Water Survival

Marines-tread-water-July_12-28-05

09/22/14
To Do Today:

  • PT – Cardio – 1hr run // Strength – Arm group / abs.
  • Swim 30 minutes, any combination of stroke.
  • Review The American Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Manual.
  • Schedule an American Red Cross CPR course or renewal if not currently certified.

Many survival/SERE situations start in the water. You face a variety of potential water emergencies whenever you cross any expanse of  water: ships and watercraft can sink; aircraft can crash into the sea; or you can accidentally fall into the water. However, there are some basic precautionary measures you can take to protect your safety and reduce your chances of  becoming a water casualty.

Determine the following information as soon as you board any type of vessel. Knowing the following information may save your life.

  • How many life preservers and lifeboats/rafts are on board?
  • Where are the life preservers and lifeboats/rafts located?
  • What type of unit survival equipment is on board?
  • Are individual survival kits issued to each person on board?
  • How much food, water, and medicine do the survival kits contain? When was the last time the contents were inspected for proper quantities and shelf life expiration?
  • Is there sufficient survival equipment available for the number of personnel?
  • How many other personnel are there on board, and where are they located?
  • What are the egress procedures for the ship, boat, watercraft or aircraft?

Abandoning Ship/Large Vessel

When you embark on a large ship, you may receive abandoning ship instructions from the crew. This is not always the case on commercial vessels so be aware of the general layout and location of emergency equipment. If notified to abandon ship, report to your designated assembly area (if any) and put on a life preserver (if any). DO NOT inflate the life preserver until you are clear of the ship. Torn life  preservers will not inflate and inflated life preservers can block you, and those behind you, from exiting the ship. A flotation device that has been inflated may also burst if you jump from a significant height. We will be discussing staying afloat with and without a life preserver tomorrow.

DO NOT remove your clothing, boots, or shoes before abandoning ship. Your trousers and other clothing may be the only flotation devices available if your life preserver is faulty or becomes damaged, and your clothes can provide some insulation from the cold water. If you have a hat/soft cover, place it in a pocket for later use. Head cover is good protection against sunburn caused by the sun’s rays reflecting off the water.

Jettisoning Equipment

Equipment should be kept properly packed and waterproofed in case you have to abandon ship. If entering the water from a height greater than 30 feet, wearing a pack or other equipment could cause injury.

If you are wearing a helmet, upon impact with the water, the helmet will “cup” air inside of it. The chin strap may also create a “hanging effect” as you submerge from the force of the fall. Therefore, you should remove your helmet and gas mask before abandoning ship.

If you are unable to maintain buoyancy due to the amount of equipment secured to your pack and body, then jettisoning some of your equipment may become necessary. Equipment that you should always retain include freshwater, first aid kit, soft cover, and embarked survival kit. An embarked survival kit will typically include first aid items, water purification tablets or drops, fire starting equipment, signalling items (e.g., flashlight, strobe light, chemlights), food procurement items, and shelter items. Other items in a survival kit include sunburn lotion and lip balm, knife, goggles/sunglasses, plastic bag, matches and lighter, mirror.

Abandoning Ship Technique

When abandoning ship, use caution. Use the following technique when abandoning ship without your gear:

  • Place your hands on their opposite shoulders, forming a crisscross pattern:

Cross Arms

  • Step to the edge of the ship’s deck and check the water below for debris or survivors.
  • If the water is clear, look straight ahead and prepare to jump.
  • If the water is not clear, move to another location.
  • DO NOT hold your nose as you abandon ship. If you do hold your nose, the force of impact into the water could jar your arm and hand and cause you to break your nose.
  • Step off the side of the ship with a smooth, 30-inch stride.
  • DO NOT DIVE OFF THE SHIP. DO NOT LOOK DOWN AT THE WATER. LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD (HORIZON). Looking down at the water can render you unconscious or cause injuries upon impact.
  • Bring your trailing leg forward during the fall and cross trailing leg behind leading leg.
  • Keep your head parallel to the water’s surface until hitting the water.
  • You should remain in the abandon ship position until your descent into the water has almost stopped.
  • However, the weight imbalances in your body may cause you to be in a “J” shape under the water.

Once your downward motion has ceased, your feet may be parallel with the ocean bottom or  you may be nearly inverted with your feet over your head. To counteract potential disorientation, you should pause briefly and allow the natural buoyancy of your torso to bring your body to a nearly upright position.

Floating debris can cause hazards. Therefore, you should swim upward, extending one arm (hand is shaped as a fist) upward to feel for obstructions. If you encounter debris, try to push it away or surface in a different location.

Surfacing

Swim away from the ship. Looking back will slow your movement away from the area. Remember, your objective is to leave the area as quickly as possible because:

  • Equipment and debris may be falling from or spilling out of the ship.
  • Additional casualties can occur if individuals abandoning the ship fall on top of swimmers already in the water.
  • Swimmers close to the sinking ship may get pulled underneath the water by the suctioning effect of the ship as it goes under.

Modified Abandoning Ship Technique

When abandoning ship while wearing full combat gear (weapon, helmet, and a properly waterproofed pack), additional safety considerations must be observed. The modified abandoning ship technique is used while wearing full combat gear and exiting from a height LESS than 30 feet. WARNING: When exiting from a height greater than 30 feet, remove your helmet and pack. Fasten the  helmet to the pack or place it inside the pack before jettisoning. If jettisoning gear from the ship or aircraft, check the water below for survivors before throwing the gear forward of the intended jump area. Once in the water, retrieve your gear and swim out of the area.

Modified JumpJump with Pack

  • Place your weapon over one shoulder, muzzle down, with the weapon parallel to your side.
  • Place your arm and hand along the weapon and hold it to your side.
  • Take your free hand and place it on top of your helmet to prevent neck/spinal injury from the force of the water pulling upward on the helmet as your body enters the water. An alternate method is to place your weapon over one shoulder, muzzle down, with the  weapon parallel to your side. Reach across your body and grasp the sling of your weapon and hold it to your body. Take your free hand and place it on top of your helmet.
  • Step to the edge of the platform and check the water below for debris and survivors. If the  water is clear, look straight ahead and prepare to jump. If the water is not clear, move to another location.
  • Step off the side of the platform with a smooth, 30-inch stride.
  • DO NOT DIVE OFF THE SHIP, DO  NOT LOOK DOWN AT THE WATER, LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD (HORIZON). Looking down at the water can render you unconscious or cause injury upon impact.
  • Bring your trailing leg forward during the fall. Cross your trailing leg behind your leading leg.
  • Keep your head parallel to the water’s surface until hitting the water.
  • You should remain in the modified abandoning ship position until your descent into the water has almost stopped.
  • The buoyancy of a properly waterproofed pack will immediately pull you to the surface.
  • Once you break the water’s surface, unsling your weapon and loop the sling over your head. You may have to seesaw the sling so as to ensure the sling passes between your helmet and pack. Once over your head, loop the sling around your neck with the weapon aligned in the center of your body, muzzle down.

Lean back on your pack and perform the combat travel stroke to exit the area. NOTE: You may also remove the pack, maintain contact with the pack, and use it as a flotation device. Remain horizontal in the water with your pack under your chest. Perform a breast stroke kick to exit the danger area.

Surfacing/Swimming with Burning Oil

After you have abandoned ship, rise to the surface but remember that fuel from sinking ships or downed aircraft will float on the surface of the water. It is important to move clear of the floating fuel by swimming away from the ship or aircraft as soon as possible. Either swim upwind (into the wind) of the ship/aircraft or swim against the current. Either method allows you to move away from the fuel and the wind/current will push the fuel past you.

To properly execute a surface burning oil swim:

  • Extend your arms overhead as far as possible and wave your arms back and forth vigorously to splash a hole while moving upward.

Splash as long as possible to push burning fuel away from the surfacing area. Use your arms and hands to sweep away fuel and debris.4

  • Kick your legs in a constant breast stroke kick.
  • Extend your arms (palms outward) forward on the surface, arms shoulder- width apart.
  • Pull your hands in and back toward the chest.
  • Stop your hands in front of your face and rotate them so that your palms face forward (roughly halfway out of the water).

2

  • Sweep your arms forward to a full extension at the shoulder width. This splashes debris, oil, or burning liquids aside. To reduce the chance of fatigue, use two short splashes to the front to extend the path.

1Repeat the preceding step as necessary while swimming clear of the area.

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