Safety & Security
Safety & Your Crew
"To assemble the passengers and/or crew
on a ship."
Muster Station, Lifeboat Drill,
General Emergency Stations, Compulsory Coast Guard Drill... no
matter what terminology is used, this exercise is mandatory and
required by law.
On any cruise ship, wherever in the
world you might happen to embark, one of the first things you'll
notice in your stateroom are the bright orange Mae West-style
Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) or life jackets. Nervous quips
begin to fly, "What's this? You mean I just boarded this ship
and now they tell me it might sink?" Well, yes. Unpleasant and
unlikely as that may seem, cruise lines take the safety of their
guests and vessels very seriously; however, ships have been known to
While you're checking your
stateroom's amenities (and marveling at how much bigger it seemed in
the brochure's illustration) take a moment to study the emergency
card on the back of the door. They differ, ship by ship, but usually
indicate "you are here"--the location of your cabin--and
the direction you should go in case of an actual emergency. Your
muster station will be indicated, usually by number or letter.
Shortly before sailing, an
announcement will be made and the lifeboat drill begins when the
alarm bells are sounded. Be prepared with your PFD in hand and
proceed to your muster station. Carry the life jacket and be sure
the ties don't trail on the floor; it's easy to get tripped up on
them as you ascend or descend stairs. Crewmembers will be stationed
at the stairwells on each deck to give directions. Procedures
vary--on some cruise lines you'll muster in a public room to receive
instructions and then continue to the lifeboat station, on others
you will immediately go to the muster station on an open deck.
In all cases, crewmembers will be
on hand to check your stateroom number off their list and show you
how to properly put on your PFD. You'll notice it has two important
features, a light that is activated in water and a whistle. An
officer assigned to your boat will instruct the group on the
procedures to follow if it becomes necessary to actually lower and
enter the lifeboats or jump into the water.
Roll is taken or stewards
check the cabins to make sure that everyone attends. Don't even
think about hiding out and not attending the lifeboat drill--in an
emergency situation, your survival could depend on it.
An extremely fortunate cruise ship passenger once climbed up on a table
and fell overboard off the coast of Puerto Rico a few years back. He
was fortunate because he reached shore without serious injury.
However, it's rare that someone unintentionally falls off a ship.
When it happens, the bridge goes into high gear performing a
Williamson Turn. The time is recorded on the bridge and the ship is
set in motion on a sort of figure-8 turn to go back to the exact
spot where the accident occurred. As many eyes as possible
immediately are on watch. A rescue boat is launched and, with a
combination of skill and luck, the passenger is found.
As part of their constant ongoing
training, the crew on our vessel was able to accomplish a man
overboard rescue drill in approximately 17 minutes.
fire crews prepare to extinguish a mock engine room fire
Fire is the most dreaded emergency at sea and prevention is the key
to averting disaster. Passengers are admonished not to use travel
irons in their staterooms and to be certain that other appliances,
such as curling irons, are turned off when not in use. Just as on
land, everyone on board should practice normal precautions
throughout the vessel with smoking materials and never smoke in bed.
Lit cigarettes should never be thrown overboard as they can be drawn
into an opening on a lower deck. Never, ever light candles in
As important as those
considerations are, the three primary fire
danger zones on a ship are the laundry, galley, and engine room. For
that reason, proper maintenance is essential. Galley ducts are
cleaned on a regular basis as are clothes dryer lint traps.
Machinery is monitored closely.
Even when docked, a ship's crew can
find an engine room fire difficult to control. For that reason, the
City and Port of Barcelona coordinated a Simulated Disaster Response
drill with a cruise ship at the pier. It was a "fire in the
engine room" of the vessel. Soon after passengers debarked for
city tours on a dreary November morning, bells and the public
address system summoned all crew members to their emergency
stations. Within minutes, a cacophony of sirens heralded the arrival
of the Barcelona "Bombers" fire fighters and their
equipment, escorted by motorcycle police officers for crowd control.
The vehicles had barely stopped on the pier when the first wave of
non-essential crewmembers poured down the gangway in their bright
orange life jackets. Fireboats appeared alongside the ship to back
up the fire fighters on land and to pluck "victims" from
the harbor waters.
Smoke poured ominously from a lower
deck opening at the stern as the simulated fire shot upward through
the ship. In short order, a
hook and ladder truck was readied to reach the lido deck's
"trapped" occupants and fire fighting teams disappeared
into the hull, trailed by unrolled hoses. Their efforts seemed
chaotic but it was soon apparent that each man knew just where he
should be in a complex choreography of duties. Crewmembers on board
readied the tender platform facing the harbor and the lifeboats
could have been lowered at a moment's notice.
When it didn't seem possible that
there were any emergency vehicles left in Barcelona, ambulances
arrived and a persistent 'whoop-whoop-whoop' overhead
indicated a medi-vac helicopter was hovering above. Emergency
Medical Technicians and doctors set up a triage area in the terminal
building and were ready as the first "casualties" were
brought off the ship on stretchers.
carry an injured comrade to a waiting ambulance
The "injured" included
crewmembers as well as fire fighters suffering from minor
lacerations to smoke inhalation and severe burns. Medical
professionals stabilized the wounded in the terminal and transferred
them to ambulances. The most severely burned victim was wrapped in a
gold foil covering and whisked away in the helicopter.
Within an hour, the
"fire" was extinguished, the smoke had disappeared, and a
light rain fell as participants were re-rolling hoses and cleaning
Later, our ship's Safety Officer related that the Simulated Disaster
Response exercise went well. While it, like the man overboard drill
earlier in the cruise, was scheduled, the exact time of the call for
assistance was determined by the Captain and the port authorities
and city emergency teams responded within 10 to 15 minutes.
In addition, although passengers
are often unaware of it, during our cruise some sort of training was
ongoing every day. To keep crewmembers on their toes, safety
exercises are sometimes unexpected or they are thrown a curve by a
change in the time to test their reaction.
During a Real
In the case of an alarm:
- Proceed to your muster station.
- If you are in your cabin, bring
your PFD; otherwise, don't go back for it as there are extras on
the boat deck.
- Remain calm.
As a passenger, your obligation is
to follow orders. In an emergency situation, the smiling bartender
who earlier served you drinks and traded jokes is now a serious
crewmember with a specific assignment to perform. Don't expect any
crewmember to be less than professional. Your life depends on it.
to Cruise Diva's FOCUS
on Safety & Security
Security -- What to
expect at your embarkation port and ports of call.
Yourself -- If you
haven't done it already, isn't it about time to get a passport?
Safe in Ports of Call
-- Getting away from it all shouldn't mean getting into trouble.
the Friendlier Skies --
New security measures are in place to ease your mind about
The ship's Sick Bay. You hope you won't need it but it's
comforting to know you can depend on it... if only for a
"Bare" -- This has
nothing to do with sunbathing in the buff. Here's
the scoop on protecting your cruise investment and yourself.
& Sea: Solutions for the Landlocked --
The facts about cruise line Air & Sea Programs and missing
your bases and insure yourself & your cruise investment.
Bad weather, mechanical problems, and political unrest can set
your itinerary and plans adrift.
into Hurricane Season -- "Official"
hurricane season consumes a full six months of the year. It
doesn't have to spoil your cruise.
News -- The
latest information regarding cruise lines and ports.