How to survive a sinking ship-A A +A
Saturday, June 16, 2012
THERE’S a storm a ‘coming, and it’s called Butchoy. PAG-ASA doesn’t believe that the 65kmph-wind tropical storm will make landfall, however due to its size and nature it is most likely to affect the winds and behavior of waters to the east.
I’m optimistic – it may not be as bad as a direct hit, but small vessels like your common bangka and kumpit are going to be hit bad. But if you’re really, truly unlucky, then the storm will increase in speed and zoom this way.
In which case, the following article will come in handy in case you plan on making any sea voyages this week. Even if the typhoon doesn’t muck things up, you can still take a glance at this whenever you think you’re going on a boat trip in particularly hazardous waters.
The first thing you should do when you board your boat is to check for where the life preservers are. Whether it’s a life vest or an inflatable doughnut, anything that looks like it’ll keep you afloat counts as a life preserver.
If your boat doesn’t have a life vest, remove your pants and knot them at the ends (bottom of the legs). Wave them in the air above you so that they fill with air. Push the waist end under the water. This will trap the air inside and create a flotation device that you can hang onto.
The next thing you want to do is to think. Think about what’s gonna happen when the murky brown water hits the fan—you need an action plan. If it’s a large ship, find the fastest route—not the shortest—from your room to the lifeboats while you’re walking around on deck.
If it’s a smaller ship, think about whom you’re going to save first—it better not be yourself, because that’s what everyone else will be thinking. You don’t want to be trampled, but you want to get off before the crew starts leaving. If it absolutely positively comes down to saving yourself first, it is important to avoid the flow of human traffic.
The international signal for evacuation is seven short horn blasts followed by one long one. If you’re on a large vessel, the captain or crew may make it obvious by yelling over the intercom for everyone to run for their lives. The same can be said for smaller vessels, sans the intercom. What follows is a lot of screaming, running and attempts to escape the vessel. Be ready.
Put on your life jacket or floatation device. If you have the time, grab any survival gear that you think will be useful to you once you’re floating around in the ocean. But don’t jump into the water with your entire bag—that stuff will make you sink like a stone. I’m talking fresh water, food in plastic bags, a flashlight if you’ve got one, and probably some shiny metal to attract low-flying aircraft.
Don’t spend too much time getting ready; remember, the boat is sinking. Prepare children and pets in that order after you’re ready yourself. The pets’ instincts will take over as soon as they hit the water, so keeping afloat isn’t much of a problem. Keeping them with you, however, is. It’ll be dark outside, with violent waves. If you tie your pet’s leash to your jacket you can be sure it’ll be safe with you.
Following directions is critical. Nobody knows the boat like your captain. If he says something, do it (unless that “something” happens to be “captains first” in which case you’re on your own.). If the captain does not give you any instructions and panics, head up and over—that means that you should make it to the highest point of the ship and jump.
Don’t panic—I know this is hard to do on a sinking vessel, but the more you panic, the longer it will take to get into a lifeboat. Avoid attacking people to get to where you need to be – although this might seem like a quick way to get to the exit, this will create more panic because some people might fight back and block the flow of fleeing passengers. If you see someone frozen in fear, yell at him or slap him in the face. If you can, take him to the exit with you.
To get to your exit point, grab the railings or anything you can to prevent from slipping downwards. Pipes, hooks, light fittings, handrails and bars are all fair game.
Let’s say you’ve successfully survived the sinking of your boat and are now floating in the water. Stay calm and wait for rescue—this could take days. The Philippine coastguard is armed only with the knowledge of the ship’s path, and it will take a while for them to find you.
If you have any cell phones that survived, you might be lucky and get a signal if you’re close to land. It’s important to try to stay afloat in the general vicinity of the wreckage, assuming that it’s still on its assigned path. It may take as long as three days for you to be rescued.
In the meantime, try to cover yourself up to prevent heat stroke. But if the water is particularly cold, try to keep warm and avoid hypothermia by huddling. Stay close to other survivors and don’t swim. Swimming causes heat loss, and you need that heat.
Other than that, stay calm, pray, and hope for rescue.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 16, 2012.