Safety and Survival at Sea

Personal Survival Suits 2Your ability to survive at sea depends on a range of factors which make all the difference. You must absolutely know how to use safety equipment and where it is kept onboard. As well as this, you need to have the appropriate survival skills and, just as importantly, the ability to apply them in the event of an emergency.

Man Overboard

Someone falling overboard may initially appear to have a simple solution of just turning around, heading back and picking them up – the reality of the situation can be much more complex. Locating the casualty in the water, navigating toward them with your craft and finally getting them on board can all present their own problems that could see the situation quickly turn tragic.

Extended exposure to the elements can be incredibly dangerous, with hot weather speeding up dehydration, and colder weather putting the body further at risk for hypothermia. Be sure to protect yourself as much as possible from the extremes in the environment to help ensure survival.

Tips For Choosing a Survival Suit

Survival suits are essential safety equipment if you work on a fishing vessel, oil or gas production, or as part of a search and rescue team. Survival suits will increase the amount of time that you can spend in the water in the event of abandoning a sinking or capsized vessel or stricken production platform, especially in the open ocean.

Some tips from to help you choose the right survival suit, and increase your chance of being rescued should the worst happen.

- Choose that needs to meet all the operational requirements placed on it by the operational regulatory body. So whatever you purchase make sure it conforms to your industry regulation. Depending on the environment you work in, you may need a flameproof survival suit.

- Has personal buoyancy and thermal barrier protection which will dramatically increase survival time in the water. Immersion work suits often do not have these qualities so it is important to spot the difference.

- Attention to detail: A buddy line ensures that you can be tied to others, so that you don’t drift apart. A lifting strap will help the rescuer to winch you up to safety. An integral approved emergency light and approved reflective tape means that you are more easily found in the dark.

- An integrated safety harness for the rescuer’s suit will mean that a separate harness is not required, and ensures that it is always fitted and ready to be used, and appropriate for use with the survival suit. It is also one less thing to remember when embarking on a rescue mission.

Personal Survival Suits 3- Insulated gloves and booties will help to keep hands and feet warm and delay the onset of hypothermia. Also a hood is vital as so much heat is lost from the head. The hood will also protect from frostbite, and from any debris that may be in the water. Head, hands and feet should always be well insulated and protected.

- Transport Immersion survival suits when fitted with an “Emergency Re-breathing System” (ERBS) can be a lifesaver, as it allows exhaled breath to be used again, so that if you are submerged for any reason, you can still breathe for a short time whilst you sort yourself out.

- An Emergency Locator Beacon is essential so that the rescue services can locate you. These are designed to be used in tough conditions, and transmit on aircraft frequencies to increase you chances of being found. Some survival suits have built in emergency locator beacons, but it is also recommended to have proprietary additional beacons to hand.

- Look for regulatory certification and approval. A survival suit that has been tested to the highest standards will certainly be up to the task. There are different standards for survival suits to be used in different environments. A pilot’s survival suit will differ from that of an arctic sailor. If you are not sure of the standards you need to look for, ask

- An inner layer will provide additional insulation and buoyancy, meaning that you can be in the water for longer. Depending on the environment you will be in, you may find yourself in freezing water for several hours. The warmer your survival suit, the more chance you have of staying alive.

- Your survival suit will need to be quick and easy to put on. If you are a rescuer then time is definitely of the essence, and the quicker you can be ready, the more chance you have of saving those in the water. If you are in a position where you need to abandon your vessel or aircraft, you will probably only have a few minutes to prepare. By ensuring that you can put your survival suit on quickly and easily, you will increase your chances of surviving, and being rescued.

Making A Pocket-Sized Survival Kit

There are many commercially available survival kits in stores today. Many of these kits contain items of poor quality. If, at any time, you find yourself having to depend on a man-made item in order to survive, that item needs to be of excellent quality! One piece of your kit can mean the difference between life and death.

Because we all don’t engage in the same outdoor activities, a one-size-fits-all kit isn’t practical. The items in your kit are relative to the activity you’re engaging in. If you do decide that you’d rather purchase a ready-made kit from a local retailer or online shop, there’s a good chance you’ll remove or replace some of the items in the kit to better suit your needs. For example, you may decide to replace fishing hooks with several safety pins, or take out the waterproof matches and put in a small cigarette lighter. You may not care for wax covered cotton balls, but opt for cotton balls rubbed with petroleum jelly as a better fire tinder.

Of course, these are just a sample of things to consider, & at this point, we haven’t touched on the list of specific items to put into your kit. But here we should decide on the size of the kit to be carried, as well as how the kit will be carried on your person. As mentioned earlier, the type of personal survival kit we’re discussing here is one that can be carried on your person. It should fit into a small metal or plastic container that will fit into a small pouch and can be attached to a belt.

Now for the details on what to put in your kit. If you ask 20 survival experts what should go into a survival kit, you may get 20 different lists. One reason is that not all survival experts have the same background or experience. Experience is one of the greatest influences on what goes into a kit. But if you have no experience, or not a great deal of it, you still need to start somewhere. So, in order to decide what items to put into a kit, let’s break down the needs of someone in a survival situation.

Personal Survival Suits 1The needs will focus on five basic headings: cutting tool, combustion device, cover/shelter, container and cordage. These headings have been taken from Dave Canterbury, author of Survivability For The Common Man. Dave refers to them as the 5 C’s of survival. In his book, he goes into detail about the system he’s developed, which is comprised of the 10 C’s of survival. In my opinion, this is the simplest, yet most effective system available today for helping people develop their own survival kits. Let’s go over quickly the 5 C’s of survival.

1. Cutting Tool. The most important external tool you can carry in a survival situation is a knife. Even a small pocket style knife is handy to have. It is an essential tool. Even on short hiking trips, I always make a point of carrying a knife. Many times, I’ve met hikers who don’t carry a knife with them and even make light of needing a knife. It’s these same people who ask to borrow my knife for whatever reason. I can’t remember how many times this has happened.

2. Combustion Device. After a knife, the means to start fire is the next most essential item to carry, even above shelter. A shelter can be fashioned with outdoor materials, even in the most crude fashion, and still be a life-saver. When faced with a survival situation, when you need to start a fire, then you must have a dependable means to start a fire. If the ground and all fire-starting materials around you are wet, then using the bow drill fire method will do you no good. You must have sure fire. Carrying a ferrocerium rod, along with some tinder, such as cotton balls or jute twine, will help you get a fire started to the point where you can dry out other materials to continue that fire. In some cases, a fire may be all you need to stave off the cold.

3. Cover/Shelter. Your first line of defense against the elements; cold, heat, rain and snow; is the clothes you are wearing. An inexpensive poncho or drum liner can be carried in your mini kit and used as a make-shift shelter or sleeping bag.

4. Container. In order to collect water for drinking, as well as for boiling and cooking, you need a dependable container. In order to boil water in it, your container needs to be metal. In a survival scenario, it is possible to boil or heat water in a plastic container to make it safe for drinking. This action should only be used when your life is on the line. Heating plastic to high temperatures releases harmful toxins.

5. Cordage. In many instances where you need to build a natural shelter, cordage is a necessity. The ability to make a structure stable is something that cordage can provide. Rope, paracord or some type of twine can be used for countless chores and is a valuable item to have in your kit.