I was an EMT prior to graduating from the academy and one of the lessons they drilled i to our heads was the fact that our safety mattered more than the safety of the victims.
Why is this? Well There are long articles written on the subject and reason - ranging from maintaining high moral to loss of expertise- but the basic concept is the same as confined space entry… it’s better to delay a reacue than risk having to rescue additional men and equipment.
While this is a key tenant of shoreside emergency reaponse it’s even more critical aboard ship because there is no replacement for a lost hose team. Neither the men nor the equipment can be replaced by calling in another fire truck.
Yet this is not a lesson most mariners have learned.
I spent many years as Chief Mate aboard drillships and have contained more than my share of fires and yet I always got push back (always from the hose teams and often by the Master) on this.
My number one duty as scene commander was assessing the situation and doing what could be done quickly to prevent the fire from spreading. Number two was protecting the master, medical officer (we always had a doctor or medic aboard), staging area (in that order) and engineers in that order.
Why? No master means no top down supervision and no way to coordinate with external resources. If the medic gets hurt no one is getting treated for injuries. If the equipment and basic mechanical systems then we won’t have the means to fight the fire.
As mentioned in an earlier thread I often found myself inching closer and closer to the fire as on scene commander often ending up leading the entry teams directly. I’ve seeen many chief mates take this approach and it is highly dangerous. Without the loss of the on scene leader makes the entire response quickly deteriorate.
For these reasons I believe that, during a fire at least, some people are more valuable than others and more time and resources should be given to protecting those individuals.
What has been your experience? In emergencies have you seen the Chief Mate (or 1st engineer) leading from the front?