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Safer at sea

By Kimberley Thornhill

The sounds of a thunder and lightning storm. One-metre-high waves. Eighty kilometre winds gusting horizontally. And a helicopter module suspended over water below.

These are just some of the conditions that can be created in a new environmental theatre and helicopter underwater escape trainer introduced at the Marine institute's Offshore Safety and Survival Centre (OSSC) in Foxtrap recently.

The equipment is aimed at enhancing safety and survival training for individuals working in the province's fisheries, marine and offshore industries.

"We believe it is critical for those that work in our marine industries to have the best safety and survival training possible and the highest standard in training equipment available to them," said Glenn Blackwood, vice-president, Memorial University (Marine Institute). "Students will encounter a new level of realism in their marine and offshore safety training programs using this training system. It's a realism that will contribute greatly to the overall approach to safety training."

The integrated training system features three key components: an environmental simulation system, a new helicopter underwater escape training simulator (HUET) and a specialized personnel rated crane system.

Students will use the training system to practise emergency surface evacuation drills, underwater escape techniques and emergency breathing systems/spare air devices.

The equipment includes an environmental simulation capability which allows students to experience typical wind, rain and sound conditions that might be present in a real emergency situation at sea. A wave generating system is capable of generating waves up to one metre high.

Full control of the environmental simulation, including wave height and spectrum, audio and visual effects such as thunder and lightning, wind speed and rainfall intensity is affected from a single touch screen control panel.

The HUET accommodates up to 12 students plus two instructors for training scenarios. It is configured and outfitted to provide a high fidelity representation of the cabin interior of the Sikorsky S-92 currently used in Atlantic Canada's offshore industry. The design and construction of the HUET is modular, allowing it to be configured to accurately represent other helicopter models should this be required. The installation of the new equipment was made possible by a $3,071,500 donation from Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. (HMDC). The system was supplied and installed by Survival Systems Limited of Dartmouth, N.S.

"Training helps give students the confidence to know what to do in an emergency response situation," said Mr. Blackwood. "The installation of this equipment also broadens our capability to conduct further research into safety and survival techniques that can be applied in our marine industries."

The Marine Institute's new environmental theatre and helicopter underwater escape trainer will be immediately operational at the Offshore Safety and Survival Centre and be used in training courses for the marine industries.