Firefighting is dangerous, scary work even when it’s done on solid ground where firemen can fall back if the flames get too fierce.
Sailors at sea, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. They have to battle the fire on a ship filled with fuel. And failure means that the ship, the only home they have on the waves, will sink and take some of their brothers with it.
To keep everyone as safe as possible, the Navy uses dedicated firefighters and cross-trains some sailors to assist them in an emergency. Here’s how they prepare to protect their floating cities from burning up:
1. They conduct frequent drills in their firefighting equipment.
2. They keep full firefighting suits on board and practice using them in hallways and other tight areas.
3. To help them spot flames behind bulkheads or in sections filled with thick smoke, firefighters carry thermal imaging devices.
4. The Navy Firefighting Thermal Imager displays infrared video that can show sources of heat even when there’s no visible light or thick smoke obscures firefighters’ vision.
5. Firefighters have to operate as teams to stay safe in flame-filled areas of the ship.
6. The ship’s spaces can turn into a living hell once the flames start to spread.
7. Frequent communication is key to keeping everyone safe and fighting the fire.
8. While firefighters are forced to concentrate on saving the ship, rescuing injured personnel is also a huge part of the mission.
9. If an aircraft is aflame on the flight deck, sometimes the best option is to cut out any survivors and then throw the plane or helicopter overboard. The Navy practices for this possibility on land.
10. It’s best to fight fires while they’re small, which is why suited up firefighters will position themselves to respond during dangerous landings.
11. Ships have some automated systems to help firefighters. Here, sailors practice with firefighting foam during ship trials.
12. Sailors often compete in “Damage Control Olympics” where they try to show who’s the best at putting out fires and other damage control activities.
13. Other preventative training includes simulated firefighting on the ship.
14. Different flags are used for various types of fire, and observers will keep track of how teams respond.
15. Teams learn to respond during an actual emergency through realistic training scenarios.
16. There’s just a thin yellow line between sailors and the potentially catastrophic danger of a fire, and the Navy works hard to make sure that line is as robust as possible.