Sunday, August 7, 2011

Preparations for international offshore work

In preparation for my upcoming offshore international work, I was required to complete a 40-hour training class.  The course covered basic safety topics that all mariners should know including fire fighting, personal survival, first aid and more.  When you are operating hours or days from port there is no fire department or ambulance to call and some level of proficiency is desirable for all crew members.

While some of the training was monotonous, other components were truly amazing.  After a day of classroom training on firefighting we went to a Firefighting Training center in North Bend, WA.  This is where real fire fighters from all over the northwest come to train.  The facility was incredible. It included buildings, mock up ships, cars, rail cars, fuel tanker trucks, mock up airplanes and helicopters, all of which can be set on fire.  This facility is unique in that they don’t mock up the fire by using propane, rather they use diesel and/or wood to create realistic fires.  This training required us to be fully geared up in protective equipment and included using self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). The day was strenuous, but educational from start to finish.

We learned to use dry chemical extinguishers, CO2 extinguishers and water to fight various types of fires.  One of the most challenging to extinguish was a pump where fuel continued to spray while a team of six people attempted to extinguish it with water and dry chemicals.  The fuel was on fire all over the ground and just when you thought you were winning and beating the flames back to the pump itself the fire would reignite beside or behind you!  

 We also performed search and rescue inside the building while intense pallet fires burned on the floors below us.  It was amazing how difficult it was to search a room in the dark while our communication was is inhibited by our SCBA.  Our team did successfully navigate down the hallway and find three victims (old fire hoses shaped like people) on bunk beds in a room.  I was glad we found the victims and got them out but it was certainly not graceful; It was a constant challenge to keep our bearing and stay with our team members.

The training was educational and even thrilling at times.  Fortunately because I am not part of the vessel crew but rather fall into the scientist category it is most likely that I will have no assigned duties in an emergency other than to get my PFD and move to the muster station.

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