Tag Archive for: Drowning

Drowning doesn’t mean flailing arms and calling for help.

Knowing these silent signs

of drowning can mean the difference between life and death.

If 2 or more people are in the water, which one do you rescue first?

Unfortunately, the fact is that often those watching don’t know what to look for because drowning doesn’t look like drowning.

This edition is not only for those at sea but is critical knowledge for anyone around water, especially when around water anywhere!

To ward off a tragedy in the making, watch for these signs that someone is in trouble.

  1. They can’t call for help

They have to be able to breathe before they can speak. When a person is drowning, their mouth sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water. There isn’t time for them to exhale, inhale, and call out.

  1. They can’t wave for help either.

A drowning person instinctively extends her arms to the sides and presses down to lift their mouth out of the water; a child may extend their arms forward. They can’t use their arms to move toward a rescuer or reach for rescue equipment.

  1. They remain upright in the water

They remain upright in the water with no evidence of kicking. They can struggle for only 20 to 60 seconds before going under.

  1. Their eyes are glassy

Their eyes are glassy and unable to focus or closed.

  1. Their face may be hard to see

Their face may be hard to see as their hair may be over their forehead or eyes.

  1. Their Head is low in the water

Their head is low in the water with their mouth at water level and their head may be tilted back with mouth open. A child’s head may fall forward.

  1. They are quiet

Children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out why.

  1. They don’t seem in distress

Sometimes the most important indicator that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they are drowning. They may just seem to be looking up at the sky, shore or the vessel. Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all, they probably is. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We highly recommend that as many people onboard know the 8 quite signs of a person drowning and have current CPR training.

By knowing these signs allows you to understand the difference between someone who needs immediate help and another who may be able to survive a little longer when there are 2 or more persons in the water.


When someone is in the water throw anything that floats towards them to help support them until you can rescue them. If there’s a lifebuoy close at hand throw it towards them. Remember you don’t want this to be the last thing you see of the victim!

In-water survival

Having to survive in the water after your vessels sinks or through a person overboard situation can be a terrifying ordeal and one that I hope you or your crew don’t have to go through!

The question is…

…if you found yourself in that situation could you survive?

The sad fact is that most people don’t really consider it until it’s too late. On commercial vessels it’s a requirement to undertake drills to ensure all crew have the knowledge and skills to deal with emergencies.

Over the last few months I’ve been delivering onboard safety training to crews around Australia, which has highlighted a serious lack of knowledge and complacency was highlighted yet again.

Having said that lets look at survival techniques.

Here’s a few points to consider first…

  1. Does anyone know you’re in the water?
  2. Are you alone or are there others?
  3. Are you injured or is anyone with you injured?
  4. Do you have a lifejacket on?
  5. Is there an inflatable life raft?
  6. Where are you?
  7. What are you wearing?
  8. What are the conditions?

These are some of the major factors influencing how you survive. If nobody knows you’re in the water then that’s a major problem to start with.

Injuries represent another issue depending on the nature of the injury while not having a lifejacket on puts you in a serious survival situation.

Where you are, what you’re wearing and the prevailing conditions all represent major problems in surviving!

If you’re 50nm offshore and find yourself in the water with no lifejacket or anything else to support you in the water and nobody knows then you’re in a heap of trouble. Survival in this situation is not impossible but to be honest chances are limited.

If you’re undertaking a solo voyage then I strongly recommend wearing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that’s GPS activated. This is probably your best chance of survival but the information following may also apply in the above scenario.

Your alone in the water with a lifejacket on, not nice but better than being without one! So…how do you enhance your survival rate?

Hypothermia is a major issue no matter where you are. Even during the last few months delivering training too many crew members thought that hypothermia didn’t happen in the tropics.

If you’re alone in the water you need to use the Heat Escape Lessing Position (HELP) minimise the amount of heat loss from your body.

The HELP position is achieved by crossing your arms tightly against your chest then drawing your knees up and against your chest and keeping your head and face out of the water.

If there’s more than one person then you use the huddle technique. This is where you all huddle together in a group to reduce the heat loss of all persons.

By huddling together you make it easier for rescuers to see you in the water. A group huddling together with lifejackets on is much easier to spot than you alone.

Learn more about in-water survival in the next issue.

This is a topic I cover in my onboard training session along with how to safely and efficiently handle other emergency situations.

If you’d like to know more about these valuable onboard training sessions contact me by email sms@shorlink.com or call my office on 07 4242 1412

The above is only a guide and there are many other steps that can save your life but…

…there are many dangers involved that can impact on your ability to survive!

If you would like more information on this subject or to book a training session don’t hesitate to contact me because…it’s your safety and the safety of your crew!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you haven’t trained your crew in basic in-water survival techniques I strongly recommend doing so now before the event. If you expect you or your crew to survive in-water then you need to give everyone, including yourself the best chance of survival by getting the right training.

It’s not only good sense it’s also a requirement for owners and Masters to ensure all crew are inducted, trained and drills undertaken to ensure the safety of all persons onboard.


Crew training saves lives, one of which may be yours so don’t let complacency be the cause of injuries or loss of life. My best tip is to make a start to change the culture onboard your vessel sooner rather than latter!

Crew Training Log Book Log Book requirements.

We all know log books are required and we can supply a number of generic formats including a Crew Training Log book which ensures you record all the information required by AMSA.


More on surviving at sea!

Last week we gave you an introduction to surviving at sea and this week we’ll expand on that with more tips on survival for you and your crew.

  HUDDLE and HELP positions

Previously we mentioned the HUDDLE and HELP survival positions which can be instrumental in saving your life if you don’t have a life raft.


Heat escape lessening position or HELP for short

When you are alone in the water, this position protects the body’s three major areas of heat loss (groin, head/neck, and rib cage/armpits).

Wearing a PFD allows you to draw your knees to your chest and your arms to your sides. Huddling with other people in the water lessens the loss of body heat and is good for morale

Even if you do have a life raft there’s a lot more to surviving! Let’s consider you were able to launch the life raft and managed to get everyone onboard, what next?

The very first thing you need to do is ensure everybody is accounted for then check for injuries. Once you’ve dealt with the injuries the next step is critical to everyone’s survival because it’s one of the biggest dangers you’ll face.

Panic is the one thing that’s hard to control because suddenly finding yourself in the water miles from anywhere and stuck in a life raft is a traumatic experience.

It’s critical for all that you get everyone calmed down, easy to say: not so easy to do but it’s a major first step to surviving.

One of the keys is to get everyone organised in the raft so that they are not all over the place then get everyone to take a few slow deep breaths. This helps calm them down.

Now it’s time to get to work by ensuring the EPIRB has been activated, bailing out the raft then start scheduling lookouts. I prefer short periods as a lookout to keep all focused on something other than the situation.

It’s also time to consider rationing of food and water taking into account where you are and the potential for rescue. My thing is no food or water for the first 24 hours then only small sips of water rather than gulping it down. Same approach for food as well.

If you’re way offshore rescue may be somewhat longer than being close inshore but if you’ve activated your EPIRB be assured that rescue is on its way.

Just a little thing that many people forget or are not aware of is that life rafts can have a tendency to spin or rotate. This is guaranteed to make the hardest seaman sick.

  Life rafts come equipped with a drogue or sea anchor and it’s a simple matter of deploying it ASAP to minimise the rotation of the raft. It also slows down the rate of drift and keeps it in the best position relative to the sea condition.

A key fact is that NO flares should be set off unless there is someone to see them! Far too often people panic and let off one flare after the other. The result is that when a vessel comes along there are no flares left: big problem!

What else can you use to attract attention? Your life raft should be equipped with:

  • Flares
  • Heliograph (mirror)
  • V Sheet

A heliograph is a great device for attracting attention during daylight hours by aiming it at the wheelhouse of a passing vessel. To a lesser degree you can use it by directing torch light onto it then aiming it at a close by vessel during darkness.

The V Sheet, so many people think of its use as like a flag which may be of use for passing vessels but for a passing aircraft use this way makes it very hard to see.

The best way to use a V Sheet when search and rescue aircraft are out looking for you is to lay it flat on the water. This makes a large, easy to see orange identifier.

If you happen to find yourself in the water without a life raft but have a V Sheet use it like described above if aircraft are overhead.

Remember, hypothermia is real and it will affect you if you’re in the water or in a life raft so make sure you take all precautions to limit its onset.

The above is only a guide and there are many other steps that can save your life but…

…there are many dangers involved that can impact on your ability to survive!

If you would like more information on this subject or to book a training session don’t hesitate to contact me because…it’s your safety and the safety of your crew!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend ensuring your crew know these survival techniques and…know them well. Providing the right training is essential to ensure you and your crew have the best possible chance of survival if you find yourselves in the water!

As I said last week it’s a requirement for owners and Masters to ensure all their crew are inducted, trained and drills undertaken to ensure the safety of all persons onboard.


By simply training your crew in the HUDDLE and HELP position may be the one thing that saves their lives.

Training in life raft launching, righting and use is also a life saver so my best tip is to make sure you provide your crew with the best possible chance of survival by delivering not only initial training but ongoing training!

Over recent years there have been too many deaths in both the commercial and recreational sectors due to overturned or capsized vessels.

Being trapped in an overturned vessel is no doubt an extremely traumatic experience for anyone! It’s an experience that so often ends up in death due to not knowing what to do.

Before we go into it let’s take a quick look at common causes of capsizing.

Common causes of capsize

There can be so many causes for a vessel to capsize including rough seas and operator error. We cannot eliminate rough seas but we can control the man made issues in many instances.

A few of the man-made issues include:

  • Overloading: exceeding the approved weight/passenger limits
  • Distribution of weight: e.g. too much cargo or passengers to one side, the bow or stern
  • Weight carried to high: e.g. on the cabin top or upper decks
  • Unsecured cargo
  • Sudden passenger movement to one side; and
  • Drugs and/or alcohol

This is a short list of potential hazards to take into account but drugs and alcohol have been a factor in a number of capsizes and many other incidents resulting in serious injuries and deaths!

What’s the primary cause of death?

While most people will say drowning which is true but there is a more sinister menace behind the scene that plays a major factor in just about every case.

Panic can be classed as the most significant factor in just about all cases and…who can blame anyone for panicking?

Consider that you’re asleep in your bunk and suddenly you find yourself in an upside-down vessel with water with all sorts of things floating around you.

It’s dark, it’s wet, it’s confusing and…it is scary!

I run a session on escaping from overturned vessels which has been well received by both owners and operators. Below I’ll give a brief outline for your benefit.

Escape techniques

There is not enough space in this newsletter to go into details but I’ll outline the basics for you. When you realise the situation you’re in the immediate response is PANIC.

While it’s easy to say panic needs to be overcome or at least controlled to increase your chances of survival.

Let’s consider the vessel overturned and you’re trapped in a cabin with a small air pocket, which is what happens in many cases.

Here’s 12 key steps …

  1. Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down;
  2. Remember where you are in the vessel;
  3. Ensure you’re not entangled with anything;
  4. Picture the vessels layout and the best possible escape path. This will be relevant to the vessels operations and equipment carried onboard;
  5. Remember that with the vessel being upside-down everything is reversed: e.g. if you normally turn left to exit when leaving your cabin you’ll now need to turn right;
  6. You need to make the decision to escape or stay and wait! In most cases waiting can end up in loss of life. If you decide to escape then you need to take action quickly;
  7. Map out you escape route clearly in your mind;
  8. Then it’s time to go so fill your lings with air. You can do this by breathing normally a few times then taking a deep breath in, then exhale everything then take a really deep breath in…as deep as you can manage;
  9. Remember it’s usually dark and if you don’t have a face mask close your eyes (especially as there may be fuel, oil, etc. in the water) and proceed with your escape;
  10. Use one hand to clear away debris and the other as a guide touching surfaces such as bulkheads, decks, etc.
  11. Follow the escape path you mapped out earlier;
  12. When outside the vessel, look for any form of buoyant appliance or item that can help keep you afloat. If the vessel remains afloat use it for support. If the vessel is sinking and not staying afloat move away using any form of buoyant appliance.

The above is only a guide and there are many other steps that can save your life but…

…there are many dangers involved that can impact on your escape as well!

If you would like more information on this subject or to book a training session don’t hesitate to contact our office because…it’s your safety and the safety of your crew!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Ensuring your vessels stability by loading and securing cargo, monitoring passenger distribution and for trawlers being prepared for hook-up’s is number 1 on our recommendation list.

Second and most importantly ensuring you know the vessels layout and potential hazards to escaping. While this may sound silly as you’re onboard and know your way around the vessel but, not many consider the potential hazards if they have to escape.

Our last recommendation is to be aware of alcohol consumption and either limit or ban it completely for all crew members and make your vessel a drug free workplace!


Drugs and alcohol have been a major cause of maritime incidents, including capsizes so drug and alcohol testing can be a major component in your safety planning. Don’t wait until it’s too late, take action early to insure the safety of all people onboard!

Customised Log Books

While we have a range of log books for most purposes there is always a need for something different so…if you need a log book for a specific purpose we can format it for you. Simply contact our office and give us the details and we’ll have it developed in no time at all and, we’ll have re-supply available when you need a replacement.