Training is a safe bet

The deaths of two fishermen in Alaska last week are bringing into focus the importance of safety gear combined with safety training when it comes to accident response.

According to a report from KRBD in Sitka, Wayne Gray and Rex Newlun, residents of Yakutat, were wearing PFDs when their vessel overturned, and one of them had recently completed drill instructor training with the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association in Sitka.

The lone survivor of the incident, Jonathan Pavlik, had also taken the course and was incidentally not wearing a PFD. His survival, however, could well be connected directly with his recent AMSEA training session.

According to Jerry Dzugan, who heads AMSEA and interviews survivors of at-sea accidents, Pavlik did his best to stay out of the cold water and was rescued after a pilot spied him clinging to the bottom-up skiff.

This is where safety training specific to the region you’re fishing in becomes critical.

Alaska waters are cold year-round. So AMSEA stresses that PFDs are important but will not alone save you. You must stay out or quickly get out of the water and make sure someone else knows you are in peril.

A man-overboard or abandon-ship situation is often the result of a chain of events. The combination of training and the proper use and stock of safety gear is the best way to ensure that you can perform an effective chain of response to an emergency.

Contact the Coast Guard, AMSEA, or your local vessel owners’ association to sign up for safety training.

You can also get a copy of the video “Man Overboard: Prevention and Recovery,” produced by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in cooperation with AMSEA and Alaska Sea Grant. Send an email to NIOSH at pubstaft@cdc.gov and refer to the DVD title “Man Overboard Prevention and Recovery” and the NIOSH publication number “2011-126d” in your request.

I wish everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

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