Saturday, September 27, 2008

Scary Shit

Well, I finished my course at MSTS. The OPITO approved TBOSIET with EBS and HUET and TSBB modular course. Yes, I've had to deal with many, many acronyms the last three weeks.

By the way, OPITO if I remember correctly is Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation or something like that. TBOSIET is Tropical Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training. EBS is Emergency Breathing System. HUET is Helicopter Underwater Escape Technique (scary shit this one). TSBB is Travel Safely By Boat.

So what would one expect from the TBOSIET with EBS and HUET and TSBB course?

For me, it was fun. And interesting. And educational. And pant shitting scary. All at the same time.

The first day was very blah. Theory. CPR. First aid. All that stuff I already know about but this time I did some practical exercises. So now I officially know CPR. In the afternoon, we did sea survival theory. The instructor was brilliant, this guy called Dr. James. Old guy, extremely experienced. And funny.

The fun part was the 2nd day. In the morning we had firefighting. Honestly, it's the absolute best firefighting demo and training session I've ever seen. They asked us to do everything. We tried out all the major kinds of fire extinguisher and the hose reel to tackle all kinds of fire.

You'd think fire is all the same but nope it ain't. Using the wrong extinguisher with the wrong technique can actually make things worse. And it's not just point and squeeze either. Depending on the fire and the type of extinguisher it's all different. I might go into detail in a future post.

So we tried out all the extinguishers. Water based, foam, CO2 and dry powder. We put out massive fires so hot you could feel them from 40 feet away. This was serious shit and the instructor made that very, very clear.

Beats your usual fire department fire demo any day I tell ya...

The fire sessions were done by Dr James again so we had a lot of fun with his usual shenanigans and mickey taking. We rounded up the session with some hose reel and fire blanket exercises.

Next up we went through the "smoke" house. I say "smoke" in quotes because there was no smoke actually. It was just a darkened shipping container with some corridors, obstacles and rooms built into it. All one had to do was walk through it without falling down or panicking.

It's pitch black and really, really hot in there. Very bad for people with claustrophobia.

We went in solo and in groups. Good session. Ulrick the instructor was a really cool guy and did his job really well.

In the afternoon, the pool sessions. This is the place where all the ball shrinking fear and terror was concentrated.

First up, sea survival practise. The four of us suited up with our life jackets and trooped out to the pool where we were greeted by Richard our instructor and a bunch of safety divers.

After the usual refresher briefing and lifejacket talk, they asked us to jump. Not fun.

The platform was 3.5m high. Normally I wouldn't have too much trouble. It's not that high. But with all the people watching and the lifejacket and my mild fear of heights I nearly couldn't do it.

It wasn't that bad really. I jumped and landed nicely in the water. The lifejacket helps a lot. The jumping technique we were taught helped to minimise the impact of landing in the water.

Once everyone was in the water we formed up into a group. They showed us how to swim in a group and to do it with minimal energy. We then clambered into a liferaft. It was exhausting. Then we swam out into the pool again and we finished off by simulating being pulled out of the water by a rope.

Next was the really, really scary part. HUET.

We changed our lifejackets for another one with EBS, the Emergency Breathing System. Back to the pool they showed us how to deploy our EBS and how to use it properly.

Essentially, you fill the EBS airbag with your own breath and rebreath it when you activate the rebreather. It was ok but I really had to force myself to breath underwater. The natural tendency is to hold your breath so I had to force myself to breath.

Once you get used to it, it's not so bad.

Up till this point I was fine if a little cold and a little nervous. The HUET demo drained all the blood from my brain.

For HUET they use this contraption attached to a winch and a swinging mechanism with in turn is attached to a power winch. This contraption is used to simulate a helicopter cabin complete with seats. You get in the simulator and strap in as you would in any aircraft. There are four exercises.

The first is called the controlled ditch without EBS. They dunk the simulator into the water. You hold your breath for about 7 seconds then you unstrap and swim out the window. Which is quite small...

This exercise wasn't so bad although being strapped in a seat while in the water is quite unnerving. Oh yes, in that kind of situation strap in TIGHT. Tight harnesses snap open when you undo them. Loose harnesses need you to physically pull the buckle apart. Not easy when you're underwater and in a real big hurry to get the hell out.

The second exercise is the same as the first except with EBS and they put plastic window panes in the simulator. Dunk in the water then sit for a few seconds, push the window out and swim out. Easy right? It is.

Except I messed this up twice. The first time, I dropped my EBS mouthpiece into the water and could fill it with air. The second time I unstrapped and then tried to push the window while underwater. This is wrong. You should push the window pane first and then unstrap. If you unstrap first you'll float in the cabin and won't be able to push the window.

The next two exercises was the real ball buster. It's the same as the first two with and without EBS. The same. Except the "helicopter" is turned upside down in the water...

Exercise number three is called the uncontrolled ditch without EBS. Dunk and turn upside down in the water. Sit and wait for the thing to stop moving. Unstrap and swim out. Watch out for vertigo.

This one was very, very unnerving. Being upside down in the water is quite painful with all that water rushing up the nostrils.

Exercise number four is the uncontrolled ditch with EBS. Dunk and go upside down, sit for awhile and unstrap. Swim out.

This one was no problem. By this time, I had gotten used to being strapped into the seat while in the water. The simulator went down into the water and I deployed the EBS. Upside down, unstrap and swim out. It was perfect, Except on the way out I hit one of the safety divers and accidentally pulled his regulator out of his mouth.

We had some final words from the teacher and went off to shower.

The third day was only half day.

Damn, the place is closing. I'll continue this post next time.

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