Dive charter and live-aboard operators consistently tell us that it is much easier to become a diver-lost-at-sea statistic that most divers realize. Although they do not let on, boat captains and crew live with this realistic fear on most trips that are outside of calm, current free coves. On a recent dive trip to Neah Bay, WA I took time to practice spotting divers as they came up. I quickly realized that even in very low seas it is very hard to pick out the dark hood of diver against the surface of the water. Most of our divers were using inflatable SMBs (surface marker buoys or safety sausage). But the four to six for SMB tubes, usually only show about 60%-80% of their safety color above the surface and then quickly disappear behind the swells. Currents can cause divers to pop-up at the same time, very far from each other and the boat, often in opposite directions. By they time the boat picks up one team, another is drifting further away. We hear about these cases often and there are many more that we do not hear about.
ENOS Electronic Rescue and Locating System (or elektronisches Notruf- und Ortungssystem) from the German based company Seareq could put an end to the regular flow of lost diver incidents. The system is a bit like a local area EPIRB system. It is much faster and more effective than even the more modern EPIRB systems which can take up to 100 minutes before a signal reaches anyone that can help. Also, with EPIRB the signal is sent to ground based station for dispatch. Not only does the lost diver have to wait for the search teams to arrive from shore, some countries do not have any monitoring, dispatch or rescue teams available within a reasonable time frame. With ENOS the signal and exact location of the misplaced diver is instantly and directly sent to the boat so help can came come straight to the diver. The ENOS system is boat based and operates worldwide, even in remote areas.
With ENOS every diver wears a transmitter that attaches to the BCD. If a diver surfaces too far from the boat, he/she switches on the transmitter. The boat receiver sounds a warning and displays any or all locations, distance and direction of divers with activated transmitters. We found the transmitter to be easy to turn on with heavy gloves.
Diver charters around the world are starting to feature the ENOS system. The pricing for the receiver (app. $4k USD/ 3K Euro) and transmitters (app. $1200 USD / 845 Euro) seemed very reasonable and would quickly be offset by the marketing advantage of advertising that the charter features the ENOS system (and/or possibly insurance savings). This seems to be one of those purchases that should be “no brainer” for any charter or live-aboard that operates in the open ocean or inland current prone waters. For safety, design and price point we give it the full 5 stars. If your dive charter does not have one, you can even rent them for group trips.