Why You Should Dive With A Sausage
One of the most important safety aspects when diving is to ensure boat traffic is aware there are divers underwater and even more important – there are divers ascending. To address this, divers carry a Surface marker buoy, known as an SMB or most commonly the safety sausage.
An SMB is basically a small balloon that you inflate towards the end of a dive to warn passing boat traffic divers will surface shortly. This small piece of scuba equipment is an essential tool to ensure diver safety when underwater or on the surface.
The Basics – How to Deploy an SMB
PADI realising this, introduced a new performance requirement that required all Open water students’ divers to inflate an SMB during the new and revised 2014 PADI open water course. It is required that you either do this at the surface or while you are underwater.
To perform the task underwater….
- Take out the SMB tube and unroll it making sure the string stays clear of your legs and away from any corals.
- Open up the bottom of the tube and use your 2nd stage alternate air source to purge air inside, remember the air will expand as the tube raises so no need to fill completely.
- If underwater let go and watch as it makes it way to the surface, grab hold of string and pull down slightly to make SMB stand up tall on the surface.
I would recommend practicing this on land or on the surface first before you try it underwater just to make yourself familiar with the operation.
Marking The Surface
The main use of the SMB is to give scuba divers overhead protection from dive boats. SMB’s are usually bright orange and/or yellow colours and are easy to spot, informing Boat captains there are divers below.
PADI Dive professionals will deploy their SMB just before starting their safety stop and will usually have the string from the main balloon attached to a reel. This obviously gives additional length on the string and allows you to deploy the SMB from a deeper depth for added safety. This is called a DSMB; Delayed Surface Marker Buoy.
If you ascend and find yourself a fair distance from the boat you can inflate the sausage and wave it around to catch the boat master or surface covers attention. They can then come and pick you up.
Tips On Purchasing An SMB
If you are a keen active diver then purchasing your own SMB should be one of the first pieces of equipment you buy. But what makes a good SMB?
Firstly it should be made from strong material that is unlikely to pop if overinflated. It should be around 6 foot long, the taller the better, it needs to be able to rise above any waves or swell. A lot of SMB’s will come with a string attached. These strings are usually around 5-6m in length which would barely stretch from your safety stop.
I would suggest it is better to get a finger reel and attach that to either the sausage part of the SMB or the end of the string. This will enable you to deploy from depth – or perform a DSMB as you will hear it refereed by a dive professional.
Building Better Divers
Here at Crystal Dive, Koh Tao we enforce the value to of deploying SMB’s and DSMB’s during our Divemaster Internship program to all our trainees. We expect they deploy their SMB at the end of every dive. We also incorporate the SMB deployment as a skill during the PADI Divemaster Course workshops.
Crystal Dive’s in house policy has always been that every member of staff – basically anybody that leads a dive – has to have an SMB and must deploy it at the end of every dive. This is part of our policy ensuring diver safety is always at the top of all our PADI Pro’s priorities.
Author: Matt Bolton (PADI CD #463559)