A divers-down warning device serves to alert boaters in the vicinity that there are divers in the water. It must be displayed when and only when there are individuals who are partially or wholly submerged underwater and using some type of breathing apparatus (snorkels included). This requirement is intended to reduce the risk of run-over boating accidents in Florida.
Regardless of what type of warning device is used, it must include a divers-down symbol. The symbol is a red rectangle or square with a white stripe extending across it diagonally. The stripe must extend from the top-left to the bottom-right corner, and its width must be 25% of the symbol’s height. The length of a rectangular symbol must not be shorter than or more than 25% longer than its height.
A divers-down warning device may be a flag, buoy or similar device. Buoys are to be displayed on the water, while flags are often displayed on the divers’ vessel. On a vessel, the device must display a divers-down symbol at least 20 x 24 inches in size, and must be placed in a location that provides maximum visibility, usually the boat’s highest point. Devices on the water must carry a divers-down symbol at least 12 x 12 inches in size.
A divers-down flag must have the symbol on both sides and must be designed so that it remains fully extended and visible regardless of whether the wind is blowing. A divers-down buoy must have 3 or 4 sides with a symbol displayed on each, and must be clearly visible on the surface of the water.
In open water, divers must do their best to stay within 300 feet of their divers-down warning device, and boaters must make every effort to stay at least 300 feet away. In rivers and narrow channels, divers must do their best to stay within 100 feet of their divers-down warning device, and boaters must make every effort to stay at least 100 feet away.
If a boater has no choice but to navigate through a diving zone, they are required to slow down to idle speed.
It’s important for vessel operators to be familiar with the meanings of buoys, flags and markers so that they can boat safely and in compliance with Florida boating regulations. Regardless of whether or not your age group is required to hold a Florida boater education identification card, it’s a good idea to take the boater safety course to ensure that you’re well informed before heading out on the water. Study online with Drive a Boat USA to learn everything you need to know!