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Orientation, Emergency Instructions, and Drills

"When a person knows what to do before a crisis situation, you don’t have to communicate; everybody just does it. Had we not known our stations, we probably would have lost a few guys."

Orientation, Emergency Instructions, and Drills

Adapted from, Beating the Odds: A Guide to Commercial Fishing Safety, 7th Edition, Jerry Dzugan and Susan Clark Jensen, 2018

It was around 6 AM on September 22, and the 70-foot wooden longliner, F/V Majestic, was heading for a halibut opening in the Bering Sea. Although the weather wasn’t calm, the roll to starboard that didn’t return was the crew’s first indication of a problem. The vessel never did right itself.


In the seven frantic minutes between the time the Majestic heeled over and sank, the five men on board fought 35-knot winds, rough seas and darkness as they tried to broadcast a MAYDAY call, don immersion suits, get the EPIRB, and launch the life raft.


Things don’t always go perfectly when you abandon ship, and they didn’t for the crew of the Majestic. No one answered their Mayday, the raft caught in the rigging, one man was floating by himself with the EPIRB, and the other four were drifting in pairs, wondering where the EPIRB was.


All five were rescued after six hours in the water. In a subsequent interview, Skipper Tom Bedell said, “I’d like to stress for all fishermen: Have your drills. I’ll bet you a lot of fishermen don’t even know how to get into a survival suit and have never had drills.


“We had stations for everybody, and I explained it when we left port because there was a little bit of a crew change. Everybody had the full knowledge of what their station was, and that’s exactly what
everybody did. We’ve had drills before with [the former skipper].


He’d wake us up when we were just sitting around watching TV, or in the nighttime: ‘The boat’s going down!’ “Everybody’d run up to their stations and he’d clock us. “I’ve been fishing for twenty years and I’ve been on quite a few boats. I’ve got to admit in a situation like that a lot of people would not know what to do. When the person has the full knowledge of what they’re supposed to do before a crisis situation, you don’t have to sit and communicate; everybody just does it. Had we not known our stations, we probably would have lost a few guys. It would have just been pandemonium.” (Alaska Fisherman’s Journal, November 1992.)


Many vessel operators conduct onboard drills because they know that practice can make a difference. Others hold drills because they are required for their vessel. Mandated or not, the truth is: Drills help improve your chances of surviving an emergency at sea.


There are three components to a good drill:

  1. Orienting all crewmembers to the vessel.

  2. Giving crewmembers instructions that detail what they should do in the event of an emergency.

  3. Conducting the actual drill.

What Is Required?
The Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act (CFIVSA) of 1988, and 2010 revisions, mandate a variety of equipment and training for certain fishermen. This article concentrates on orientation,
emergency instructions, and drills, which are required for commercial fishing vessels that operate beyond the 3-mile line with any size crew, and commercial fishing vessels with more than 16 individuals on board. These are the items that need to be practiced in drills at least once a month. 

 

  1. Abandon ship.

  2. Fight a fire in different locations.

  3. Recover a person from the water.

  4. Minimize the effects of flooding.

  5. Launch and recover survival craft.

  6. Put on immersion suits and PFDs.

  7. Put on a fire fighter’s outfit and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) if so equipped.

  8. Make a radio distress call.

  9. Use visual distress signals.

  10. Activate the general alarm.

  11. Report inoperative alarm and fire detection systems.

Orientation

Who’s got time to orient a newcomer, especially one who has years of fishing experience? There’s too much to do before a trip. And why bother telling your nephew Jay how to operate the radio? He’ll never use it, he’s only along for the ride.


Hold those thoughts. That new deckhand may not know how to turn on your vessel’s EPIRB, even though he’s no greenhorn and your nephew might just need to use the radio if you get hurt.


Orienting people to your vessel has three steps:

  • Think about what you want newcomers to know about your vessel’s basic operation. Where are the safety hazards? Do they know how to operate the safety and survival gear? Would they know what to do in the event of an emergency? Solicit them to also be risk assessors! The list on page 200 will give you a good start on what to cover.

  • Show them around the vessel. This will take time, but it will pay dividends in several ways. Crewmembers who are oriented to safety hazards are less likely to injure themselves, they will be able to help during an emergency, and you will greatly reduce your liability in the event of an emergency. Some owners have even used video cameras to produce a video that covers the critical points of an orientation on their vessel, which crewmembers then view. Other owners temporarily place a number of hazards on deck, such as a halibut hook facing the wrong way, or a wetline, and then ask a new crewmember to find them.

  • Have them sign the safety orientation log (sample on page 234). Consider making a copy of this log and keeping it in a safe place at home in the event your vessel sinks. This record is very important for your legal protection.

Vessel Safety Orientation
Use this outline to orient new crew and visitors to your vessel.

  1. Show Vessel Layout

    • Engine: on/off, steering, gear selection, etc.

    • Shut off and crossover valves.

    • Alarms: what they are, what they mean, reporting inoperative alarms.

    • Entrapment: exit routes.

    • Hazards: hatches, winches, machinery, lines, slippery areas, stability concerns, etc.

  2. Show Vessel Safety and Survival Equipment

    • Immersion suit/PFD: need, stowage, fit, donning.

    • Life raft/survival craft: need, location, function, deployment.

    • EPIRB: need, location, function, deployment.

    • Radio(s): need, location, function, use.

    • Electronic position-fixing devices: function, how to find position.

    • Flares: need, location, function, and use.

    • Fire extinguishers: location, function, and use.

    • Other survival equipment: line thrower, person overboard recovery gear, first aid kit, etc.

  3. Show Vessel’s Policies and Emergency Instructions

    • Drug and alcohol policy.

    • Placards: report all injuries, report all malfunctions, waste disposal.

    • Emergency instruction: both posted and in book.

    • Emergency Assignments (Station Bill): each crewmember’s specific duties in

      • Abandoning the vessel.

      • Fighting fires in different locations on board the vessel.

      • Recovering an individual from the water.

      • Minimizing the effects of unintentional flooding.

      • Launching survival craft and recovering lifeboats and rescue boats.

      • Donning immersion suits and wearable PFDs.

      • Donning fireman’s outfit and SCBA (if so equipped).

      • Making a voice radio distress call.

      • Using visual distress signals.

      • Activating the general alarm.

      • Reporting inoperative alarm systems and fire detection systems.

Fishing Vessel Safety Orientation. Show newcomers around the vessel so they will be familiar with its layout and can find safety and survival equipment if an emergency situation arises.

Show newcomers around the vessel so they will be familiar with its layout and can find safety and survival equipment if an emergency situation arises.

Emergency Instructions

According to the Act, the following vessels must have emergency instructions on board:

  • Documented commercial fishing vessels that operate beyond the boundary line.

  • Documented commercial fishing vessels with more than 16 people on board.

 

The emergency instructions must include:

  • Emergency Equipment Location and Abandon Ship Stations.

  • Emergency Assignments (Station Bill) and Signals.

  • Distress Broadcast.

  • Donning Immersion Suits.

  • Anchoring Instructions.

  • Person Overboard.

  • Unintentional Flooding/Rough Weather at Sea/Crossing Hazardous Bars.

  • Fire.

  • Abandon Ship.

 

If you operate with less than 4 people on board, the instructions need to be readily available. If you operate with 4 or more people on board, some instructions must be posted and the others kept readily available.

  1. Must be Posted

    • Emergency Equipment Location and Abandon Ship Stations

    • Emergency Assignments (Station Bill) and Signals

    • Distress Broadcast

    • Donning Immersion Suits

  2. ​Must Be Kept Readily Available

    • Anchoring Instructions

    • Person Overboard

    • Unintentional Flooding

    • Rough Weather at Sea

    • Crossing Hazardous Bars

    • Fire

    • Abandon Ship

If your vessel is not required to have these instructions on board, that doesn’t mean you don’t need them. In fact, they could help save your life or your crew or your vessel. Don’t assume that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. Think of these instructions as your opportunity to make sure everyone does what they are supposed to do.

AMSEA's Commercial Fishing Vessel Emergency Instruction & Drill Manual contains templates for all of your vessels Emergency Instructions. In addition, it is an excellent guide for vessel orientations, emergency procedures drills, and debriefs. Every crewmember should be familiar with its contents and the book should be kept readily available at all times. Purchase a copy from the AMSEA Store or click here to download the manual for free. Read on to see the templates and click the links below to download individual templates for use on your vessel.

 

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Instructions for man overboard recovery.
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Emergency Procedures Drills

Once all newcomers have been oriented to your vessel and know their emergency assignments, you need to do monthly drills whenever the vessel is in service. Sure, drills are only required on some commercial fishing vessels, but drills save lives on all vessels.


The crew on board the 56-foot Angela Marie was anxiously waiting for the water to clear from the back deck. When it didn’t, the crew knew it was time to don immersion suits. That’s not easy in 60 to 80-knot winds when your vessel is lying on its side and its surface is icy.


There were more problems. The MAYDAY call had to be rebroadcast as the vessel sank because people hadn’t clearly understood their position, one man went in the water without his suit, and the skipper
struggled to untangle himself from lines in the water.


Then good things began to happen. The life raft surfaced next to the crewman with no suit and he was able to climb in. The Coast Guard arrived on scene and hoisted all five men to safety. What did the skipper have to say afterward? The crew “all did what they were supposed to do. Thank God for their experience and their levelheadedness. With any panic at all, it could have been a different situation. The best advice I can give anybody is to do your drills.” (Alaska Fisherman’s Journal, April 1994)


How to Conduct Effective Drills
Drills don’t have to be boring, and they shouldn’t be exactly the same each month because emergencies vary. Here are some clues to make your vessel’s drills more effective.​​

Donning immersion suits onboard a commercial fishing v essel during an emergency procedures drill. Make drill scenarios as realistic as possible.

Make drill scenarios as realistic as possible.

  1. Be Realistic

    • Realism will help make the drills more interesting. Instead of saying, “Okay, let’s have a drill on abandoning ship,” think of a place, time of day, weather and sea conditions that you might find yourself in when you have to abandon ship. Then describe that to the crew and position them where they would likely be. Or, ask the crew to describe a circumstance they think they might encounter. Make the scenarios as realistic as possible.

    • Some actions, such as inflating the life raft during the abandon ship drill, should be simulated. Drills will be more effective if crewmembers say what they would do if it were a real emergency.
      It will be hard for some crew to pretend, but a realistic scenario will help.

    • Crews should feel some pressure; pressure is normal. But all crewmembers must understand that their personal responsibility is to be safe. It is part of the job.

  2. Be Spontaneous

    • Don’t always announce drills ahead of time, but always announce a drill as a drill.

    • Conduct drills at different times and places. Try them at the dock, underway, at night, in the rain. Be creative!

    • Use a piece of cardboard labeled “fire” or “flooding” and place it in a critical spot. Tell crew that when they find the sign on their rounds they should shout “cardboard fire drill!” and let that begin
      the drill.

  3. Do Hands-on Drills

    • Retention for hands-on learning is 90 percent, much higher than just talking about or watching a video of a drill.

    • Be sure the crew is familiar with the vessel’s emergency instructions, signals, and assignments (station bill) as well as the location and use of survival equipment.

    • Have crewmembers touch the equipment as much as is practical. Have them put on their immersion suits, actually back each other up in a fire scenario, say a MAYDAY call (without the radio on), etc.

    • Disconnect the radio’s microphone or make other provisions to prevent a false MAYDAY call.

    • Stress familiarity with equipment during both day and night.

    • Avoid damaging actual emergency equipment.

  4. Make Drills Progressive

    • Start with simple walk-throughs and build skill and speed.

    • Progress to more complicated scenarios.

    • Throw in “curves” to make scenarios more interesting. For example, you might want to have one crewmember simulate being nearly debilitated by seasickness or injury to determine whether people will help them, and to ensure that others assume their duties.

  5. Build Teamwork

    • Teamwork increases efficiency and saves lives. Forget the “every man for himself” philosophy. It has sabotaged the saving of lives and ships at sea.

    • Build on the team that you already have for fishing.

    • Cross-train crewmembers to cover each others’ responsibilities in the event of an injury or other circumstance. If the skipper is injured, is the crew prepared?

    • Be sure all hands, including the captain, participate in the drills.

  6. Be Safe

    • Crew should not endanger themselves during a drill.

    • Secure open hatches and other dangerous areas.

    • Crew should never run during a drill.

  7. Be Positive

    • Drills can be fun and a chance to feel good about those you must count on in an emergency.

    • Drills should not be used to punish, harass, intimidate, or frustrate your crew.

  8. Debrief All Drills

    • A drill is not over until it is debriefed.

    • Each crewmember should talk about what was learned and how the drill could be done better. Everyone should feel that it is okay to make constructive comments on the vessel’s and crew’s performance. Drills should be a positive experience for everyone.

    • Copies of the vessel’s Emergency Assignments and Signals and Emergency Instructions will help keep the discussion on track, as will a list of each drill’s critical points.

    • Consider changes to Emergency Assignments and vessel’s emergency equipment. Remember, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement.

    • Inspect and return all gear to its proper location after each drill so it is ready and available for a real emergency.

  9. Log the Drill

Debriefing an emrgency procedures drill onboard a commercial fishing vessel.  Each crewmember should talk about what was learned and how the drill could be done better.

Each crewmember should talk about what was learned and
how the drill could be done better.

Ready-Made Drills

The following drills, which contain all the items required by law, have been devised to help fishermen and other mariners conduct their own emergency drills. Running time for each is about 20 minutes. Both novice and experienced drill leaders may discover ideas and critical points to look for while conducting and evaluating drills. Conduct these drills once a month and you will be in compliance with the federal onboard drill regulations.


Skippers will find it convenient to use these prepared drills. Each drill can be downloaded as a printable PDF file. Mark the check boxes to document the crew's effectiveness and note areas for improvement. If you choose to develop your own drills be sure they cover all 11 of the required drill items.

Person Overboard  (Download this Drill)
Scenario

While hauling gear during sloppy weather, a deck hand is washed overboard by a large wave or falls overboard while dipping a 5-gallon bucket over the side. The crewmember is wearing a flotation suit equipped with a light and whistle. Other boats are visible in the area.


Before Drill

Be sure the crew is familiar with the vessel’s person overboard recovery plan, including:

  1. How the skipper plans to pull a person back on board.

  2. What equipment is required.

  3. Skipper’s requirements for wearing flotation while on deck.

  4. Rules for being on deck in rough weather or at night.

 

Setting Up the Drill

This drill is best run while underway with no gear in the water, and with the person overboard represented by an inflated buoy with a personal marker light attached.


Initiating the Drill

The drill leader chooses a “victim” and informs that crewmember about the overboard incident. The drill
leader then throws a buoy overboard and advises another crewmember of the person overboard. The “victim” does not participate in the drill directly, but observes the crew’s reactions to the scenario
and helps keep track of the following critical points. This nonparticipant can also be your safety backup.


Critical Points to Look for During Drill

  1. Alarms/Communication

    • Does person discovering the emergency initiate the alarm?

    • Does person discovering the emergency tell the wheelhouse which side of the vessel the victim fell off?

    • Does person on watch alert all crewmembers? How?

    • Are Coast Guard and other vessels made aware of the problem?

    • Does entire crew recognize the Man Overboard signal?

    • How soon is entire crew aware of the emergency?

    • Are any crewmembers unaware of the emergency due to an inoperative signal or lack of communication?

    • Is communication to the wheelhouse sufficient to bring the vessel to the victim?

    • Does crew communicate with each other?

    • Is simulated distress signal called off after the victim is rescued?

  2. Response

    • Do crewmembers react in accordance with their Emergency Assignments?

    • Do crewmembers readily do unassigned, but needed jobs (cross-training)?

    • Does crew work together as a team?

    • Do crewmembers anticipate or react to events?

    • Does person discovering the emergency throw a marker?

    • Does person discovering the emergency continually keep the victim in sight and point?

    • Does person on watch use electronic position fixing devices to mark the position of the person overboard?

    • Does person on watch initiate a proper maneuver?

    • How long does it take to rig the recovery device?

    • Is crew in place, including a rescue swimmer in an immersion suit with a safety line, by the time the vessel is back alongside the victim?

    • Is recovery device and vessel’s hauling equipment used effectively?

    • Do any crewmembers endanger themselves by leaning perilously over the side to recover the victim?

    • Does crew recognize hypothermia and know appropriate treatment for the victim?

    • Is medical help sought for treatment of hypothermia, if needed?

    • Is crew aware of considerations in recovering survival craft?

Fire On Board  (Download this Drill)
Scenario

A fire is caused by a faulty diesel stove, clothing placed too close to an electrical heater, frayed insulation on electrical wiring against a bulkhead, an oversized light bulb in a bunk light, or other appropriate cause.

 

Setting Up the Drill

This drill is best run while underway, at the beginning of a trip, and with no gear in the water. Fire can be simulated by strobe lights or a red rag. Tape can be used to block off passages due to “smoke.” This drill can easily evolve into an abandon ship drill.


Initiating the Drill

Tell a crewmember that there is smoke and/or flames coming out of the stove/state room/bulkhead. When the crewmember is clear on how to correctly report the fire, the drill begins. Keep the drill moving by telling the crew how effectively they are controlling the fire as the drill proceeds. The fire can spread or
be extinguished, depending on their efforts.


Critical Points to Look for During Drill

  1. Alarms/Communication

    • Does person discovering the fire immediately sound the alarm?

    • Does person on watch alert all crewmembers? How?

    • Are Coast Guard and other vessels made aware of the problem?

    • Does entire crew recognize the fire signal?

    • How soon is entire crew aware of the emergency?

    • Are any crewmembers unaware of the emergency due to an inoperative signal or lack of communication?

    • Does crew report information such as fire source and size, smoke smell and density, and number of persons involved?

    • Is communication to the wheelhouse sufficient to allow operator to maneuver vessel to minimize the effect of wind on the fire?

    • Does crew communicate with each other?

    • Do crewmembers account for others?

    • Is simulated distress signal called off once fire is under control?

  2. Response

    • Do crewmembers react in accordance with their Emergency Assignments?

    • Do crewmembers do unassigned but needed jobs (cross-training)?

    • Does crew work together as a team?

    • Do crewmembers anticipate or react to events?

    • Does operator maneuver the vessel to minimize effect of wind on the fire?

    • Is operator safely able to leave the wheel, if necessary, to inspect the affected area?

    • If help is not available, does operator close doors and seal openings to isolate the fire?

    • Are areas near the fire that are vented or have operating machinery or fans closed or secured?

    • Are electricity and fuel sources to the affected space secured?

    • Do crewmembers go around, rather than pass through, smoke-filled spaces when evacuating the affected area?

    • When evacuating affected areas, do crewmembers remove portable extinguishers, immersion suits and other survival equipment, and hazardous items?

    • If an installed fire suppression system is used, is it only activated on word from the skipper, and only after vents, doors, and hatches are secured and all persons evacuated?

    • Do fire fighters don Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (if the vessel is so equipped) or fight fire by staying low?

    • Are fire fighters always backed up?

    • Is an appropriate extinguishing agent used?

    • Do crewmembers act as if they are familiar with extinguisher advantages, disadvantages, and range?

    • Is fire or deck hose brought to the scene and pumps placed in line?

    • Do crewmembers act as if they are aware of the hazards of toxic smoke and gases?

    • Are fire boundaries checked periodically to prevent the fire from spreading?

    • If the fire is not controlled, are initial preparations made to abandon ship?

    • If water is used to control the fire, are provisions made to dewater the vessel?

    • How is it determined that the fire has been extinguished?

    • Once the fire is out, is a re-flash watch set and the affected areas overhauled?

    • Could fire-fighting equipment and alarms be more effectively located?

    • Were fire hazards noted that could be eliminated?

Flooding  (Download this Drill)
Scenario

The vessel is running from the fishing grounds with a deck load of fish and gear. Wind and seas are rising and are off your quarter.


Before Drill

Make sure the crew is familiar with the vessel’s plumbing system, through-hull fittings, pumps, and equipment available for damage control.


Setting Up the Drill

This drill can be run any time and can evolve into an abandon ship drill. The drill leader will inform the crew of the location of the “flooding” and the level of the water.


Initiating the Drill 

The drill leader tells crewmembers that the vessel seems to be getting sluggish, and asks them to check lazarettes, holds, and the engine room. The drill leader then informs the crew of the location and extent of the problem. Keep the drill moving by telling the crew the level of flooding. Let them know how effectively they are controlling the problem as the drill proceeds.


Critical Points to Look for During Drill

  1. Alarms/Communication

    • Does the person discovering the emergency initiate the alarm?

    • Does crew report information such as location, extent, and cause of flooding?

    • Does person on watch alert all crewmembers? How?

    • Are Coast Guard and other vessels made aware of the problem?

    • Does entire crew recognize the general and high water (flooding) alarms?

    • How soon is the entire crew aware of the emergency?

    • Are any crewmembers unaware of the emergency due to an inoperative signal or lack of communication?

    • Is communication to the wheelhouse sufficient to maneuver the vessel to lessen risk of capsizing?

    • Does crew communicate with each other?

    • Do crewmembers account for others?

    • Is simulated distress signal called off once the flooding is under control?

  2. Response

    • Do crewmembers react in accordance with their Emergency Assignments?

    • Do crewmembers readily do unassigned but needed jobs (cross-training)?

    • Does crew work together as a team?

    • Do crewmembers anticipate or react to events?

    • Does person on watch initiate appropriate maneuvers to lessen risk of capsizing: Reduce speed? Head into seas? Minimize roll?

    • Is person on watch safely able to leave the wheel, if necessary, to inspect the flooded area?

    • What actions are taken to improve stability?

    • Fish/gear tossed?

    • Freeing ports cleared?

    • Free surface effect minimized?

    • Blocks lowered?

    • Cross-flooding minimized?

    • Stability plan used?

    • Is watertight integrity maintained by closing all watertight doors, hatches, etc.?

    • Are through-hull fittings, shaft housings, and other penetrations checked for leakage?

    • Is everyone familiar with operation of the vessel’s pumps?

    • Are tarps, plugs, blankets, etc., used to slow leaks?

    • Are extra pumps (hand and power) and buckets used to dewater?

    • If gas pumps are used below decks, are carbon monoxide/carbon dioxide problems considered?

    • Are there problems with the vessel’s pumps?

    • Do crewmembers prepare survival equipment (life rafts, immersion suits, EPIRBs, extra clothing, water, food, flares, log, first aid kit, etc.) in case of sudden loss?

    • Is a flooding control kit available with many of the tools and patching equipment you would want in one spot?

Abandon Ship  (Download this Drill)
Scenario

Despite the crew’s best efforts to control the fire or the flooding, the situation gets out of control and the drill leader gives the order to abandon ship.

 

Setting Up the Drill

This drill can be added to the end of a fire or flooding drill to save time and make the drills more challenging. To prevent the fire or flooding drill from being cut short, the drill leader should tell the crew not to abandon ship until the order is given.


The crew will only simulate launching life rafts, activating EPIRBs, and abandoning the vessel. However, immersion suits should be donned and appropriate survival equipment brought to the abandon ship station.


Initiating the Drill

When the fire or flooding drill has been concluded, the abandon ship signal will be sounded over the ship’s
alarm system.


Critical Points to Look for During Drill

  1. Alarms/Communication

    • Does person on watch alert all crewmembers? How?

    • Are Coast Guard and other vessels made aware of the problem?

    • Does entire crew recognize the abandon ship signal?

    • How soon is entire crew aware of the emergency?

    • Are any crewmembers unaware of the emergency due to an inoperative signal or lack of communication?

    • Does the crew communicate with each other?

    • Are all crewmembers accounted for?

    • Are signals used or simulated before abandoning ship to attract nearby assistance?

    • Are all crewmembers able to make an adequate MAYDAY call and find the vessel’s position?

  2. Response

    • Do crewmembers react in accordance with their Emergency Assignments?

    • Do crewmembers readily do unassigned but needed jobs (cross-training)?

    • Does crew work together as a team?

    • Do crewmembers anticipate or react to events?

    • Do crewmembers know their abandon ship station?

    • Do obstructions block escape routes or access to survival equipment?

    • Is life raft painter always secured (simulated) once life raft is released?

    • Do all hands have an immersion suit of a size that fits appropriately even with deck clothing on?

    • Do all crewmembers completely don their immersion suits in 60 seconds?

    • Does crew use a buddy system in donning suits and launching rafts?

    • Does crew simulate tossing throwable flotation (buoys, etc.) overboard?

    • Does crew gather an EPIRB, extra clothing, water, food, flares, log, and any other survival equipment, and are these items protected from washing overboard?

    • Are watertight doors and hatches closed, if there is time, before abandoning vessel?

    • Do crewmembers simulate entering the water properly wearing immersion suits?

    • Can all crewmembers describe how and when to launch a life raft and entry procedures?

    • Is crew aware of procedures for recovering a life raft?

    • Are all crewmembers aware of immersion suit features, proper care and stowage?

    • Can all crewmembers describe how to operate and test EPIRBs?

    • Is the EPIRB tested and logged at the end of the drill?

    • If flares are lit, is a Security given on channel 16?

Monthly Solo Operator Drills
“I just fish by myself! Why do I have to do emergency drills? No one else is even on the vessel.” In fact, solo operators of fishing vessels have even more reason to do their own emergency drills. Unlike vessels with crews, there is only one person available to fight fires, stop flooding, make a distress call, and rescue themselves from the water and that's YOU! With so much to do, and with your own life at stake, it takes practice to develop automatic muscle memory for the proper steps to take in an emergency. Solo operators will be better prepared by preplanning and pre-staging their safety and survival equipment and by practicing how to do the many needed tasks by themselves.


Solo Man Overboard (MOB) Drill
Man overboard events on solo-operated vessels often end up as casualties. It is especially important for solo operators to practice self-recovery and the recovery of victims from other vessels.

  • Have something you can grab from the water to help you climb on board by yourself. Try boarding your vessel from water level while it is moored. Think of creative ways for self-rescue that work for your vessel. Before the MOB occurs mount a permanent ladder where it does not interfere with gear, or mount a line over the rail within reach of the water that will release a rope ladder when tugged.

  • Most people don’t expect to go overboard until the split second before falling. Then it’s too late to put on a PFD (personal flotation device). Wearable PFDs are available and some have eliminated snagging hazards. Inspect the PFD for condition, fit, and operation. Inspection is especially important for inflatable PFDs.

  • Monthly, operate or deploy the MOB rescue device. Check for operability, wear, or decay.

  • Buy and check monthly an electronic MOB device that will shut off your engine once you enter the water. This gives you a chance to catch up to your vessel. Other MOB alarms will alert other vessels in the area.

  • Increase your odds by dragging a buoy tied to a floating line behind the vessel. Loops in the line will make it easier to hold onto and climb up the line.

  • Review how you could recover a crewmember from another vessel who is a MOB victim or in a survival craft. Practice throwing the life ring or rescue throw bag for reaching the victim, test the sling for securing the victim, and check blocks, winches, or hydraulics used to assist in bringing a victim on board.

Solo Flooding Drill
Reviewing your gear and procedures will greatly aid in a flooding emergency.

  • Check the seals on all watertight doors and portholes for cracks, gap, paint.

  • Check all doubled hose clamps on all underwater hoses.

  • Hang conical, wooden plugs near through-hull fittings to control flooding if needed.

  • Test the vessel’s dewatering pumps monthly. Do they work?

  • Test your bilge alarm monthly. Does it work?

  • Assemble a flooding control kit or review the contents and condition of your kit.

  • Check all possible sources of flooding and look for watertight integrity.

Solo Fire Drill
A fire drill by the operator can be more of a hands-on practice.

  • Position the vessel so the wind will not fan the simulated fire and set the autopilot.

  • Remove the fire extinguisher from the bracket for practice in releasing.

  • Note how the extinguisher operates but do not twist off the safety pin. Feel its weight and what hand it would be more comfortable in. Inspect the extinguisher gauge, if provided, the overall condition, and if fire extinguisher is the correct class, size, and agent.

  • Operate fuel shut-off valves and breakers for electrical fires. Find them in the dark.

  • Look for sources and locations of potential fires on your vessel, and do a “boundary check” around the outside of the space to look for hazards and survival equipment that would need to be secured or removed.

  • Close doors, hatches, portholes, and other access to the “affected” space. What works for stuffing into vents to simulate shutting off supply of oxygen?

  • Test all fire and smoke alarms.

  • Look for frayed wires, ensure fuel lines are tight, and eliminate other fire hazards.

Solo Abandon Ship Drill
The operator can add the distress call to the fire or flooding drill.

  • Practice saying aloud the first 5 critical parts of a MADAY without keying the radio.

  • Test the general alarm.

  • Release the EPIRB from its cradle to get familiar with its use. Check the date on the battery and hydrostatic release. Make sure the registration has not expired and that the alphanumeric code on the registration sticker is the same as the code on your EPIRB. Ensure the EPIRB is free to deploy and not under an overhang. Test EPIRB and log the test date monthly. Reinstall it correctly.

  • Pyrotechnics. Check expiration dates on flares and smokes. Read directions and practice the hand motions for igniting them. You may need to use them in the dark, so you’ll need muscle memory for the task.

  • Test your DSC radio by using the text feature with another mariner with a DSC-equipped radio with whom you have shared your MMSI number. But, be sure not to send out an emergency notice. Make sure your DSC-equipped radio is connected to your GPS and that you have programmed it with your MMSI.

  • Don immersion suit or PFD in 60 seconds or less. Try to better your previous time.

  • Inspect your immersion suit or PFD and check light and battery date.

  • Note alternative escape routes and make sure none are blocked.

  • If you have a survival craft, release the strap manually and ensure the strap can be released by hand and the life raft repack and hydrostatic release are installed correctly and not expired. Ensure craft is free to self deploy without entanglement on rigging or gear.

  • Determine how you would launch survival craft while keeping your balance.

  • Check operability of other equipment you would want to take off the vessel (flares, logbook, handheld radio, strobe light, additional flotation, water, food, etc.) that you have placed in an accessible abandon ship kit or bucket.

  • Close all doors and hatches when leaving the vessel.

 

The solo operator faces many challenges in an emergency at sea. With no other crew to share duties with, it is even more important to practice and be prepared.

Forms

Use the forms below to log your drills. Click on the individual forms to download a printable PFD file.

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