Beating the odds on the North Pacific

Alaska marine safety training saves lives

5/15/2007

Contacts

NR: SG-2008/NR273

Fairbanks, Alaska—Five crew members died when the fishing vessel Alaska Ranger sank last March in the Bering Sea, a jolting reminder that mariners must be prepared for the worst.

A surviving crew member of the Alaska Ranger told investigators that no one assigned to his life raft knew how to deploy it. Another crew member died after falling out of a Coast Guard helicopter rescue basket. Problems with immersion suits may have contributed to other deaths.

Solid safety training reduces the number of these tragedies. Mariners can easily get that training in Alaska, including complete instruction on how to use life rafts, execute rescues by helicopters, and use and care for immersion suits, from the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA).

"According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), safety-trained fishermen are 1.5 times more likely to survive an accident at sea. When the chips are down, just having the survival equipment without knowing how to get the most out of it in an emergency, always turns out to be a bad decision," said Jerry Dzugan, AMSEA director.

Founded in 1985 and based in Sitka, Alaska, AMSEA collaborates with the U.S. Coast Guard, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Vocational Technical Center, the Alaska commercial fishing industry, and others to help mariners prevent and survive accidents at sea.

Thousands of mariners have been trained via AMSEA training programs and materials. Fishermen attest that the training has saved lives. One fisherman told Dzugan that his crew successfully recovered a man overboard, thanks to preparation by AMSEA. "The drill training was very important. When the crew member fell overboard, everything just clicked well together, and we got the person back onboard. The training was really helpful," the fisherman said.

The Coast Guard also has good things to say about AMSEA training. Referring to separate incidents when they rescued AMSEA-trained fishermen, Coast Guardsmen told Dzugan, "These guys were well prepared and they did everything right!" and in reference to another tragedy averted, "These guys did everything right. All we had to do was just give them a ride home."

In addition to providing complete marine safety training programs, AMSEA teams with the Alaska Sea Grant College Program at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences to produce publications and videos that provide information crucial to safety at sea.

The following AMSEA marine safety training materials are available from the Alaska Sea Grant Bookstore and at the AMSEA office in Sitka, 907-747-3287.

Beating the Odds on Northern Waters: A Guide to Fishing Safety (book)
Hundreds of safety trainers, including the U.S. Coast Guard, have relied on this illustrated book as their primary reference and teaching tool. Among other Coast Guard–approved safety information, the book includes step-by-step directions on conducting federally required safety drills. Authors explain how fishermen can prevent and survive accidents, maintain safety gear, and train crew so that problems don't escalate into disaster.

Rescues at Sea: A Guide to Helicopter Rescues and Dewatering Pumps (video)
This video shows how to prepare for helicopter arrival, medevac procedures, and dewatering pump delivery. The video is of value to all boaters, commercial and noncommercial, and is especially useful in waters where help from surface search and rescue vessels is unavailable.

Survival at Sea Series (video set)
Four marine safety DVDs are available in one box for a discount over individual prices: A Matter of Survival (26 min.), When Seconds Count: The Care and Use of Immersion Suits (15 min.), Beating the Odds: Onboard Emergency Drills (32 min.), and Rescues at Sea: A Guide to Helicopter Rescues and Dewatering Pumps (24 min.). This set is useful to all boaters on commercial and noncommercial vessels. For experienced mariners they will reinforce critical safety and survival skills. For less experienced boaters they are an introduction to the equipment and skills necessary for safety and survival. Produced by AMSEA with funding provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.

When Seconds Count: Care and Use of Immersion Suits (video)
Aware that immersion suits are required on board most fishing vessels, many fishermen buy the suits without making sure they fit and pay little attention to how they can use them to save a life. When Seconds Count tells what features to look for when purchasing an immersion suit, how to put one on, how to use it, and how to take care of it. The audience for the video is all mariners, and features fishermen, sailboaters, children, and tugboat operators. Filmed in Alaska, the video is useful worldwide. Before you pay $250–$500 for your immersion suit—take a look at this video.

Marine Survival Equipment and Maintenance (video and workbook)
This book and video set explains how to choose, install, use, and maintain emergency equipment that is required by law aboard commercial fishing vessels.

Fishing Vessel Stability: Operational Practices (video)
Stability problems account for 35 percent of all vessel losses. This video outlines nine factors that affect operational stability of small fishing vessels—proper loading, free surface effect, watertight integrity, icing, lifting loads, shifting loads, weight creep, hang-ups, and heavy seas—and suggests procedures to enhance stability and improve safety conditions. Footage of real fishing vessel capsizings, models, and survivor interviews illustrates the potentially tragic results of vessel stability problems. The film is useful for all operators and crew on fishing vessels or small workboats.

A Matter of Survival: Liferaft Survival Pack (video)
This training video demonstrates the proper use of the contents of a life raft survival equipment pack, and tells how the equipment can be upgraded. Through dramatizations and interviews with survivors who have used life rafts, the contents of survival equipment packs are explored in context of the Seven Steps to Survival. The video is useful to anyone who owns or is considering buying a life raft.

Beating the Odds: Onboard Emergency Drills (video)
Demonstrates the safety equipment required by law on fishing vessels, and demonstrates how to conduct safety drills with vessel crews.

Flooding Control: Knowledge & Tools to Prevent Sinking (video)
Half of all vessels lost at sea sink because of uncontrolled flooding. This video shows how to prevent flooding, describes equipment and procedures to have in place before flooding, and explains emergency flooding control techniques.