Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Movie Night Lessons

So we had another fantastic movie night tonight. We decided to watch the animated, (albeit creepy) "Polar Express" with Tom Hanks.
We learned a very valuable lesson tonight:

Children + Hot Chocolate = Scalded Small People

Sorry Landon! I hope you are ok! Keep the shirt!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Helicopter Underwater Escape Training

So the final chapter of my Scotland '08 Legacy is centered around H.U.E.T. Not to be confused with Huey, Uncle Scrooge's Nephew and doppleganger to Dewey and Louie.
H.U.E.T. is Helicopter Underwater Escape Training. As was previously mentioned in an earlier post, a large part of my work will be in the North Sea. All rigs are only accessible by helicopter. In fact, from the Aberdeen Heliport in North Scotland, over 100,000 helicopter round trips are flown each year. Because of the frequency of such flights, it is a requirement that anyone who is to fly out there, must be certified in emergency response.
So inside of our training school, they have a large (unheated) swimming pool. They have a mock helicopter fuselage, and plenty of practice tossing said fuselage into the pool.
We were trained in two different types of escape. The first was just holding your breath. The second involved an apparatus called a re-breather.
Anytime that you are on a helicopter in the North Sea, you must be buckled in with a 4-point harness. With that said, here are the basic steps of escape:

1 - Holding Breath (Once you have been alerted that you are going down):
- Don't panic
- Tighten harness belts (you'll see why in a second)
- Locate your buckle with left hand and the window with your right hand (or vice versa if the window is to your left)
- Straighten back and put both feet flat on the ground
- Hang on

If you are using a re-breather, the only difference is inflating the air bladder after tightening the harness belts.

Once you hit the water, the most important thing to do is to wait until the helicopter has actually settled into sinking mode. There may be a few moments where the rotors are pitching and turning and you want to make sure that you will get clear of them.

Typically it is best if you wait until your entire body is under water. You then eject the window with your window hand FIRST and then flip the quick-release on your harness with your other hand. Remember tightening it down? Well, they are designed to release more quickly when there is more tension on them. So, the tighter you can get those straps, the quicker you are getting out.

Then, with your hand that located the window, you swim out. A word to the wise: Eject your window first...otherwise you have to fight your own buoyancy while trying to pop the window out.

Simple right?

Our training consisted of being tossed into the drink a total of 7 times. Sometimes we went in right-side up. Sometimes we were upside down. We were also tossed in pitched to one side. Sometimes we used the re-breather...sometimes, we were flying only on the air in our lungs. (I actually preferred that because the re-breather was really complicated.)

On my final dunking, I knew we were going in upside down, and I didn't use the re-breather. I remember going under, and just sitting there. I was strapped in, hanging upside down, underwater, and frozen in time. I wasn't panicking at all. It was actually quite calm. I just remember sitting there and soaking it all in that I was in Scotland...upside down, underwater, in a helicopter shell. It was surreal.

Anyway, I realized that I hadn't moved in a few moments and the trainers were probably going to come after me. So I popped, flipped, and surfaced with no problems.

I love my job.

Monday, November 03, 2008


The blustery weather of yesterday takes me back to a time that I visited the enchanting country of Scotland. It seems that it was only a week or so ago that I was preambling along the rolling green hills of bonny Scotland, an overcast sky painted in every shade of gray, and a pureness of air cycling through my lungs. It really is a beautiful country with wonderful people.

I went to Scotland for work to attend a school there that is designed to help train people for survival situations off-shore. Aberdeen is an international hub for the European oil industry, and it is located on the north shores of Scotland. There you will find a booming economy central to supporting the drilling of oil in the North Sea. Because of this propensity for the industry, many of the most sought out training facilities are established there. The school that I went to was designed specifically for off-shore survival.

The three days of intense training that I went through were basically broken up into three categories. 1) First Aid, 2) Fire Fighting, 3) H.U.E.T. or Helicopter Underwater Escape Training. I'll write more on the third one in my next post.

With the first aid training, it wasn't your basic, run-of-the-mill CPR certification. By re-creating scenarios that have happened in the past, we would be presented with a situation and asked how to proceed. An example might be:

You have just evacuated a rig. You and 28 other people have successfully deployed an emergency raft designed only for 20 people. You are floating in the North Sea, where the June temperature of the water is 15 Celsius (59 Fahrenheit), and it is November. 3 people are unconscious. 1 person has a compound fracture of the leg. 2 more people are bleeding uncontrollably, and 1 person has gone into shock. Your supplies consist of food and water rations for 20 people for 3 days, you have a VERY limited first aid kit, 1 knife, two oars, 6 flares, and a bailing bucket. You are several hundred miles from any land. What do you do?

We would then proceed to figure out the best possible solutions. Sometimes we were asked why we did certain things first and postponed first aid to others. The whole idea was to help us get our minds wrapped around the idea that, A) 911 wasn't always going to be there for us, and B) sometimes, you had to make tough decisions.

It was very eye opening.

We also had the opportunity to learn basic fire fighting. Again, being out on a rig, you don't always have many of the things that we take for granted around here, such as if the structure you are currently in starts on can't always run outside and get away. So...what do you do?

We learned about the different types of fires that are possible, and which methods work best to extinguish them. It wasn't all book work and PowerPoints either. They had a very elaborate fire yard to help us with practical application.

We also learned different means of escaping a smoke filled room.

When we weren't in classes, we spent most of our time out and about seeing the sites. Now, Aberdeen is not well-known for its tourism, so catering to that crowd is held at a minimum. However, we were still able to see many wonderful things.
Downtown Aberdeen:

The architecture:

Random Cool Buildings:

But I think one of the best parts was their polite way of telling you what the speed limit was:

How courteous of them!