• How to Survive a Burning Ship

    How to Survive a Burning Ship

    More than 400 people were safely evacuated from a car ferry that caught fire Sunday off Greece’s Adriatic coast. Poor weather conditions made rescue difficult, but Italian and Greek helicopters and rescue teams managed to bring most of the passengers to safety. Unfortunately, there were 10 casualties.

    The boat drifted in rough seas between Italy and Greece as passengers waited to be rescued. The cause of the fire is still unknown, and attempts to tow the ship to shore ended when the tow cables broke overnight. Italian and Albanian magistrates are debating whether to continue attempting to tow the boat for investigation.

    The U.S. Coast Guard’s 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics Report listed 218 boating accidents that year involving a fire or explosion. Though there were losses in the ferry fire, passengers and rescuers worked together to bring most of the passengers safely to shore.

    The problem with boat fires is that you cannot simply run across the street to escape it; the only way to escape a boat fire is to await rescue or go overboard, which can be nearly as dangerous.



    Plan Ahead

    Thinking ahead of the best way to respond to a boat fire increases the probability you’ll remain calm and react correctly should one break out. Boat fires can go from smoke to inferno in minutes, so every moment counts. If possible, test safety equipment ahead of time to ensure you will know how to use it in the heat of the moment.

    Wear a Life Jacket

    First and foremost, put on a life jacket in case you do need to go (or accidentally go) overboard. Life jackets are designed to keep your head above water and in a position that helps you breathe when in the water. Keep in mind that adult-sized life jackets are not suitable for children. A life jacket should fit snugly and won’t allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through.

    Locate an Escape Route

    If the boat is docked, escape is simple. You can even bypass the life jackets and just get off the boat. In this case, call the firefighters to handle the fire for you; professionals are always a good bet.

    If the boat is at sea or in other deep waters when fire breaks out, escape can be more challenging—and, of course, the bigger the boat, the more complex your route can be. Every time you step foot on a large boat, like a ferry or cruiseliner, take note of the emergency plan (which should be posted in a public area of a ferry, as well as posted in your state room on a cruise ship), and pay attention during the “boring” emergency practice drill you’re required to attend on a cruise.

    Attempt to Extinguish the Flames

    If a fire extinguisher is handy, aim it at the base of the flames and discharge it, using a back and forth sweeping motion. Remember P.A.S.S:
    • Pull pin,
    • Aim at base of fire
    • Squeeze handle
    • Sweep side to side
    Never use water on an electric, gasoline, grease, or oil fire. Fifty-five percent of boat fires are caused by wiring and appliance malfunctions. Be sure that the fire extinguisher you are using is appropriate for the type of fire you’re facing. If the fire cannot be contained, the boat will be lost.

    Watch this video on methods for fighting various boat fires:

    Move Away from the Fire

    If the fire is uncontainable, move away from it, closing doors and hatches behind you, and move windward if possible. At this point, you’ll need to decide whether to wait for rescue or abandon ship.

    Bear in mind that the smoke and chemicals released in the fire can be more dangerous than the fire itself.

    Abandon Ship, if Necessary

    If possible, enter the life raft directly from the boat; avoid swimming to reach the raft. Bring a radio distress beacon on board the raft along with emergency supplies, such as important medication, water, a Swiss army knife, a whistle, a flashlight and a first-aid kit (many life rafts and escape boats will already be equipped with these supplies; that’s the kind of information you’ll want to know in advance). If you are traveling in foreign waters, bring travel documents as well.

    Once on board the raft, get to a safe distance from the burning boat. Try to stay dry and stay warm by huddling with other raft passengers. If there is no supply of drinking water on the raft or escape boat, arrange to collect rainwater and ration it to a maximum of half a quart per person per day.

    Preparedness is Key

    The more you are prepared for a boat fire when traveling by sea, the more likely you’ll able to handle it calmly, should it happen. More than 400 passengers aboard the car ferry did the right thing in a tough situation and lived to tell about it.


    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: survival at sea, fire, Current Events

  • How to Survive a Fall Through Thin Ice

    How to Survive a Fall Through Thin Ice

    In early December, a firefighter rescued a Golden Retriever who had fallen through thin ice into a lake. Linda Park's dog, Dakota, wandered off during one of their usual walks, and he fell through the ice into the frigid water. Dakota grew tired of trying to climb out after a half hour, and a firefighter came to the rescue after a neighbor called 9-1-1.

    Capt. Tom Langevin of the Waterboro Fire Department put on a wetsuit, walked 50 feet onto the ice, crawled another 25 feet toward Dakota, and then jumped in to rescue the dog. Watch a video of their story:

    Of course, dogs are not the only ones in danger of falling through thin ice. More than 20 people have drowned in the last 10 years after falling through thin ice, more than 50 percent of which are due to failed attempts to rescue dogs or other people. Children are the most at risk; teach kids safety precautions when spending time around frozen bodies of water.


    How to Survive a Fall Through Thin Ice

    Keep Off The Ice

    Of course, the best way to avoid thin ice danger is to stay off frozen water. Venturing onto frozen ice is a bit like playing Russian Roulette, as some individuals will inevitably fall through the ice or become stranded on an icy island. Children are particularly attracted to iced-over lakes and canals for ice-skating opportunities.

    Rescuing Someone Else

    If a loved one or someone nearby falls through the ice, take the following precautions to ensure you don’t become another casualty.

    • Do not attempt to go out onto the ice yourself.
    • Call emergency services for assistance.
    • Instruct them to keep still to maintain heat and energy, and to anchor themselves to the edge of the ice to help them stay afloat. This can be done with safety spikes, a car key, or another sharp object they may have in their pocket, like a nail file or a pocket knife.
    • Throw or reach out with a rope, pole, branch, or item of clothing. While lying down or getting someone to hold onto you, attempt to pull the person to shore.
    • If these or a similar item is unavailable, try to find something that will float to throw or push out to them to keep them afloat until assistance arrives.
    • Continue to reassure and keep them talking until help arrives.
    • If the rescue is successful, they will need to be kept warm and treated for shock. They should be taken to hospital even if they appear to be unaffected by their ordeal.

    Rescuing Yourself

    • Carry a spud bar or walking stick to probe for thin areas and to use for additional traction and balance over slippery areas.
    • Carry safety spikes to help you stay afloat and climb out by anchoring into or gripping the ice. (See the videos below to learn how they work and how to make a DIY version.)
    • Carry fire starters in a tightly sealed plastic bag or waterproof container to re-warm yourself after your rescue. Keep the container in a zipped jacket pocket so it stays with you, as any items you carry may easily be lost in the water.
    • Wear a small waterproof backpack with essential supplies such as water, food, an emergency blanket, and a change of clothes. Keep the backpack lightweight so it doesn’t weigh you down in the water. If it pulls you down, remove it.
    • Wear a flotation suit.
    • When you fall in, hold your breath and try to resurface as quickly as possible if your head submerges.
    • Remain calm: panic will only make the situation worse, with potential hyperventilation, gasping, hypertension, and an increased pulse.
    • Spend the first minute concentrating on staying afloat. Tread water and lean back slightly.
    • Locate the strongest edge of ice and use your arms and elbows to lift yourself up as much as possible.
    • Lean forward onto the ice and kick your feet to “swim” out horizontally. This will be easier than attempting to pull yourself upward and out.
    • If you struggle to get out, keep as much of your body above the water as possible to minimize body heat loss. If you absolutely cannot get yourself out, stop struggling to maintain your energy and slow the process of hypothermia.
    • If you successfully exit the ice, do not attempt to stand up right away, but instead roll or crawl away from the hole. Do not stand until you are out of danger of falling back through the ice.
    • Retrace your steps back to safety.
    • Warm yourself and get help to avoid the onset of hypothermia.

    Want to make your own? Check out this simple tutorial from BigFishTackle.com


    Have you ever fallen through the ice or seen someone who has? What did you do?






    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: survival skills, Current Events, Winter

  • How to Escape a Sinking Car

    A Massachusetts woman made an unexpected 9-1-1 call on December 14th when she swerved to avoid a head-on collision and her car careened into a river.

    Debora Wrigley Dooley called for help when she realized the water was too fast and deep for her to save herself. The water was high enough to partially fill the car, but not high enough that Debora was in immediate danger of drowning. Rescue crews arrived within 4 minutes, and the current had already swept the car 150 yards downstream. Rescuers were able to quickly retrieve Debora from the car without serious injury.

    An average of 300 Americans die each year in submerged cars. In her particular situation, Debora did the right thing by staying where she was and calling 9-1-1. But what if she had driven into a deep lake, instead, and started to sink?

    In water deep enough to engulf a car, experts suggest leaving your phone behind and saving yourself. And you may be surprised to hear that the previously popular method of waiting for the water pressure to equalize, then opening the door, is no longer the suggested escape method. So, would you know what to do? If not, read on, because a few simple tips can make a world of difference.


    How to Escape a Sinking Car

    You have about one minute to escape a car that has fallen or driven into deep water. Dr. Gordon Geisbrecht of the University of Manitoba has performed over 80 test vehicle submersions. He says performing these four steps in quick succession gives you the best chance of escape:

    How to Escape a Sinking Car

    Let’s look at each step in more detail:

    Seatbelt – Once your car hits the water, remove your seatbelt as quickly as possible—just don’t remove it before hitting the water. According to the Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands, around half of the injuries in car submersion accidents are due to injury, not drowning. Give yourself the best chances of survival by always wearing a seatbelt, then unbuckling quickly once you hit the water.

    Window – There are two potential options here:

    Roll down your window. The back window is ideal, but side windows will work fine if the back window doesn’t or won’t go down. If there are multiple people in the car, have everyone roll down and escape via their own window if possible.

    Break the window. If your window won’t roll down, you’ll need to break it. Have a center punch or window spike in the car for this purpose, and keep it easily and immediately accessible.

    Children – If there are kids in the car not old enough to unbuckle themselves or who can’t swim, help them get out first by pushing them out the windows (they may not be strong enough to push against the flow of water without help). If there’s another adult or an older child, hand kids who can’t swim out the window to them.

    Out – Get out of the car as fast as you can. Don’t reach for your phone or other valuables, and be ready to push against the current that’s rushing in through the window.


    See the steps in action:


    And check out Richard Hammond from Top Gear testing “get out fast” versus the outdated “wait for the pressure to equalize” course of action:

    So, next time someone shares the “wait for the pressure to equalize” bit, go ahead and correct them using Dr. Geisbrecht’s tips and these videos. Knowing the info can save your own life. Sharing the info can save even more.

    Here’s to knowing what to do, but hoping you never have to put it to use.




    https://gma.yahoo.com/massachusetts-woman-rescued-car-plunges-river-153438485--abc-news-topstories.html. Accessed 12-16-14.
    http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/kinrec/about/giesbrecht_faqs.html#sinking. Accessed 12-16-14.
    http://www.swov.nl/rapport/Factsheets/UK/FS_Cars_in_water.pdf. Accessed 12/16/14.

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: survival skills, Current Events, Car Preparedness

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