use a reel to unwind the line as you go. Maintain a high level of tension, as slack flags have the potential to become tangled and caught. It is recommended that you connect a tiny weight to the bottom of the line to keep it taut in this situation.
  • Maintain control of the line with your right hand. This allows you to check your SPG and buoyancy using your left hand and the inflator hose in a safe and convenient manner. In order to prevent the line from being entangled in your scuba equipment, we recommend that you hold it out at arm’s length.
  • Keep the line free of any attachments to yourself or your diving equipment. Flags have been known to become entangled on boats and dragged along with them in rare instances. A current can also catch it if it is moving fast enough.
  • If you find yourself in either of these situations, you should immediately cut the line to safeguard your personal safety. If you have tied the line to yourself, you will be unable to do so. 
  • If you plan to remain in one location, you can tie the rope to a boulder or other extremely heavy item to keep it from slipping. Take care not to damage any of the existing ecosystems while you are exploring. Alternatively, a double-ended clip can be used to maintain the length of the line consistent. This stops the line from unreeling and becoming tangled in the process.
  • When diving, it is recommended that you have a line cutting equipment with you. This is to allow you to cut the line to the flag if it becomes tangled in something while travelling to it. This will ensure your personal safety.
  • Another safety precaution to take is to carry an inflatable surface marking buoy in case you are separated from your group.

If you are hoisting a flag on your boat, the measurements should be at least 20 × 24 inches at the very least. If you want to enhance visibility, this flag should be tied to the highest place on your boat where it can be flown. You must have a flag with dimensions of at least 12 by 12 inches if you intend to tie it to a buoy in the sea.

If you are in the middle of a dive or deep in the water, it is likely that you will continue to hear the boats. At this point, they are most likely capable of simply driving over you in a safe manner. While it is loud, it is entirely safe if you are in a deep enough hole and you have a diver-down flag that will help in saving you.


A diver down flag, also known as a scuba flag, is a flag that is used on the water to signal that there is a diver below the surface. There are two different types of flags in use. Internationally, the code flag alfa/alpha, which is white and blue, is used to indicate that a diver has been deployed and that other vessels should maintain a safe distance while traveling at a modest speed. In this article, you have learned what does a diver-down flag looks like.

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