Donning of the Immersion Suits and Their Maintenance
This article is continuing the one giving brief introduction to the immersion suits. Practice makes perfect. If in doubt, the manufacturer's instructions are printed on the bag or the labels attached to the suit. To put on, or don, the immersion suit, as an exercise first take your safety boots to avoid any damage. Take a suit out of the bag. Check its condition. Then, insert one foot first. In an emergency, boots can be left on to save time and keep heat in. it is also advisable to wear as much warm clothing as you can. The suit is designed for both these purposes. The regulations stipulate that the person should be able to enter into an immersion suit within two minutes. This will need practice. If there is another crew member nearby, it is a good idea to help each other as it will save time and energy.
Once the suit is on, the wearer must get rid of any excess air inside it. Place a couple of fingers inside the face seal and squeeze the suit to express the air. Remove fingers before standing upright, otherwise air will re-enter. If the legs and feet have air in them, it could affect the wearer's balance when in the water and this could result in drowning.
Most suits are not floatation approved so a life jacket will be required.
Over-mittens should be worn if the hands are not expected to operate machinery or assist with evacuation. Getting off a sinking ship into the sea is dramatic. The temptation to jump must be avoided as any remaining residual air within the suit could cause it to rupture as it rapidly becomes immersed. The wearer should either use disembarkation ladder or wait for the water to rise to such level that would allow to safely step off the vessel. Be aware of other people in the water and take note of any sharp objects that might tear the suit.
Remember that any water in the suit will affect body temperature and that could lead to hypothermia. If your life jacket has not automatically inflated, you should inflate it now. Swim towards any liferaft or buoyancy aid and use as little energy as possible. The life jacket will keep the head upright and out of the water. Do not waste energy trying to fight the situation. Concentrate on getting to a place of safety and out of the water. Swim slowly and rhythmically.
The process of getting into the liferaft will require stamina but the suit and lifejacket can assist by using their combined buoyancy. Positioned in front of the entry portal of the raft, place the feet in the boarding ladder. Now push downwards so that the body goes out down the water. The combined buoyancy will then propel your body upwards out of the water and hopefully into the raft. Once in, help others who might be less able.
If no liferaft is available there is no point in wasting energy swimming around. Conservation is the best approach to survival. Find fellow crew members and use body lines to keep together. Remain calm and try to restrict movement.
There are many types of suits made by a variety of manufacturers and it is recommended that their instructions are carefully followed with special attention to the maintenance procedures. Care and attention to detail and maintenance is time well spent. It could possibly save a life. The zip must be waxed to lubricate and waterproof it. A manufacturer should supply a special compound for this purpose. The zip should run smoothly. Store it with the zip nearly down. Check the head covering for any damage to the seal and to the reflectors. It is good practice to check for any contaminants, such as oil, over the entire suit. The manufacturer's instructions will advise what action to take if the suit is affected. Oil and rubber are not kind to each other. Always relate to the manufacturer's recommended cleaning instructions.
Pay particular attention to the Velcro fastenings. To store this type of suit, fold in the arms. the zip must be left open - this is most important. Then, roll up the suit from the feet end and carefully put it back into the bag. Purpose-made containers or strategically situated lockers should be to store the suits. On some ships, immersion suits and lifejackets are stored together in the locker of each crew member's cabin. It is not advisable to store suits under bunks or on top of or behind heaters - the rubber will perish and so will the wearer when they come to us it.
An immersion suit is one of the most important pieces of kit the seafarer will encounter. In case of a disaster, the time spent for practicing in putting it on, maintaining it and learning how to use it properly could make all the difference...
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