Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Keep Your Head in an Emergency

February 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

No matter how prepared you are and no matter how carefully you boat, mishaps happen. What occurs after an accident, however, may make all the difference between a crummy day and a catastrophe.

Independent of your circumstances and the nature of your emergency, the most important first action is to immediately notify the U.S. Coast Guard on your marine radio (Channel 16).  This is no time to be shy— get help on the way as soon as possible!  Take a few deep breaths, stay calm, rehearse in your mind what you are going to say, and be prepared to speak slowly and carefully into the microphone.  Hold the microphone a few inches away from your mouth; speak in a normal voice (yelling into the microphone will not make your voice heard farther or quicker). Remember to stay collected; rushing through what you have to say is not going to get help to you any faster, and may actually impede the proper assistance.0B5Oz22mDbKZrNTZMYU9sVjZDSjQ

Composure helps no matter what the emergency. Whether it’s a passenger’s sudden illness, your vessel taking on water, or a fire onboard, it’s imperative that you remain as cool as possible so that you can think and act responsibly. You are not in a position to accurately estimate when help will arrive, so stop stressing out about that and start acting with self-control.  If you’re the skipper, remember that your primary responsibility is the personal safety of your passengers and crew.

Captains may need to make a decision regarding whether to stay onboard or leave. Yes, abandoning ship is always an option. You should think about it and plan for the possibility. Continue to remain calm as you make sure that all of your passengers are wearing life jackets.

Use common sense and assess all the information available to you to determine if you and your passengers are in any immediate danger. Do your best to verify the facts; don’t make decisions on the basis of rumors or hearsay. Trust but verify is not just a cliché; it’s the best way to make an informed decision.  Check your demeanor:  is it time for another deep breath or two to keep on keeping your cool?

Unless you need to abandon ship immediately, follow the instructions given to you by the Coast Guard. You may be asked to switch to a Coast Guard “working channel.” If so, confirm by saying something like, “Confirmed. Switching to [channel number].”  While waiting for help to arrive, prepare flares, life rafts, and emergency gear. Give clear orders for passengers and crew to be prepared.  Stay as unruffled as possible; as skipper, you must set an example for everyone else to follow.SONY DSC

In the event that you need to leave immediately after making a Mayday call, inform the authorities of what you’re doing as part of the additional information in your call for help. For example, say, “We are getting in our life raft.”  If you’re able to maintain radio contact thereafter, follow all of the watch stander’s instructions. You are communicating with trained professionals whose job it is to help you.  Some of the questions may seem odd, but respond to them accurately.  If possible, have one person standing by on the radio for as long as possible.

Cell phones should only be used as a secondary way of sending a call for help. A marine radio is the best for a number of reasons. As skipper you need to be prepared, stay cool, and act as a leader. There is etiquette and proper procedure involved in the use of a marine radio. It is your lifeline for help, so familiarize yourself with it before you head out on your vessel, where anything might happen.

By Captain Rande Wilson


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