Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Protection details on the water have there own challenges. This post is not about MarSec (Maritime Security) as I don't go after pirates on the open seas. My first experience with ships on the open seas was as a U.S. Marine on the U.S.S. San Bernardino and the U.S.S. America. I have been on enough waterways with principals to get an understanding as to what is needed during the advance and the operation. I've been on scenic tours down the Snake River on a raft. I've been on historical tours on Lake Washington on a yacht. Fishing boats off the coast of Kodiak Island. Cruise lines off the coast of Alaska. Training drills on Coast Guard cutters off the coast of Georgia. You need to think about what happens if your principal goes overboard. What if you go overboard? What are your limitations? What are your principals limitations?
Let's first talk about your PFD (Personal Flotation Device). I always recommend on getting your own if you will be going on the water frequently. You should always have one available for you and your principal. Smaller boats, canoes, kayaks, and yachts should be mandatory. More than two thirds of all boating fatalities are drowning incidents and more than 90% of drowning victims weren't wearing a PFD. An important consideration in wearing a PFD is size. An over sized PFD is not going to fit tightly around the frame, especially when working with children, therefore the PFD will not be effective in staying afloat. An undersized PFD simply means it will not be properly fastened. On larger yachts and ships just know where the PFDs are housed and know where the rescue rafts are as well. There are also weight requirements on PFDs. Keep that in mind for your principal.
First aid is of the utmost importance in our profession. Doing first aid in the water is very difficult. Moving your client in the water is also important. If you can get your client out of the water to perform CPR then do it. In the rare, unfortunate, and tragic times you cannot then perform rescue breaths. The breaths go through the nose. If the mouth is open then water will go in the mouth especially if you do not hold the mouth closed. Checking for a pulse in the water is near impossible. Know the equipment around you and learn how to use it. Water reach poles are great for pools and close proximity rescues. Consider carrying smoke flares. A satellite phone could come in handy as well. Seeking help should be your priority. For more information on CPR in the water refer to the National Association of Rescue Divers.
While doing a detail in Alaska I met with a buddy of mine. He worked for the law enforcement unit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He went after a lot of illegal fishermen and discussed the perils of fighting someone on a boat. Everyone has a knife or a hook. The floor is slippery. The water is frigid. So imagine fighting in those conditions. Evacuating your principal expeditiously could be a problem if you both are falling.
Situational awareness is your best friend. Know your limitations. If you are not a great swimmer then consider that on your advance. Wear appropriate shoes and attire. Check for weapons around you. Check the gear around you. Is your principal a good swimmer and are their strong swimmers on your detail? Be confident in your skills and abilities. Train always and in everything. Be a professional in every way.
If you are on the open ocean use the link below to get to your nearest Coast Guard Base.