Picture the following: you’re sleeping in your rack after twelve hours of work and everything is peaceful. A few sailors are moving in and out of the berthing as they utilize the head (restrooms) and others are peacefully watching television shows on their laptops and lounge area. Suddenly an alarm rings with the intent of waking everyone in the ship and alert those sailors which are already on shift. The dreaded words come over the 1MC “man overboard” “man overboard, safety routes are port down and aft, starboard up and forward, man overboard…” but, the announcement of this particular event being a drill never came. It’s at that moment in which sailors realize that something truly bad could have just happened to one of their own. But, there isn’t any time to think about that as those who are alive rush towards their own work centers to muster.
During normal ship’s operations, sailors can navigate the ship with ease, going up and down the ladder-wells without much trouble. Usually, a sailor will choose the fastest route to their destination and become familiar with that specific route. This type of mentality can be truly detrimental during an emergency, such as a man overboard. As the ladder-wells are designated for specific directions, trying to go the usual route can potentially cause disruptions in the traffic flow. Not only does the flow of traffic break though, as higher-ups tend to frown upon junior sailors who are breaking the rules, even if pragmatically it makes no sense to go up and over. This is even more detrimental as any given sailor has six minutes to reach their destination or otherwise have to report to one of the deckhouses with their Identification Card. The sailor then has to report their situation to the executive officer.
On smaller vessels, the time limit does not seem to be too much of a burden. Most sailors will be able to reach their muster location within the allotted time frame. On carriers, though, it is my experience that stragglers will be much more frequent and it’s not uncommon to see at least ten sailors heading to the designated reporting location. The straggling situation on a carrier can often be allocated to the large size of the ship, going from one end to the other can be anywhere from five to ten minutes depending on the speed. It’s also known that sailors like to hide out in engine rooms and other loud spaces, which can block out the 1MC announcement without them becoming any wiser. On some rare situations (similar to what happened on a ship recently), sailors will willfully ignore the announcement to hide.
However, none of this matters more than to those who were sleeping. Man overboard casualties and even drills are meant to be taken seriously. These events can last up to an hour, while they try to identify if anyone is missing and measures are taken to scan the areas around the ship in order to find anything or anyone. The thought of losing a shipmate to disease is awful, but the idea of having one lost in the freezing ocean is devastating. Aside from family members, nobody feels the pain of loss greater than the sailors themselves. Especially if this death could have been avoided by having the sailors muster within the allotted time frames. But, the Navy is a dangerous career, and falling overboard is simply one of the many dangers which are faced on a daily basis. Measures are in place to protect sailors as much as possible, but even those aren’t perfect…
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.