Wednesday, August 5, 2020

But For The Grace of God...

A safety professional attempts to anticipate the next loss and prevent it. She reviews event-reports about near-misses, accident reports, orders for replacement parts, and any other trend-indicators at hand.

A sinking, collision, injury, or drowning is a loss. Our proximity to the event determines the effect on us individually; but to an extent, we are ALL affected by anyone's disaster.

I spent the last decade thinking about who would crash a medical helicopter next and why--and writing about it to try and prevent it. I experienced some success as evidenced by the number of people killed while working in HEMS.

As I eased out of the cockpit and behind the console I sensed similarities between helicopter emergency medical services and boating. I thought to write about what might hurt you.

This picture from the Callawassie Island causeway at low tide is meant to highlight the sandbars and oyster rakes that lie in our waterways. When the incoming tide puts more than a few inches of water over them they are invisible. But they are still there, waiting to damage your boat and injure you. 

Imagine hitting one of those oyster-covered humps at speed!

It happened. A crowd in a boat experienced a high-speed grounding. The boat stopped and passengers kept going. Several were ejected from the boat. There was blood everywhere. (I spoke with a Coast Guardsman who responded to the call and he told me that it was terrible. The flesh wounds and bleeding were significant)

Boating is fun, but like aviation, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity, or neglect. This isn't something that "happens to those other people." This happens to people just. like. you. And me too. 

I don't care how long you've been running these waters; no one, absolutely no one is immune to tragedy. I can't tell you how many smug, complacent, aviation-experts have expressed surprise at learning this, with a second or two left to live; and registered this dreadful realization with an "Oh Shit!" on the voice recorder. Smarter people than you and me have been killed in both aviation and boating accidents. (Note to self)

We've suffered a mishap in our midst. Beyond that we've seen a rash of mistakes lately. Anecdotally: groundings, damage, and carelessness are up--big time!

In the aviation world, this is when you have a safety stand--down. Maybe we should have a virtual one in our world. You can have your own safety-stand down right now. All it takes is a paper and pen or a keyboard.

Write down every mistake you made on your last couple of boating trips. What contributed to those mistakes? How will you make sure you don't repeat them. What will you do differently? This is your own S.O.P. you are writing. Your own "standard operating procedure." It will save you money and may save your life.

Write down your recent near-misses; you know, when you were saved by luck, not skill. Decide what you learned from them.

Review the latest charts of this area and refresh your memory on where hazards and bars are. 

For extra-credit review the latest Notice-To-Mariners for our area.

In this latest local accident, people were seriously hurt. Let's learn from history--from their mistake-- so that we don't repeat it.

Our rivers and creeks are full of hazards. Read that last sentence again, please!

Imagine hitting this at speed. It's a prop-stopper!
Imagine hitting this at speed. It's a prop-stopper and might remove your lower unit.
Stay vigilant, friends!

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