Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Lesson in Safety

Having finished one course it was time to head off to the next one. In order to do any work offshore of any type, it is mandatory to take a basic offshore safety course. So I signed up for the simple 3 day one (there are others that are 5 day as well) and celebrated my 30th birthday by getting a passport stamp crossing into Malaysia and meeting my new host in Johor Bahru. As a very random aside, I swear my hair got lighter from all the sun in Thailand (no, it's not grey!)...
I can't believe how lucky I am sometimes. I hadn't really thought this all the way through before signing up so learned that the safety course was being held by a company that operates their training centre on a barge at the Johor port a long way out of town with no public transit to it. Not only is my host a really cool guy and fun to chat with, but he also drove me to and from class each day.
The safety course was similar to the ALST one in the sense that the class was really small and entirely male. It covered basic firefighting, sea survival, evacuation and lifeboat procedures relevant to offshore work being done these days.
The most exciting part though was the HUET section. HUET stands for Helicopter Underwater Escape Techniques. In it they simulate a helicopter ditching into the sea and you having to escape to the surface. This was my first time in the water since leaving Thailand and it was definitely a strange change from scuba diving. They put you in coveralls and shoes and then a very restrictive semi-dry suit. On top of that they give you a special lifejacket with Emergency Breathing System (EBS). It's a little bag with compressed air good for about a minute. For training we didn't get the air but had to exhale into it and breath that instead (not very fun as it gives you a massive headache from the CO2).
For the HUET there was a pool and above it a mock helicopter on a crane that could lower it in and out of the water. Inside were 4 seats where we would have to buckle ourselves in and be lowered under the water and then escape through the window beside us. You have to do it a total of 6 times. 3 are just a straight lowering with either holding your breath or using the EBS while the final 3 are done faster and with the "helicopter" rotating 180 degrees underwater so you end up strapped into your seat upsidedown! Again, holding breath or with EBS exits. It's a weird sensation and quite a ride but really you aren't under the water for more than a few seconds. The crazy thing is that they've got people that can't swim doing this!
I survived and so did everyone else somehow... I also had to do an offshore medical exam. Apparently I'm healthy and fit for work :) Now that I've finished I will go back to Singapore and start sending out my CV to anyone I can think of. Wish me luck!
PS. I've also added more photos to the Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore folders.
Video of the HUET training. Students are given 10 seconds to put on their EBS before being dunked.

And from another angle but without EBS so no pause...


At 3:39 PM , Anonymous Savannah said...

wOW, That is super cool. Can't imagine doing i myself...too scary! Good job Ammon...always learning ;). Happy Late brithday cuz I'm a bad sister :S


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