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On the Water Emergency / Be Prepared on the Water

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Ditch Pack on a Dock

The sun is out, the water is calm, and it’s another beautiful day for a boat trip. But, that’s when the unexpected happens; are you truly prepared? You’ve stored your Ditch Pack, you made sure that you had enough life vests for everyone in the boat. Last week you checked to make sure your Satellite Phone and Uniden VHF were fully charged, what else could there possibly be?

There is a real difference between being prepared and being properly PREPARED. There is not a fine line between panic and fear. When a quick storm comes up, and things get rocky, everyone has a little fear that sets in; panic is what happens when unprepared people must do something different from the norm. Panic is when everyone on-board starts running around in different directions, with no one is accomplishing anything, the last thing you want during an emergency situation.

What needs to be done to help subdue panic is quite simple, never leave the dock without having a quick safety briefing. I talk about all the items that are important in different situations and pull them out, so people know that the ACR EPIRB is bright lime green and the SAT Phone is the little orange gadget just to the left in the above storage on the helm. I also quickly explain how both items work.

Next, I move on to life vests and show where they all are and take one down and fit it on the new guy. Then I show the Ditch Pack and open it and point out the item categories and how it is laid out. Finally, the life raft and how to deploy it. For us, it is only deployed once it is in the water.

For the last portion of our safety brief. I assign every person on the boat a job and only one job should a situation arise:

  • As the captain, I am always responsible for the ACR EPIRB and Sat Phone. It is my job along with setting off the SOS on my Fish Finder system. My EPIRB is water activated, so when I jump in, it automatically powers up.
  • My most experienced guest is assigned to handing out a life vest to every person on my boat and making sure that they immediately put it on. I also keep 2 extra vests nextLife Raft on the waterto two 100-foot lengths of rope in our front hatch, and that is part of his/her responsibility as well. My boat is of the size that there are never more than 5 people on it.
  • The first person that goes in the water is tied using one of the 100-foot sections of rope, as each person get’s into the water they are tied to the same rope. It is important that everyone is close together if going overboard is the only option. Once everyone is in, you want to make sure that everyone is connected together, to keep everyone safe as well as knowing everyone’s location. This will also create a larger target for search crews.
  • One person is assigned to making sure our Ditch Pack is now out and ready for what may happen. It is not sent over the side of the boat, until at least one person is in the water.
  • Once the second person has gone into the water, the person who was assigned to the Life Raft will begin deployment into the water. I also, tell this person during our safety meeting, that once the Life Raft is deployed, that they go around the back side, to weight it down, and allow a couple of people the ability to enter it. The counter balance keeps the life raft from flipping forward and making it impossible to enter.
  • I am the last person to go into the water. It gives me a second to look around and make sure that everything has been done.

This may seem like a lot of preparation every trip, but keeping people focused on a singular job helps to avoid that frantic reaction to an emergency.  These briefings can easily be conducted in 5-10 minutes before departure. Fear is not a bad thing, I fear snakes. But I have learned enough to know what to do if I see a snake or bitten by one. I also try to always remember to take the opportunity during our trip to ask each person what they are doing in an emergency and make sure they remember their specific job and responsibility. I may do these 2 or 3 times during our trip. It helps set a level of comfort with everyone.

Ditch Pack Cyalume Lighting

So, are you prepared or really PREPARED? Are you serious about safety? Take a few minutes the next time you are heading out for an adventure on the water, and ensure everyone else PREPARED should a situation arise.

 

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