Whether you dive locally or ravel to get that underwater “fix,” every diver knows that having reliable well maintained equipment is crucial to having an enjoyable diving experience. Diving is not without risks. How much consideration do you give to emergency gear? What emergency gear do you have and what emergency gear do you carry on every dive? How much time do you spend becoming familiar with it?
Better To Have And Not Need Than……
I believe one important piece of emergency equipment is a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) also known as a Safety Sauage or a Deployable Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB). If I’m diving navigable waters I’ll carry a DSMB on every dive. Why? There are a few reasons.
One, if I’m away from the dive float it provides watercraft my location and they will hopefully stay the required distance. It greatly reduces the chances of hitting my head on the bottom of a watercraft or worse.
Secondly, it provides the diver a visual reference and a way to easily hold any stops (safety stop, deco stop) that I may have.
Third, it becomes an early warning device. If I'm diving off a chartered boat and become misplaced or caught in a current, I can deploy the marker so the guides or Divemaster can spot it and lend assistance.
What is the difference?
A Surface Marker Buoy is designed to be deployed when a diver is at the surface, while a Deployable Surface Marker Bouy is designed to be deployed from below the surface.
A SMB is typically open on the bottom. Allowing the diver to unroll, close off the bottom and have the marker stand vertical on the surface while being held or they may be a sealed tube with an inflation tube.
A DSMB can have either an open or closed bottom. Some closed bottoms can have a one way valve at allows the air in but will not escape. Some will have a magnetic weight that seals the bottom and allows the marker to stay vertical while on the surface or a sealed bottom with an oral inflation tube. The more expensive types will have a combination of two or three of those features.
Deployable markers should have a means to attach some type of line, spool or reel.
You can attach them together and carry as one unit or carry individually and assembly below.
My preference is to separate the two, that way I can use a spool for other tasks without having to disassemble the two. Spools are easier to handle, carry and are nearly impossible to jamb.
What is important is divers become familiar with their use and not try deploying on their first dive while on vacation.
When I escort dive groups to tropical locations, carrying a DSMB is strongly recommended. I’ll go as far as offering a classroom and pool workshop for those traveling with us so they can become profcient in their use.
Let’s be honest, if you’re unsure of how to use it, or it’s just plain difficult to deploy, are you really going to use that piece of equipment, or even carry it on your dives? Probably not!