Thursday, October 8, 2009

Surviving Disaster: Lost at Sea

Unfortunately I was not able to watch last Tuesday's 'Surviving Disaster' show, fortunately, full episodes of this show are available to watch online at which I did today. Here's some lessons learned from the "Lost at Sea" episode:
  • There are 12 million watercraft in the US.
  • Weather conditions can change in a moment when you are out to sea (the scenario is a group of people miles from shore on a deep sea fishing trip when the weather turns bad).
  • If you are out to sea and the weather takes a turn for the worse, try to out-run the storm and head back to port.
  • In a storm at sea, tie everything down and get everyone inside the cabin if possible.
  • If you can't outrun the storm, ride straight into the storm and straight into the waves (don't let the waves hit on the side of the boat or it will capsize the vessel).
  • When you are turning the boat to face the wave, time the turn so the wave doesn't hit you on the side of the boat.
  • Throttle up to power over the wave but let off the throttle at the top of the wave.
  • Conserve fuel; when you run out of fuel, you will be at the mercy of the waves and the boat will probably capsize.
  • Call in a Mayday via VHF radio channel 16.
  • When you call in a Mayday, say "Mayday" three times, the name of your vessel, the number of people on board, and your approximate location, followed again by the name of the boat.
  • Have everyone get their life jackets on.
  • Cinch everything down and batten down all windows and hatches.
  • Each person should have a flashlight (they will be hard to find when the power goes out if this event is happening at night).
  • When you are out of fuel and power, prep the life raft because the boat will probably capsize soon.
  • You need to get off of the boat before it capsizes or else you will be drug down into the water with the boat.
  • Gather everything that could be used to survive on the life raft (use plastic bags to haul stuff and be sure to close the bag with air in it so that it will float if it lands in the water).
  • Stuff to take includes: first aid kit, sheets, blankets, water, food, mirror, flares, etc.
  • Every vessel should have a life raft. Most life rafts will automatically inflate when they hit the water.
  • In the scenario, one person was knocked unconscious before the group could escape the boat was it was about to capsize. The boat did capsize and the group needed to find an air pocket in which to breathe.
  • If you are in a capsized boat, take off your life jacket and tie it to a rope. Send two swimmers with the rope out of the boat and to the life raft. The swimmers should tug the rope to let the others know the are at the life raft (and they should also put their life jackets back on).
  • The rest of the group should follow the rope out being sure to close the unconscious persons nose and mouth so they won't inhale water.
  • Put the unconscious person in the life raft first.
  • Lash anything that is buoyant to the life raft to add buoyancy to the raft.
  • Use the flashlight to look around the area and make sure everything that is useful is in or tied to the life raft.
  • If it is raining during the storm use bags, buckets, and coolers to collect rain water for drinking.
  • Keep the lantern protected from sea water.
  • It's a good idea to have an emergency beacon on the life raft.
  • Use a sea anchor to keep the life raft as close to the position you gave with the Mayday signal. The anchor will keep the life raft from drifting too far too fast.
  • Control exposure by using sheets and blankets for a canopy over the people in the raft.
  • If the raft will not hold all of the people, they need to take turns (30 minutes each to avoid hypothermia) floating in the water, hanging onto the raft.
  • Keep the raft as dry as possible inside.
  • Don't drink water for the first 24 hours. People can go three days without water so this is a way to conserve water and make it last longer.
  • Don't try to paddle the raft unless you are near shore. Paddling in the open ocean is a waste of energy.
  • Never drink sea water.
  • Make a solar still to collect water. Take a bucket, get some clothing wet in the ocean and put the clothes in the bottom of the bucket. Put a cup or bowl on top of the clothes and run a tube from the cup out of the bucket. Cover the bucket with plastic and put something like a rock in the middle of the plastic to make a cone shape that points towards the cup. You should get a few ounces of water in a couple of hours and up to a pint in 24 hours through condensation.
  • The will to live is the key to survival. Assume that the Coast Guard is looking for you if you sent out a Mayday.
  • The raft may drift 50 miles per day.
  • For food, try fishing. Use dental floss and a safety pin for a hook and line. They used bloody bandages from the injured person as bait.
  • In this scenario, the person outside the boat was attacked by a shark. For shark bite, put the person in the raft and apply direct pressure to the wound.
  • Blood in the water will bring more sharks.
  • Because the raft won't hold all of the people, when there are sharks in the area, two people should be in the water, back to back, and with fins/mask/snorkel so that they can watch the entire area for sharks.
  • Use sticks or other long sharp items to fight off the sharks; hit their eyes, nose, face, and gills where they are most sensitive. Remember you are fighting for your life and fight accordingly. Usually they will go away if you are too difficult a target.
  • When sharks are present, trade off people quicker than every 30 minutes as fighting them off is hard work.
  • When the helicopter finally finds you, you will probably hear it first. Each person should scan a sector looking up and down and left to right.
  • When the helicopter is spotted, use a mirror, flares, or other device to signal the crew and don't stop until you are sure they see you.

Once again, a good show. While the show can't cover every possible scenario, there are a number of good lessons provided that you could realistically use in the event of this or another survival event.


  1. I bet you dont know who owns more boats.

    The U.S. Army or the U.S. Navy?

    Couch Potato

  2. The US Army has more boats, the Navy has more ships. The Navy has more fighters than the Air Force and the Army has more aircraft than the Air Force (if you count helicopter)??