Immediate actions after entering a survival craft

Immediate actions after entering a survival craft, irrespective of its type, are essential to increase the chances of survival. The following six basic immediate action steps should be taken:

  1. Get Away from the Sinking Ship:
    • Let go of the painter (the line that connects the survival craft to the sinking ship) or cut it as far from the raft as possible.
    • Maneuver or drift to a safe distance from the vessel. In enclosed lifeboats or survival capsules, once well beyond an oil fire, open the hatchway and shut down water spray and air support systems.
    • Stream the sea anchor or drogue once well clear.
  2. Look for and Gather Other Survivors:
    • Post a lookout and use torches at night to spot reflections from retro-reflective tapes.
    • Listen for whistles.
    • Use engines (in motor boats, rescue boats, or capsules), oars (in other lifeboats), or paddles (in life rafts) to reach survivors in the water.
    • Use rescue quoits and lines to pull survivors to the raft.
  3. Join Other Survival Craft:
    • Look for survival craft lights and use motor boats, survival capsules, rescue boats, or oar-propelled lifeboats to gather survival craft together.
    • Secure all survival craft together using remains of painters on rafts with as long a drift as possible. Allow room for movement in a seaway.
    • Stream the sea anchor or drogue.
  4. Check for Proper Functioning of the Survival Craft:
    • Check for damage (fire and other) and leaks. Plug air leaks on an inflatable liferaft with leak stoppers provided for.
    • Top up buoyancy chambers if necessary with a pump and bellows.
  5. Begin Measures for Protection and Survival:
    • Erect canopies on open lifeboats.
    • Bail out water.
    • Close the canopy and inflate the floor in liferafts. Provide first aid to the injured. Take action against seasickness (if not done before abandoning ship).
    • Take steps to retain the body heat of persons who have been in the water.
  6. Ensure the EPIRB is Activated:
    • Secure the EPIRB to the liferaft by the tether.

Organizing for Survival:

  • In the survival craft, it’s important to have one person in charge (usually the ship’s officer or a senior crew member). The leader must have knowledge of the survival craft and its use. Duties should be allocated to all occupants to maintain morale and improve the chances of survival.
  • The occupants should carry out essential duties such as maintaining the survival craft, medical duties, issuing rations, and supplementing rations.
  • The survivors should work together, change lookouts frequently (especially in cold weather), and take actions to protect themselves from the elements and increase the likelihood of being located by Search and Rescue (SAR) craft and aircraft.

Methods of Survival:

  • Priority should be given to protection, location, water, and food.
  • In cold climates, protection against the cold is crucial. Wear adequate clothing, stay out of the water if possible, and undertake vital actions before the cold impairs manual dexterity.
  • In hot climates, use lightweight and light-colored clothes to protect against sunburn and stay in the shade.
  • To ensure being located by SAR craft and aircraft, stay in the immediate area, use pyrotechnics, activate signaling devices like SART and EPIRB, and establish communication with SAR craft and aircraft.

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