Monday, 17 December 2007

A good servicing

Lifejackets are probably the most important piece of PPE (personal protective equipment) that we have. We have 22 in total, 11 ALB and 11 ILB. Both jackets are made by Crewsaver to the RNLI's spec. The ALB jacket has no natural buoyancy but has 2 inflatable bladders, 1 that fires automatically if the wearer enters the water, the other is fired manually to give extra buoyancy to support another person or help if you're going to be in the water for any length of time. The ILB jacket has built in foam buoyancy and a single manually activated bladder to provide extra support. They are exchanged annually, usually towards the end of February for our station, but we are required to service them every 3 months to ensure that everything is as it should be. If a jacket is used in anger, ie inflated, then it must be serviced before it is made available to the crew again. Monday night is the night that myself, Paul, Skid, Kev and a few others, Mr B, Matt and Ollie turned up tonight, go to the station to do routine maintenance. Given the cold North Easterly wind that was whistling through the station being upstairs in the crew room seemed like an excellent idea.

We usually start with the ALB jackets as they're the most time consuming, complicated and awkward to repack. The first thing to do is to remove the 2 CO2 gas cylinders and inflate the jacket using the oral inflation tubes.

With the jacket inflated as hard as you can get it (this shows the smokers versus the non-smokers!) you can then start to check the webbing straps, the light, the flares, lifeline and the general condition of the material. After about 10 or 15 mins its pretty obvious whether the jacket is losing air or not, if all's well then all the air is let out the CO2 cylinders are re-fitted (failing to do this, packing the jacket away and then finding them on the table where you left them is called 'Doing a Shi' due to the number times that he manages to do this!). Once all the air is expelled and with a bit of careful folding the jacket is back to a usuable state. The servicing log is then signed along with the label on the jacket itself.
Once all the ALB jackets are done its time to move onto the ILB jackets. These are split up slightly as there are 3 that are used just for the ALB slip the only difference is that they don't have the 2 day/night flares fitted. The jackets are serviced in the same way but as they have foam buoyancy there is only 1 inflatable bladder to inflate . . that's good as some people are getting a little out of breath by now!

Once again you need to check the straps, light, lifeline and flares (if fitted). Once you're happy the air can be let out, the gas bottle re-fitted and the jacket packed away, again the servicing log has to be signed along with the label on the jacket. Its always interesting to see where some of these jackets have been and wonder what sort of shouts they've been out on before we got them.

Luckily tonight we didn't find too much wrong, just a cracked flare cap and a light that wouldn't turn off after testing. These were easily rectified and with the extra help that we had tonight all the jackets were done in just under 90 mins, not too bad at all. With that done and no more working Monday evenings this year (I won't make them do Xmas eve and New Year's eve!) we retired to the East Bar.


Mart said...

Another interesting post thankyou. Something else that I would have never thought about!

Why are there different life jackets for ILBs and ALBs?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I'm glad someone out there is reading it :o)

The main reason for the different jackets is that the ILB jackets get very wet and the crew are often in the water (launching/recovering the boat for example). Having an auto inflating lifejacket in this situation would mean that the jacket was always inflating and getting in the way. Hope that makes sense.

Savage Family said...

I'm reading too! Interesting posts, particularly today's about the pagers as I'm a techno geek and find that sort of stuff interesting.

Look forward to more.....

Have a nice Christmas all on the Swanage lifeboat....

Mart said...

Ah yes that would have been quite obvious had I read it properly and seen the bit about auto inflating! lol. Have their ever been instances of them inflating when someones got quite wet but is still on deck of the boat?

Thanks for taking the time to post in John's abscene it is all interesting stuff!

Anonymous said...

Hi again

The way that the auto-inflate mechanism works it really needs the jacket to be immersed in water. That said they do go off from time to time, mostly when the 'Jerk to inflate' tab gets caught on something. These tags allow the wearer to manually trigger inflation.

Hope that clears things up. The other thing I should have mentioned is the reason that we don't wear ILB jackets on the ALB. That's pretty much just down to their size and bulk. You also get pretty hot wearing them, nice on a cold day, not ideal in the wheelhouse!