Lessons from Desert Storm - Boat Drills

This is the first in a series of blog posts, pulling from my time in the US Navy, when I was deployed on a ship in Desert Storm.

I'll start off with an excerpt from my book (which, of course I personally believe you should go buy. Hey, its a good book, even my Mom say's so!)... I really should stop using brackets, I tend to lose my place...

Yes, So I'll take excerpts from the book I wrote about Desert Storm, and then I'll write something profound I learned from that experience. Got it? Good! Lets go then!


We had our first boat drills today. Because this isn't a Navy ship, it falls under Coast Guard rules, so once a week they have to do training for emergency situations. Because a ship's crew is so dependent on itself for survival, the whole crew reports for the drills. It usually starts out with a fire drill; whoever gets to the scene first starts breaking out hoses, and it goes from there.

Assuming worst case, it eventually leads to losing the fight, and we abandon ship. All the lifeboats are on the very top deck of the ship, so you grab your life jacket (my room is on one of the lowest decks) and run up what seems like a million stairs. Each life boat has a leader, who holds a muster, to ensure everyone is there. Then they check each person's gear for its condition. Things like long sleeves and a hat will help you to survive floating around for as long as it takes for a rescue.

Since we were going to a war where there was a known chemical threat, we were issued CBR gear today. This includes gas mask, rubber gloves, and a chemical proof suit. Also included are the chemical injectors to give yourself in case of actual exposure. These are neat looking little tubes that, when armed, are pressed against your thigh and the needle shoots through your pants, and gives you an automatic dose. I sure hope we don't need those!

Salty Sea Dog lessons for today... hey, that's kind of catchy!

OK, and we're back on dry land, whew!

This week, lets start off with some obvious points. We had WEEKLY drills. Fire fighting, Abandon Ship drills, emergency protection clothing, life jackets, chemical gas masks. This wasn't a one time thing. Read the card in the seat in front of you, and OK, here's some peanuts and a magazine. Enjoy your flight.

I know you won't likely be abandoning your ship any time soon, so let me bring it down a level for you, ok?

Do you have a 3 Day Pack, like the Red Cross recommends? How about a flash light in your car? A change of clothes in the car, so if you get to change a tire in the rain, you can at least put on dry pants? A first aid kit? Some emergency cash?

Lets start off with a 3 Day Pack. I'll admit, at this moment, I'm a bit short on mine, so I'll be putting one together this afternoon!

One of my jobs in the Navy, not on the ship, was part of a security response team, called Auxiliary Security Force. We had to be able to respond to a call in 30 minutes, and we'd have a pack of uniforms and gear we'd bring with us. I'll use that as a template for our 3 Day Pack. Borrowing some ideas from the Red Cross, as we go:

The reason for a 3 Day Pack, is in most emergency situations, you'll be on your own for 3 days. If there is a fire, flood, or blizzard, it will be a few days before "the authorities" can get to you. Most of us could survive a week with out food or water, so this isn't about actual survival so much as being comfortable, so lets think along those lines OK?

  • Clothing for 3 Days (don't forget socks and underwear!)

  • Seasonal clothing, hats, jackets, gloves

  • water, food, snacks like nuts, granola bars, etc.

  • flashlight, radio, spare batteries

  • first aid kit

  • sun screen, mosquito repellant

  • work gloves

  • hat (protection from sun)

  • sleeping bag and pillow (optional, but nice to have!)

  • book or entertainment

  • medication

You get the idea here, I think. I'll bet its not the first time you've seen a list like this, either. A good sturdy back pack to pack everything in is handy.

There are several scenarios to consider. One, you'll be stuck at home for a few days, maybe with no power or water. You may have to leave home on very short notice, for example, a wild fire, earthquake, or tornado / hurricane. You may have mere moments in an earthquake. Or you may have hours to prepare. You might have to spend a few days in an emergency shelter.

Depending on your climate, some optional equipment to consider. A tent or shelter. A space heater that runs on Propane. Water purification tablets or filter system. Propane stove.

Another recommendation, that I learned while living on Guam. The electricity was unpredictable there. Sometimes the whole island would lose power for a few days, either because of a storm, or a snake would crawl up the power pole and get zapped. Really, it happened! Anyway, gas pumps are electrically powered. So if your car was out of gas, you couldn't buy more. So we were taught to always refuel our cars at half a tank, not "empty" like we usually end up doing!

Also on that line of thought, have some cash handy, ATM machines rely on both power and the ability to contact a central data center somewhere. Nothing worse than knowing you have money in the bank, and can't get to it! A hundred dollars, in $20 bills, a good start.
If your emergency food is in cans, you better have a can opener that isn't electrically powered!

Going back to the Emergency Drills we used to have, most things we'd simulate. But sometimes the scene commander, who was in charge of the drill, would have the responding team actually do some part of their simulated drill. Like actually spray some water out of the hose overboard, just to prove they had set the fire hose up correctly. I've heard stories of a person in a drill not knowing how to get a fire extinguisher out of the holder on the wall. Don't laugh, it happens! Have you ever actually put out a fire with a fire extinguisher? Its good training if you get a chance.

If you've not lived with out running water or electricity in a while, I'd recommend you give it a go some weekend, when you can afford some time. Where I live now, on a farm in Alberta, Canada, we have all kinds of great learning experiences. Last winter, the water froze up for over a week. We were melting snow on our coal burning stove. Recently we had the pump in the well stop working, so no running water. Luckily, my Mom has rain barrels everywhere! Then a few days later power went off for a few hours. Luckily that didn't last long, but guess what. No electricity, means no power for the pump in the well, no water again!

Its a good idea to have a few extra jugs of water handy, even if you're not planning on an emergency! If someone breaks a water main on your block, its nice to know you have water to drink and a spare bucket of rain water to flush the toilet with. Oh yeah, if you've not had to do that, you can either just pour a bucket of water into the tank of your toilet, then once its full, hit the flush lever. Or, pouring water directly into the bowl will flush the toilet too.

Speaking of water tricks, if you didn't happen to store any water, your hot water heater is full of water. You can drain it and have a pretty good supply of water. Small warning though, the last time I checked, there was a lot of rust and gunk on the bottom of my water heater, so don't expect to drink it with out filtering. Go on and take a look, on the bottom of your tank is a tap, you can even hook up a garden hose to it!

I think you get the idea. But let me recap it, just to be sure. What is your plan if something happens? If you have a family, do you have a place picked out to meet if you get separated? Do you have a list of numbers to call, that are not in your phone? Ever need a number and your phone is dead? Even if you could find a pay phone... !

OK, I think I've got your juices flowing. I'd love to get some comments on here. I know I forgot a lot of stuff, so now's your chance!

And feel free to share it with all your Peeps, Tweeps, and Friends!



And if you'd like to see more of these, be sure to follow my Desert Storm Diaries Blog here: carlincomm.com/desertstormdiaries/

By Carlin Comm posted on 2010-10-04 13:57:05