Emergency Preparedness – 4
Whether it is a simulated drill or a real scenario, what fetches best results is being ‘in tune’ with the behavior of the destabilizing factors and responding to bring the situation under control. Be it an ordinary fire or a chemical fire or loss of stability or a spill or man overboard situation or a maritime security situation or a situation warranting abandonment using life boats & life rafts.
For the sake of being in tune with the ‘situation’ and the behavior of the factors making its prevalence one has to know the ship thoroughly including its current status. While the emergency drills may typically account for one scenario at a time, the real emergencies are a mix of multiple situations which are also in a dynamic state.
Being in tune for example in case of a fire will demand the up to date knowledge of the headcount (human life being the top priority), staff’s fatigue levels, hardware status as well as temperatures, burning material, surrounding material, wind direction, ventilation ducts designs, effects of ship’s course on the ventilation to the affected areas and deteriorating the fire intensity, rescue options, rescue path, atmosphere monitoring, smothering options, ship stability – updating the plans based on the changed conditions, communicating accurately with the shore based entities to obtain proper response and so on to name just a few factors.
There are always checklists available these days for most emergency scenarios; they are best used to go through to verify if something is missed out.
The emergencies are responded to as per the staff’s competence and checklists are used to remain on the course as outlined in the SMS procedures. This cannot be the other way round where the staff is holding a checklist in one hand and wondering what to do next in the face of a major emergency – because they must already be quite familiar with the checklists-contents by way if earlier drills and training on board. What matters most is to be in tune with the elements that form the emergency situation and to respond correctly to bring it under control and then to normalcy.
This is often verified by seasoned Port State Control officials such as the USCG officers when ships call the US ports and are examined by calling the conduct of mock drills to demonstrate the staff’s competence. A well trained team on board always assures the port state officials of any country about the safe stay of the ship while at their port! The ship operators are assured of proper operations and care of their property at sea! For the ship’s staff themselves – it is their families who are assured of their dear ones’ safety at sea!
Knowing what to do in an emergency is utmost important to avoid panic and being in tune while handling the emergency is essential to effectively tackle it and bring the situation under control.