Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill.
The Coast Guard implemented underwater egress training July 2013 at the Coast Guard Aviation Technical Training Center in Elizabeth City, N.C., aimed at increasing a member’s survivability in the event of a boat capsizing. To date, approximately 200 people have completed the underwater egress training.
The training stems from a mishap in 2005, where a Coast Guard maritime safety and security team response boat capsized while conducting high-speed maneuvers in the Port of Valdez, Alaska.
The four crewmembers exited the cabin via the rear door and crawled onto the hull of the overturned boat. An investigation into the mishap found the crew had previously received egress training at their unit, which was credited to saving the lives of the crew.
The Coast Guard Office of Boat Forces worked with the Coast Guard Force Readiness Command and the training center to develop a boat dunker course designed to expose boat forces personnel to underwater egress training in a modular egress training simulator.
“The course is set, and our goal is to ensure we are provide the best safety training to our folks as our tactics and boat speeds increase to ensure they’re able to egress from a worst-case scenario, a capsized boat,” said Lt. Cmdr. Sara Wallace, the strategic platform policy and competency manager at the Office of Boat Forces.
The first of two training days include classroom time followed by water exercises that familiarize a member with the operation of doors and windows of the response boat.
The second day focuses primarily on members completing four rides in a mock response boat as it is turned upside down in an indoor pool. Members complete two rides; one in the front seat and another in the back seat in daytime conditions and two rides in nighttime conditions.
The Coast Guard’s boat forces operations represent nearly half of the service’s daily operations and accounts for 80 percent of lives saved, 65 percent of security operations and 77 percent of law enforcement boardings.
The evolving Coast Guard missions during the last 10 years have fostered boats that operate at higher speeds and are more maneuverable than previous generations, such as the 45-foot Response Boat – Medium, which can respond at nearly twice the speed as the 41-foot Utility Boat built in the 1980s that it replaces.