Getting very wet on deck

by Penny Holliday

There is a specific amount of safety training that we must do when we are on the ship. Within a short time of sailing right at the start of the cruise we had our first boat drill, which meant going to our muster stations on hearing the general alarm. We took our lifejackets, survival suits and warm clothes from our cabins to the muster stations, where a role call established that everyone is present. From there we went to boat stations, which is either the starboard or port lifeboat, climbed in and strapped ourselves into the seats.

The boat drill is standard training, but this week we have all watched some safety training videos on fighting fires at sea and on personal survival in lifecraft, and yesterday Simon (Chief Officer) organised some practical training for the whole ship’s company. The purpose of the fire drill was to practice techniques in fighting fires at sea, using extinguishers and water and foam hoses. It was the perfect day for it; warm, sunny, calm…… OK, I’m lying, it was windy, cold and pouring with rain. You could argue that we would have got pretty wet just standing on the deck in the rain for an hour, but with the addition of fire hoses (including one unfortunately pointing into the wind) we all got soaked. Most people wore full waterproofs, but those who didnt probably soon regretted it.

We were taken through the scenarios for which each kind of fire extinguisher was suited for, and we had a go at using them on pretend fires. I was most looking forward to having a go with the hoses because that’s not something I’ve done before. They look heavy and difficult to manage and I wasnt sure I would be strong enough to even lift one, let alone point it in the right direction. But we were shown how to hold it in pairs – the person behind the one at the nozzle end is there to take the weight of the hose and to brace the nozzle-holder against the kick-back when the hose is on. I found it pretty difficult just turning the nozzle to get the full flow going, and managed to drench Alek (3rd Engineer, who was showing me how to do it) when I accidently put my hand in the stream of water. Oops. But the pairing worked and we were able to advance with the hose in full flow and spraying a wall of water to protect us from the heat of the imaginary fire.

By the end of the session I was feeling but pretty pleased that I was able to manage the hoses after all. However, my satisfaction was slightly dampened at dinner when the captain told me that was probably because he only turned on one pump for all 3 hoses yesterday. Well, lets hope that in a real emergency things wont be so desperate that scientists need to be involved; probably the best we can do is go somewhere safe and stay out of trouble while the professionals deal with it. If called for though, I reckon we could manage to wield some boundary-cooling hoses, which means spraying the deck or bulkhead on the outside of a compartment containing a fire, in order to cool it.

It was a interesting morning, and a good way to spend the last hour or so of steaming before getting back on station for the next CTD cast.

Images: Practising with extinguishers and hoses on the aft deck. Photos by Penny Holliday and Glynn Collard

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