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Navigating on board in zero visibility
Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 4:28 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392

Safety First is a new bi-monthly forum on written by maritime safety experts offering captains and crew safety tips, drill suggestions and strategies for handling real-life onboard safety scenarios.

“Fire in the laundry room! Crew, to your emergency stations.”

You’ re suddenly woken up by the captain sounding a general alarm. You roll out of your bunk as smoke enters your cabin and when you open your cabin door you're blasted by heavy smoke and heat. The smoke is burning your eyes, your nose starts running and you immediately cough and gag. At this point you have only one to two minutes to escape from this dangerous environment. You hit the deck to find clean air and avoid the smoke. Panic sets in as you realize the way to your emergency station is blocked by the heavy smoke and heat. How do you get out of this area and report to your emergency station?


It doesn’t matter what your emergency duty is, you must be able to get yourself out of the smoke. You can’t help anyone else if you don’t first save yourself; safety for you, your fellow crew and passengers on board is the top priority.


There must be, by construction and regulation, a minimum of two ways out of vessel living quarters in the event of a fire or other emergency. Do you know where that second means of escape is located? Is it a small escape hatch at the end of the passageway? Is it in another crewmember’s cabin? If the latter, does the crewmember keep the door locked? Do you know how to open the hatch and where it leads?


Meanwhile, the engineers in the engine room are responding to the onboard emergency, seeking out the escape hatch or escape trunk. Where does the escape hatch lead? Does the door to the escape trunk have gas-tight seals? Are the seals located at the bottom of the escape trunk or at the top? If carbon dioxide is discharged and there are no seals on the door, they could possibly be overcome by the CO2.


It's essential for all crewmembers to conduct Emergency Egress (escape) training when they first report on board and periodically thereafter. Crew must know the escape routes from their living and working areas.


This training can be conducted easily and safely. Beginning in the crew quarters area, blindfold each crewmember to create the blinding effect of smoke, spin them around a few times to disorient them, then let each person find their way out to a designated location. 


Use a right- or left-hand search to guide you along using the bulkhead as a guide. Always use the back of your hand on a bulkhead. If you encounter heat or a live electrical source, your body’s natural reaction will make you pull your hand away. For this exercise, crewmembers should be crawling on their hands and knees; the safest place to be is on the deck. To ensure safety during this training exercise, there should be a person in front of and behind the blindfolded crewmember to prevent a fall or other injury. Once a safe area is reached, have each crewmember perform the same blindfolded exit from their working area.

Should a shipboard fire occur, you and your fellow crewmembers will now know how to move to a safe location and, as a result, will be in a better position to help others. 


By Tom Jones, fire school training manager at RESOLVE Maritime Academy, the marine safety training subsidiary of RESOLVE Marine Group, Inc. Visit for more information.

Minimise Fire Risks
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 5:13 PM
Joined: 30/06/2012
Posts: 35

Interesting. Ever seen Photo Luminescent aids that at low level in smoke filled areas guide people to an exit. Same principle as normal Fire Exit sign normally placed above doors etc. But these exit strips are custom made for every vessel. Really are life saving aids to maximise safe exit of any smoke filled area. They are at low level. Obviously best thing is to not have a fite in the firdt place.
Minimise Fire Risks
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 5:53 PM
Joined: 30/06/2012
Posts: 35

Spelling correction. On a bumpy train. Best thing is to not have a Fire in the First place. Love to discuss further.
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