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Training for a new season

27 March 2015
The Ranger's Diary has been dormant of late, mostly because there are no staff on Island, but that doesn't mean the team isn't busy.  Paul (the visitor ranger) and I (Gina, seabird ranger) traveled to Aberdeen today to update our training on how to safely escape from a helicopter should it land, or heaven forbid, capsize in water. Burgandy flying bird

The course was split into two parts - a short classroom based section where we discussed things specific to the helicopters that are used on the route to St Kilda.  This included pre-boarding checks, in flight safety, in flight emergency actions and how to use the emergency breathing system apparatus.   This last section had my absolute full attention as it's this magical piece of kit that would give us the precious air supply to breathe underwater if anything terrible were to happen at sea.  
Rebreather life jacket (Photo: Falck)(Photo: Falck)

We then headed poolside to begin the practical part of the training.  The trainers were very attentive and carefully talked us through each aspect without ever making us feel we were daft for having nerves or slight worries about what was to come.  The course is designed to build confidence and I think we were almost enjoying ourselves towards the end - or maybe we were simply overjoyed to finish and know we were safe for another four years!     

We started with a simple, possibly even fun, lesson in the life raft learning about the equipment inside and how to use everything safely.  After that, we stepped into the simulator and the 'real' training began.    At all times there were two certified divers in the water as well as one instructor inside the simulator for every two students so we were totally safe, although I'd be lying if I said this made a huge difference to my mindset.    What was helpful was the realisation that an air gap forms when the simulator submerges so if something were to happen then the divers could simply release the seat belt allowing us to bob up to the surface and gulp some tasty air.

Then began a series of seven submersion events.   The first two were not inverted, but this didn't make it much easier. The process of being lowered into the water, holding your breath for seven seconds, locating an exit, finding and releasing a lever, pushing on the window until it falls away, releasing the seat belt and then heaving yourself out of a window opening seems to take a long, long time. In reality it's a matter of seconds and particularly quick if you're me and count to seven in a few milliseconds!   Well, why would I hang about? That's just daft!  (click here to see an example 'dunk')    Lowering the simulator underwater (Photo: Falck)(Photo: Falck)

Another submersion involved sitting in the middle of the simulator, being lowered underwater and then inverted so that you're forced to pull yourself across the cabin and escape via the furthest exit.  This is tricky because your body immediately starts to move upwards when the seat belt is released and this is far from ideal if you want to escape (or pass the course).  The key was to keep a firm grip of the seat and point your head in the direction of the exit otherwise it's surprisingly easy to become disorientated and forget where you're supposed to be going.      Underwater escape from the simulator (Photo: Falck)(Photo: Falck)

The seven dunks passed quite quickly, and we then had to inflate our life jackets and 'swim' a length of the pool before climbing back into the raft. Hilarity ensued and it was about this time I wished I wasn't five foot two and had go-go-gadget arms to reach the grab handles!     Anyway, we made it in and passed the course.  For once I hope that this is one skill set I never have to use.
HUET certificate

The whole team is now able to travel by helicopter which in terms of logistics helps to keep the Island running smoothly. Flying doesn't guarantee travel but it does improve the odds of reaching the island when we plan.  This is pretty vital with a small team, a never ending amount of work and plenty of visitors to welcome ashore in the busy summer season.  

Gina




     

Once the students realize that, the submersion is not as hard for them, Thomassiee added.

The afternoon session starts with simple survival swimming techniques and a lesson about the life raft and the equipment in the raft and how to use it. It is then time to enter the helicopter simulator. Depending on which company SMS is training that day, the instructor may run through as few as three simulations or as many as seven.

SMS requires two certified divers to be in the water on each side of the simulator, as well as one instructor inside for every two students. SMS instructors are Red Cross certified lifeguards and the divers are certified either through Naui or PADI, which are two recognized national diving certifications. The instructors walk through the procedure with the students before going in the water and ask the students to open the windows and doors so they understand how they work. When the students are ready, SMS lowers the helicopter simulator in the water and the students are submerged.

"The first dunk is straight in, not inverted," Thomassiee explained. "The instructor tells the students to take their last breath and they go underwater. The students then need to find an exit, find the handle or lever, push on it, and keep that one hand outside of the helicopter as a point of reference to safety. With the other hand, they reach down to unbuckle, and then pull themselves out."

The second simulation has no doors and windows, but the students are inverted and submerged in the water. The students follow the same escape techniques to find a window with one hand, unbuckle with the other and exit to safety.

The third simulation is cross cabin and inverted, where the window from where they went out before will no longer be available to them. The students have to swim across the cabin to escape.

"Normally you will have someone in front of you, so the person who is closest to the window pushes it out, unbuckles, goes out and has to get out of the way so the next person surfacing doesn't kick the person behind them,"

- See more at: http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/116575/HUET_Train_to_Survive#sthash.ICyRFMIW.dpuf

Once the students realize that, the submersion is not as hard for them, Thomassiee added.

The afternoon session starts with simple survival swimming techniques and a lesson about the life raft and the equipment in the raft and how to use it. It is then time to enter the helicopter simulator. Depending on which company SMS is training that day, the instructor may run through as few as three simulations or as many as seven.

SMS requires two certified divers to be in the water on each side of the simulator, as well as one instructor inside for every two students. SMS instructors are Red Cross certified lifeguards and the divers are certified either through Naui or PADI, which are two recognized national diving certifications. The instructors walk through the procedure with the students before going in the water and ask the students to open the windows and doors so they understand how they work. When the students are ready, SMS lowers the helicopter simulator in the water and the students are submerged.

"The first dunk is straight in, not inverted," Thomassiee explained. "The instructor tells the students to take their last breath and they go underwater. The students then need to find an exit, find the handle or lever, push on it, and keep that one hand outside of the helicopter as a point of reference to safety. With the other hand, they reach down to unbuckle, and then pull themselves out."

The second simulation has no doors and windows, but the students are inverted and submerged in the water. The students follow the same escape techniques to find a window with one hand, unbuckle with the other and exit to safety.

The third simulation is cross cabin and inverted, where the window from where they went out before will no longer be available to them. The students have to swim across the cabin to escape.

"Normally you will have someone in front of you, so the person who is closest to the window pushes it out, unbuckles, goes out and has to get out of the way so the next person surfacing doesn't kick the person behind them,"

- See more at: http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/116575/HUET_Train_to_Survive#sthash.ICyRFMIW.dpuf

Once the students realize that, the submersion is not as hard for them, Thomassiee added.

The afternoon session starts with simple survival swimming techniques and a lesson about the life raft and the equipment in the raft and how to use it. It is then time to enter the helicopter simulator. Depending on which company SMS is training that day, the instructor may run through as few as three simulations or as many as seven.

SMS requires two certified divers to be in the water on each side of the simulator, as well as one instructor inside for every two students. SMS instructors are Red Cross certified lifeguards and the divers are certified either through Naui or PADI, which are two recognized national diving certifications. The instructors walk through the procedure with the students before going in the water and ask the students to open the windows and doors so they understand how they work. When the students are ready, SMS lowers the helicopter simulator in the water and the students are submerged.

"The first dunk is straight in, not inverted," Thomassiee explained. "The instructor tells the students to take their last breath and they go underwater. The students then need to find an exit, find the handle or lever, push on it, and keep that one hand outside of the helicopter as a point of reference to safety. With the other hand, they reach down to unbuckle, and then pull themselves out."

The second simulation has no doors and windows, but the students are inverted and submerged in the water. The students follow the same escape techniques to find a window with one hand, unbuckle with the other and exit to safety.

The third simulation is cross cabin and inverted, where the window from where they went out before will no longer be available to them. The students have to swim across the cabin to escape.

"Normally you will have someone in front of you, so the person who is closest to the window pushes it out, unbuckles, goes out and has to get out of the way so the next person surfacing doesn't kick the person behind them,"

- See more at: http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/116575/HUET_Train_to_Survive#sthash.ICyRFMIW.dpuf

Once the students realize that, the submersion is not as hard for them, Thomassiee added.

The afternoon session starts with simple survival swimming techniques and a lesson about the life raft and the equipment in the raft and how to use it. It is then time to enter the helicopter simulator. Depending on which company SMS is training that day, the instructor may run through as few as three simulations or as many as seven.

SMS requires two certified divers to be in the water on each side of the simulator, as well as one instructor inside for every two students. SMS instructors are Red Cross certified lifeguards and the divers are certified either through Naui or PADI, which are two recognized national diving certifications. The instructors walk through the procedure with the students before going in the water and ask the students to open the windows and doors so they understand how they work. When the students are ready, SMS lowers the helicopter simulator in the water and the students are submerged.

"The first dunk is straight in, not inverted," Thomassiee explained. "The instructor tells the students to take their last breath and they go underwater. The students then need to find an exit, find the handle or lever, push on it, and keep that one hand outside of the helicopter as a point of reference to safety. With the other hand, they reach down to unbuckle, and then pull themselves out."

The second simulation has no doors and windows, but the students are inverted and submerged in the water. The students follow the same escape techniques to find a window with one hand, unbuckle with the other and exit to safety.

The third simulation is cross cabin and inverted, where the window from where they went out before will no longer be available to them. The students have to swim across the cabin to escape.

"Normally you will have someone in front of you, so the person who is closest to the window pushes it out, unbuckles, goes out and has to get out of the way so the next person surfacing doesn't kick the person behind them,"

- See more at: http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/116575/HUET_Train_to_Survive#sthash.ICyRFMIW.dpuf


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