ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- "General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations."
After this call, Sailors know things are serious. Every person on the ship rushes to their respective battle stations. Sweat dripping, hoses hissing, team leads shouting, the call comes. "All hands prepare to abandon ship." Silence follows after the call.
Would you know what to do? Sailors aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) conducted abandon-ship training in the hangar bay and on the flight deck, May 3, in order to prepare for this kind of situation.
Abandon-ship drills teach the crew the locations of their life raft stations, as well as train them on crucial survival skills. Sailors learn subjects from how to safely jump from the ship to where they can obtain life jackets.
After the commanding officer has deemed it necessary to abandon ship, the tactical action officer (TAO) will make an announcement over the 1MC shipboard announcement system. Next, the TAO will follow with important information such as the distance to nearest land, whether that land is friendly or hostile, wind direction and speed, and water temperature. Sailors then muster with their respective departments on the flight deck and in the hangar bay to receive further instruction. For many, the abandon ship drill was their first time receiving such information.
"It was pretty cool going through this training," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Demarcus Wilkins. "It is my first time practicing abandon ship, and I learned a lot of valuable information that I can use in the rare event that anything happens. It is a very unlikely scenario. But there is always a chance that it could happen, and I'm glad I learned what I did."
Sailors learned that the Mk. 8 life rafts aboard Abraham Lincoln can hold up to 50 people and are located in the catwalks on the starboard and port sides of the ship. These life rafts can be deployed manually, or they will automatically inflate when submerged 10-40 feet underwater. The rafts contain survival equipment, including a desalinator, 50 bottles of fresh water, food rations for each passenger, a pressure relief valve retainer, two storage bags for collecting rain water, a flashlight, six flashlight batteries, a fluorescent sea marker canister, signaling mirror, sponge, knife, whistle, cups, fishing kit and first aid kit.
"It is important that Sailors know all of the lifesaving gear aboard the life raft," said Master Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel Heeter, Abraham Lincoln's combat systems department leading chief petty officer. "Every piece of equipment in that raft is designed to keep you alive, and it is important to know what you have to work with."
Sailors must maintain a strict chain of command while on the life raft. The senior ranking Sailor on the raft will act as the officer in charge (OIC). In the event that a chaplain or corpsman, nurse or doctor is on the raft, they will not fall into the general chain of command, as they have different roles to play on the raft. If they are the highest ranking Sailor in the raft, then the next senior person in rank must act as the OIC.
"We play a supportive role," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Thomas Gordan. "The scope of practice for a health care provider is to render aid. We are here to focus on the patient."
The last time Navy Sailors had to abandon a ship was in World War II. While it is a rare emergency, it is still a possibility. This training walks Sailors through every step they need to take in case of this event.
"Sailors shouldn't have to think about what they are doing if they have to abandon ship," said Heeter. "The reason we do this training is to build it into memory. In the event that this happens, Sailors should act exactly as they did today. It is important to remember the little things, like bringing your cover to protect you from the sun and remembering to write down all of the information you receive such as closet land and water temperature."
Sailors must keep a clear mind when an emergency like this arises. Staying calm, collected and professional are key elements that help this situation run as smoothly as possible.
"The order to abandon ship is to save lives," said Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate Scott Simpson, deck department's leading chief petty officer. "But it's easy to make the incorrect decision when panic overtakes your thought process. These decisions are usually a result of a lack of training or not thinking clearly. We hope this would never happen, but if it did, we need Sailors to stay calm and remember their training."
In an emergency such as abandon ship, knowledge is key.
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For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.