Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Back in the Swing of Things

Dockside is (almost) over! I had to put that caveat in there because we've still got a couple of items that need to be finished up, so the contractors will be back onboard for a few hours early next week...but for the most part they're gone! The ship is coming back together. Thank goodness.

But now we've got to get ready to get back underway again. We haven't done a drill in two months. So yesterday, we did a "fast cruise" to get back into the swing of things. A fast cruise is when the ship takes off all shore ties, comes up on generators, and generally simulates being underway while still tied to the pier. It's a slightly safer and simpler (though not quite so realistic) way to do drills than to actually get underway.

The Damage Control Training Team (DCTT) got together first thing to go through the drill briefs so we all knew what was going on. I've got a brand-new DCTT with MKC Henry Wong (on left) and LTJG Josh Gaidos (new XO) having relieved last week.

We did an okay job of working together for the first time, though I think we learned a couple of valuable lessons from the initial drill that we put into practice with the second one: make sure to brief to the crew what simulations are allowed, and make sure we're all on the same radio frequency. Ya' know, the little things. Oh, and we probably should have kicked off with the less complicated of the two drills we had planned to work out our own kinks before we moved on to a more complex scenario.

Once we briefed up ourselves, we got the crew together on the messdeck to go through a safety brief, remind everyone what props we'd be using, and discuss general drill philosophy. From left to right: ET2 Chris Konyha, FA Brian Callahan, MK3 Allen Edwards, BM1 Scott O'Brien, BM2 Brian Goracke, FN Josh Del Cerro, FN Larry Burns, MK3 Tony Collado, and SN Mike McKinstry.

As always, there was time for some fun. Tee hee.

We started out with a Machinery Space fuel oil leak breaking out into a fire (= Machinery Space Fire Doctrine = MSFD). Yeah, that's why I say we should have done a simpler drill first. The MSFD is definitely one of the most important scenarios we train for because of the catastrophic nature of the consequences, but it's also one of the most complicated, with the most niggling of details and the most moving parts. Starting with something simpler would have allowed us to learn or remember how to work together again first, before jumping in at the deep end. We did ok, though. DCTT used a Training Time Out to stop the drill to allow for some redirective training (we should have used a few more) when things looked like they were getting off track.

This is the initial report coming up to the bridge from the Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOW). BM2 Goracke is putting on his sound powered phones (SPP) to have dedicated comms with the EOW, while BM1 O'Brien is talking to the EOW on the handheld SPP taking the initial report of damage and plotting the information on the DC plot. Communications, communications, communications are soooo very, very important in damage control. You gotta get the right information disseminated to the entire crew quickly, accurately and thoroughly.

Because, while it seems fairly calm on the bridge, lots of stuff is going on out on deck. Yesterday was BM1 North's first time as On-Scene Leader (OSL). He was the guy in charge on the fantail (facing the camera with the red shirt (flash gear) in his hands). He's got to: take muster, rig a fire hose with aqueous foam forming film (AFFF) to get it into the engine room, get zebra set, secure ventilation, get flash gear on everybody, dress out the fire teams, get the pumps going... Well, actually, he doesn't have to do all that himself, but he's got to make sure it's all getting done.

Here are the fire teams getting dressed out on the focsle. It's a lot of gear that has to be put on just right so that the teams are protected from getting burned or steamed.

Here's FN Burns and FA Callahan dressed out in their fire-fighting ensembles (FFEs), with a little help from MK3 Collado in the background.

And here's the pump team getting the P-6 pump going. GM2 Stenzel (standing) helps out MK3 Collado with providing cooling water to the soft patch.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to get sufficient AFFF into the engine room quickly enough, so the fuel oil leak broke out into a fire ("this is a drill, this is a drill," piped over and over again because there was a cruise ship moored over at the state pier, and I didn't want to freak out any of the passengers about a fire on a Coast Guard ship).

And then the two shots of installed halon (an inert gas that disrupts the chemical reaction that makes fires burn) weren't effective. So we had to attack the fire with the fire teams. Fire Team #1 commences an indirect attack through the soft-patch hatch into the engine room, while Fire Team #2 is standing by in aft berthing, ready to access the space and conduct a direct attack.

Despite a few fits and starts, we got the fire out and secured from drill. We stowed all gear and held a debrief with the crew so we could discuss what we did well and what we could do better.

Then we kicked off a flooding drill, where we simulated striking a submerged object and busted a hole through the hull into forward aux. That drill went really well, much more smoothly than the MSFD.

We're getting back into the swing of things. FS2 Stickel even made lunch onboard for the crew yesterday. It's so nice that the ship is getting back to normal.

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