Roles on board in an emergency

Just like in any organisation you need well defined roles, people need to know what they are meant to do and how. Well it’s the same on board, especially so if you consider emergency situations from medical, to flooding, fire and the ultimate horror, abandoning ship.

We have two teams on board, or “watches” with a watch leader heading up each watch. There are clear instructions otherwise known as standing orders that clearly explain when the skipper should be informed of something, anything from another boat being within a 3nm radius of us to visibility reducing or improving to the decision as to whether to change a sail.

If we have a MOB (man overboard) we know exactly what our roles will be, it is something that we have trained for at every level of Clipper training – the premise being of course that your keep yourself and each other safe and that this situation will not occur. But if it did, you would have someone always pointing at where the person was in the water. Someone in the navigation station pressing the emergency MOB notification buttons as well as sending out a mayday call on the VHF radio. And someone will have thrown over the dan buoy that marks with a long pole with a flag and light on it, ideally, roughly where the MOB went into the water.

There’ll be someone, known as the swimmer, in the harness, aka “pants of power” ready to be attached to a spinnaker halyard and hoisted over the side in an immersion suit to rescue the MOB. Someone on the helm, and others in charge of the deck, getting ready to receive the MOB and get them below deck to assess them medically – getting them warm and dry being one objective.

We have all been given roles to assume in the case of an emergency. Firstly the skipper would assess the situation, the coxswain would take over helping or hove to the boat, someone else would take control of the deck, someone to muster the crew and my job if an emergency happens on my watch is communication. And if something happens to the skipper we also know exactly who takes what role including in my case knowing where the key to the morphine and communication passwords are held.

We have periodic run throughs of emergency scenarios so that in the hopefully unlikely event something does happen, we know automatically who is doing what and what needs to happen.

Here’s to a safe, uneventful and f-a-s-t crossing. Go team Switzerland!

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