Staying sharp on safety
In the maritime Industry the United States Coast Guard requires that all crew members participate in monthly emergency drills. This helps ensure that all crew members are familiar with what to do in the event of an emergency. As you can imagine, running the same drills every month can get quite boring. As the vessel safety officer, it is my job to provide the crew with a variety of scenarios that they might encounter. This not only helps keep things interesting for the crew, but ensures the best preparation.
My Question for all of you, is how prepared for an emergency are you? Something to consider is that you might know what to do in an emergency, but does your crew or passengers? What happens if you are incapacitated? The most important part of conducting drills, is that everyone not only participates, but understands their shipmates roles as well. If you are the only person who knows what to do in either an emergency or general operations of the vessel, than you might as well consider yourself alone.
Take time to explain to everyone onboard where emergency equipment is located, and how to use it properly. Make sure that everyone knows how to call the USCG on CH. 16, and how to read your GPS position. Too often when operator incapacitation occurs, the passengers onboard are unaware of how to effectively contact the USCG, delaying rescue operations.
As an operator, it is important to make sure that at least one other person is familiar with the general operations of your boat. They don't need to be an expert boat handler, just able to use the radio, and get you back to a dock.
If you have a medical condition that requires any kind of medication, ALWAYS bring it with you! A simple evening cruise can easily go wrong, causing you to be on the water much longer than expected. Medical response at sea takes far more time than on land, and having your medication with you could make a big difference. It is common practice in the maritime industry for all crew members to have a medical card stored on the vessel that they are working on. This medical card lists medical conditions, medications, and emergency contact information. In the event that a crew member needs to go to the hospital that card will be sent with them, so that medical personal have all of the information that they need. Having a card also preserves some of the persons privacy, avoiding the embarrassment of having to share personal information in front of everyone.
I often find myself thinking of different emergency scenarios, and how my crew would react. For example, in the event of a man overboard: where is the closest life ring? What is the best way to get the person back on board? Is the person conscious? is it daylight or dark? Can you see them or have they disappeared from sight? The answers to these questions can completely alter the way you go about recovering or searching for someone. Whenever we conduct an MOB drill we take time to discuss these variables, and what we could do differently. Performing your generic drill is certainly better than no preparation at all, however I'm in the mindset that if you are going to do drills, you might as well do it right. I have heard several times, of people doing a MOB drills by throwing a buoy overboard, circling around and picking it up on the fly. That simply can't happen in reality. If you tried to grab somebody in the water while you were still making any kind of headway, you risk being pulled in the water yourself, or having your arms dislocated. Also a buoy floats on the surface, and will move with the wind. A body also floats but not the same way as a buoy, and is more effected by current. If you prepare for scenarios that aren't realistic, well then you simply aren't prepared.
A simple addition to the MOB buoy is to tie a bucket to the buoy leaving a few feet of rope between the two. The bucket will fill with water and sink until the rope is taught, providing a sea anchor for the buoy. This will be a more realistic simulation of how a body would drift due to current and wind. Make sure that when retrieving the MOB you have the vessel stopped, and that the person in the water is on your leeward side. This way the wind wont be blowing you away from the person as you try to recover them. You need to consider that the person in the water is going to be exhausted or worse unconscious, and might not be able to climb a ladder, or step in the eye of a line. How will you get them onboard? This is a question that all operators need to think about.
Boating will always be a fun activity. It's important to remember that with that fun, comes responsibility for both yourself and your passengers or crew. Take some time for safety, and have fun!