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October 1998 Vol. 13, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Checking Out the Buzz...

Testing the Ideations SubAlert

from the October, 1998 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Some divers love to signal each other underwater, but others of us hate the distracting, non-moodenhancing quality of the banging, shaking, and snapping. And, since we all lose our ability to discriminate sound direction underwater, everyone has to take a minute and look all around just in case the message is important.

Ideations, the company that brought us the excellent emergency surface signal DiveAlert, has just introduced the SubAlert, a device that looks similar to the DiveAlert and is installed in the same way -- inline between the LP inflator hose and the LP inflator. I like emergency devices, especially during an emergency, but my concern is that it may be marketed as a buddy-signaling device -- Buddy A wants Buddy B to come see the toadfish.

The SubAlert emits an intense buzzing sound when its button is depressed. The buzzing isn't all that loud, but it's the kind of noise that quickly becomes irritating: think of a jet ski on a mountain lake or a lawn mower at 6 a.m. Irritating, yes, but irritating enough to work as a safety device from a distance underwater? To find out, I attached a secondary LP inflator hose to my reg and routed it inside my BC so that the unit was nearly invisible to my fellow divers. Once in the water, by hitting the SubAlert's button I could make divers 30 feet away spin their heads in all directions looking for the source of the irritating noise. The furthest I was able to disturb someone's dive was about 60 feet. (One tip: Use the signal while the intended recipient is NOT exhaling. Chances for immediate contact are greatly improved when the target is not making his own noise.)

The buzz back on the surface was from the unwitting test subjects once they returned to the boat: "What the hell was that buzzing?" "Who was making that buzzing noise?" "Was that YOU buzzing?" As always, Undercurrent reviewers seriously guard their anonymity. I wasn't going to 'fess up to this group of wreck divers.

I recognize the real value of the SubAlert. It does work well and could be used effectively as a vital part of many dive plans, such as a "return to surface" signal when visibility is low. But I hope divers on my trips don't use this device as a general underwater attention-getter like a tank banger. Continuously buzzing your buddy will get EVERYONE's attention.

So... how do I rate it? Well, like nuclear power or politics, it gets a thumbs up when used for the greater good, and a definite thumbs down when used for the benefit of the few. Go ahead and buy one. But, like life insurance or your DiveAlert, we hope you never have to use it.

SubAlert is available through most dive gear outlets for around $50.

-- E.D.

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