Making Emergency Drills Interesting

Hello All,

Working with a good,steady crew for a number of years has its many advantages. One problem that has slowly evolved however is that fire drills have become monotonous and predictable.

Can others suggest good scenarios that they have come up with or been involved in to make drills more valuable again.

Regards, Ben.

I can speak to tug and barge stuff and it’s true that changing up the drills can be daunting after many years with the same crew. Try combining a more realistic combination of events. Fuel line failure, drychem then CO2 release, fall back to a SSA and evacuate crewman in a stokes litter (simulate smoke inhalation) prepare to abandon ship. Take your time, it doesn’t need to be done in 30 seconds.
The idea is that the crew must keep in mind that it won’t simply be a fire. It’s going to be confusion, stumbling half asleep, darkness with added smoke. Head counts are difficult under those circumstances.
Crew muster in a dark and quiet boat is not easy. Do it at the dock, ask the Chief to shut everything down, try that.

It’s nearly impossible to setup scenarios like Fire School, so imagination needs to take its place. The crew really needs to treat it as if it’s real. Make sure there is a team mentality in suiting up the response team. Give them the latitude to adjust their approach if they feel the need. Make certain that they can find their way out of a dark and smoky engine room, tape over their visors and have them feel their way out following the hose back to the entry point.
Even though it’s monotonous, actually handle the fuel shutdowns, everyone. Make certain everyone can step up and do everyone else’s job. Change out bottles on the SCBA’s, you’d be surprised how many guys believe they know but have forgotten the method, each SCBA manufacturer has a slightly different setup.
Flooding is the one thing that will get ahead of you quickly. It needs a cool head and the Chief needs a hand to help line up pumps and overboards in a hurry. Make certain everyone is aware of where [I]that[/I] manifold is.

Man Overboard is the toughest, it can’t be stressed enough how little time a man in the water can survive. Discuss how quickly the advance of the boat distances the MOB from rescue. Consider how long it will take to turn around or stop. Has the wheelhouse team ever rounded up on a sea hawser? Give yourself a nice flat day and plenty of sea-room for that one. Close quarters will frequently be a factor. Insist on PFD use.

[I]We use a little equation for the distance covered just relaying the MOB, at 11 knots, approx. 18’ per second, 15 seconds to notify the bridge, = too far away. [/I]At that speed, even if the man was seen falling over, hitting him with a life-ring is unlikely, marking his position with a strobe and a buoy is more useful. Drive home the point that the crew will be at least one short with a MOB.

Do you have a Jason’s Cradle? Set it up and practice rolling a man back into the boat. Be aware that the Jason’s Cradle will likely require someone in the water to guide the victim into the damn thing. He’ll need to be tethered and in an immersion suit as well.

We had a small fire in the galley, an oven mitt was left on a hot burner and filled the galley with smoke pretty quickly, instead of dumping the mitt in the sink and turning on the water, it was run out of the boat and dumped over the side. Duh. Now the whole main deck was smoky. Encourage common sense thinking.

Does everyone know how to setup the AED if you have one? The O2 kit? How to secure someone in a Stokes litter?
Discuss a helo evacuation, stressing the static discharge dangers. Proper water entry in an immersion suit for your vessel?

Have the deck crew walk through the engine room with the Chief and have him point out the critical inspection points for walkarounds.
Then when you’ve run over everything you can think of, let the crew tell their stories of incidents they may have witnessed or experienced in the past. Nothing drives the point home better than a first person recollection. Sea story or not, it illustrates reality pretty well.

Don’t forget to plan for towing gear failures, parted tow lines etc. Take an engine away from the mate. Get the tow safely stopped with a minimum of assets. Shut down the steering pumps (in a controlled situation), demonstrate emergency steering change-over if you have it. Everyone should be able to take the helm in an emergency.

Show all how to contact help over the radio, demonstrate the means to relay position and circumstance to the CG and any other vessels in the vicinity.
These are just a few scenarios I use, maybe they can be of use to you and your crew.

[quote=Ben;30063]Hello All,

Working with a good,steady crew for a number of years has its many advantages. One problem that has slowly evolved however is that fire drills have become monotonous and predictable.

Can others suggest good scenarios that they have come up with or been involved in to make drills more valuable again.

Regards, Ben.[/quote]

2 words . . . Hooters Girls . .

The Captain is part of the drill as well. I have on occasion got with all hands and had them draw a piece of paper out of a hat. Just one paper has instructions for that particular person to pull a fire pull box and fall down injured within 20 feet of that particular station. A second piece of paper explains the condition of the person.

Outcome - The captain has no idea where the fire will be, if it’s even a fire at all. I encourage anyone to pull the closest pull box even if it’s a medical emergency - chest pains, etc…anything to bring attention. This also tests your fire alarm zone descriptions, and how it’s displayed on the panel, and how the captain on the bridge reacts to what is displayed…as far as directing the fire teams to the correct spot.

The crew has no idea who will be missing. Neither does the Captain - real world scenario.

This is one example that I have used to train myself. I do not see many (if any)Captains doing this often, and doubt just being the Captain makes them automatically proficient during emergencies.

Just having a drill for the sake of a drill is a sure fire way to lose interest. So, one thing that I always do is to have a SMART objective associated with the drill. (SMART= specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.)

For example:

Today, we will practice donning gear and SCBA’s until we can go from standing in front of the locker to being fully suited and on air in 2 minutes.

During this fire drill, we will respond to a fire in the laundry room. The fire team must conduct / simulate and report the following events to the bridge: a) on scene; b) whether door is hot, smoke level in access area; c) ensure space is mechanically and electrically isolated; d) team is making entry; e) class of fire; f) status of fire / fire is out; g) overhaul complete; h) extent of smoke / de-smoking efforts; i) extent of water / de-watering efforts.

During this drill, we will practice moving charged hoses up and down ladderwells and forward and aft. At the end of the drill, the team that can unrack the hose on the fantail, add another length of hose, charge it, man it and move it up the ladderwell, all the way forward and hit the target with the fog pattern in the fastest time (without running) wins.

And to really mix things up and be a little different from that approach, I conduct drills that will challenge a well-trained and cohesive crew.

For example:

For the next abandon ship drill, you will randomly pull your station billet duty out of a hat. You have one week to learn those new duties (but if there is an emergency, you will respond in your normal billet) and execute them during the drill. The point of this drill is to emphasize that you may find yourself in an emergency doing duties that are not part of your usual billet. You may be the only one available to launch the liferaft, or perhaps the Chief needs you to grab and set-up the portable de-watering pump.

And finally, I challenge the more senior members of the crew to find a relevant case study, figure out what went right, what went wrong, and then they need to use that information to plan an upcoming fire drill. Set them up to succeed, though, and talk to them about objectives, and realistic but safe training.

It’s important to hold a weekly fire team meeting. This is the time you can introduce new ideas and scenarios for the crew to test during the drill.

This occomplishes a few things things:
[li]It gives them the foundation for training on new concepts/scenarios
[/li][li]By giving them knowledge up front you are reducing the chance that they become frustrated during the drill.
[/li][li]By giving them lots of information at the meetings (and constructive critisism) they are better able to carry out the tasks which lets you keep the drills shorter.
[/li][li]It’s a chance to display leadership and get them excited about the upcoming drill.

I also do a quick debriefing after each drill to give them immediate feedback as to how they are doing.

one strategy is to put the most “junior” member of the crew in charge of the drill and provide him with the necessary support and encouragement.

Some related threads:

Anchormans idea about the paper in the hat is excellent. I’m going to incorporate that one myself. Seadog also makes a good point. I see my job as not only to train the crew to respond to an emergency, but also to train them to one day be the captain or the chief engineer etc. Cross training is also important. I work on smaller vessels…right now I have a crew of 12…and routinely I will just designate two or three of the crew as having been incapacitated meaning others need to step into their roles.