How the hell can it only be day 2?

We spent today learning about fire prevention and how to deal with it if it does break out. From my perspective, the tldr takeaway is that while large commercial vessels often have effective fire management systems, small boats are usually made entirely of highly flammable material – wood, plastic, fiberglass – and filled with flammable substances – diesel, cooking oil electronics – and in the event of any significant fire, the only realistic action you can take is to move all the neighbouring boats away so they don’t burn to the waterline too.

Lesson learnt. For the rest of our time here, we’re going to be paying a lot more attention to fire prevention.

It’s interesting to learn the techniques though, even if I’m unlikely to work on a merchant vessel. Some of the examples were quite harrowing; we watched video of the Station nightclub fire so we could see just how fast a fire can go from “Huh, that’s not good” to a horror-show (literally a few minutes) and to discuss the factors that led to the fire causing so many deaths. We also watched footage of the Bradford City football club stadium fire which is another example of just how fast a fire goes from nothing to everything. What’s interesting in this one is that you can see how the fire transfers heat to new fuel via conduction, convection and radiation in different segments of the fire, and also how materials begin to give off white smoke as they approach their spontaneous combustion temperature. This is a useful indicator as a firefighter because when you see your own gear start to smoke, you know it’s time to get out.

Both of those videos are available on youtube via google, but fair warning; they’re both seriously distressing, both incidents resulted in many deaths, and there is footage of real people on fire in both of them.

The afternoon was more fun. We spent most of in full fire fighting gear so we could get used to moving around in it while sweating profusely. Every so often we’d remove it for a break which would abruptly end in “FIRE FIRE FIRE!!” with a 45 second deadline to get completely kitted up again.

STCW class posed for a group photo in firefighting gear
Standing around in the sun in full gear is a really good idea.

The first time we tried it was an abject failure; we missed things, we weren’t all fully dressed, and the time was in minutes rather than seconds. It’s remarkable how much time you can shave off that when someone who knows what they’re doing walks you through how to optimise it. My gear is, as I type, laid out in a very specific way in the classroom so it’s quick and easy to get into. For example, imagine you’re wearing wellies and over-trousers. Pull the trousers down round your ankles so they’re below the level of the boots and step out of the boots. The next time you need to get them on in a hurry you just step into the boots, grab your trousers, and stand up. You’re halfway dressed in a few seconds.

Also fun; learning how to do compartment and directional searches properly, and a variety of ways of hauling casualties out. If you get the chance to try this, note that being the casualty is a lot less effort.

Of course, all this dressing practice isn’t going to make it any easier to get up in the morning…