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Firefighting Gear & S.C.B.A. Essentials
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 7:10 PM
Joined: 01/05/2008
Posts: 66

It’s weekly drill day on board your vessel. Gather your crew. Today’s drill takes place in the galley.

The captain sounds the alarm, the crew responds — and the fire is extinguished by the chef with an extinguisher in the galley. Great response by the chef, but what did your fire team do? Did they report to their station and stand by? Or did they actually don their gear and report manned and ready?

Nobody enjoys fire drills, but they do serve a life-saving purpose. Fires are never anticipated and don’t occur as you might expect. But if you conduct your drills correctly, you will take the correct actions when a fire does occur and the unexpected happens. Having your crew in firefighting gear — and wearing it correctly — is always the first action. The gear will only offer protection when it is worn correctly.

The number of firefighting gear sets on board a vessel is dictated by regulatory agencies. The number is what is deemed necessary or minimally required. From our professional firefighting perspective, there should more firefighting gear sets than what is required by law. Would you leave the pier with only one spare fuel filter? If you’re required to have two sets of firefighting gear on board, a good practice would be to have two additional sets as well. The additional gear should be stowed in a separate location, in the event that the primary firefighting gear locker is involved in the fire or inaccessible due to the fire. The crew assigned to the fire team should dress out for every drill, including the S.C.B.A. The fire team members should be able to don all the gear in under two minutes.

Two minutes is possible, but it will require practice. While storage bags for gear are popular, it can be time consuming to remove the gear from a bag. We recommend that the boots should be in the pants with the pants rolled down around the outside of the boots. The flash hood and gloves can be stowed in the boots and the jacket laid over the top or on a hook, with the helmet under the jacket on the hook.

When the alarm sounds, the first team member to arrive at the fire locker should start removing the firefighting gear from the locker. The gear for each team member should be placed in the same location every time and each team member will know exactly where their gear is. S.C.B.A.’s should be stowed in the ready position, ideally mounted on the bulkhead, not in the gear box.

Practice Drill:
Gather the fire team members, remove the gear from the locker and at the ready, and time the team members as they dress out. Check to ensure that the gear each crewmember is donning is the correct size. Once all the gear has been donned, check to ensure it’s worn correctly. Some common problems to look for and appropriate corrective actions include:

Flash hood outside the jacket

* The flash hood should be put on first, then the jacket to ensure that it protects the neck and head.

Flash hood outside the S.C.B.A. and mask not under it  

* The flash hood should be outside the mask because the mask needs to seal against the face to provide the best possible protection. 

Jacket unzipped or not buttoned all the way up  

* The jacket should be secured all the way up to the neck to protect the chest.

Helmet chain strap is unbuckled   

* The helmet chain strap should be buckled so that the helmet will stay securely on the head.
The S.C.B.A. is assembled incorrectly. High pressure hose from the cylinder is disconnected.  Shoulder straps and waist straps are tight with no slack  
* The S.C.B.A. should always be stowed assembled and ready for immediate use.

Once each team member can dress out correctly in two minutes, perform the drill again but have the gear in the locker and time the dressing out from there.

Tom Jones is Training Manager at Resolve Maritime Academy, 1510 S.E. 17 St., Suite 400, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 33316, Tel: 877-975-3473.,

Mike Sanderson
Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 11:51 AM
Joined: 20/01/2011
Posts: 6

Good to hear someone thinks crews participate in regular drills. This is an essential part of maintaining the safety of crew and guests onboard yachts. Unfortunately, when MCA surveyors undertake their annual surveys, it is often found that drills have never been undertaken since the last survey, and crew are unfamiliar with emergency equipment and procedures. Take heed all ranks and live long ! Mike
Cap Todd
Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 4:39 PM
Joined: 27/07/2008
Posts: 1

In addition to the fire crew, it is imperative that all crew members be taught how to fight fires, while staying safe at the same time. The time it takes for the fire crew to don their gear could be the difference between saving the vessel and losing it. 5 minutes in a fire situation is an eternity. The non fire crew must learn how to stay out of the range of the fire while at the same time putting as much water on it as possible. By keeping the water on the fire, it will make it much more likely the fire crew will be able to access the more difficult parts of the vessel once they have all their gear on. Time is the enemy. The longer a fire burns, the hotter it gets and the more structural damage it will do, sometimes enough structural damage to sink the vessel. Having been a firefighter before I was a captain, I found it hard to believe that fire drills on some vessels were never performed, and on others they weren't taken seriously. While fighting fires, I grew to have a very healthy respect for them, and what they can do very quickly. Knowing how to keep yourself, and your other crew members, safe while at the same time being proactive is something that needs to be practiced until is is automatic. My respect for what fires can do is still so strong that when I walk into a restaurant I check out where ALL the exits are and plan, in my head, the best way to escape in the event of one.
 Average 5 out of 5