Smart Phone App usage at sea

Are App-Based Alarms Reliable for Man-Overboard Rescue?

Fall overboard (FOB) occurrences are much more common than we would like to believe. A simple trip on the deck or dock, excessive speed, or even a storm can cause people to fall off the boat. The problem is that within seconds, the fall overboard victim can drift at least 100 feet from the boat, making it difficult to find the person who fell overboard. It is critical to wear a PFD, but just as important is to invest in an alarm to notify the boat and crew of the man-overboard for immediate rescue. This testimonial highlights how fast a fall overboard can happen.

As the reliance on our smartphones continues to increase, so does the usage of apps as utilities and even man-overboard alarms. Over the last 3 years, several apps have been created to serve as man-overboard alarms. These apps rely on Bluetooth technology to notify the app of a loss signal i.e. man-overboard and trigger an alarm on the phone. I decided to do a little research to better understand the reliability of these apps as a man-overboard alarm. I summarized my learnings below. Although an app can appear cheap and easy to use, there are a lot of variables to manage – fully charged phone battery, open application, phone/tablet readily available, reliable Bluetooth connection, and more. In conclusion, when it comes to boat safety and preventing needless man-overboard injuries and fatalities, it is worth it to invest in an alarm system that you can set and forget.

Connection Reliability and False Alarms

These app-based systems trigger an alarm when the beacons or devices worn by the person lose connection with the phone app. This connection is relying on Bluetooth. Unfortunately, Bluetooth on a good day has a range of about 150 feet and can be much less on a phone. This reliability on Bluetooth on a boat has resulted in triggering many false alarms. The person wearing the beacon may just be going down to the galley of the boat, lose Bluetooth connection, and then the app triggers the man-overboard alarm. These false alarm triggers can become exhausting to manage and even result in losing trust in the application, never knowing if the alarm is indicating a real man-overboard situation or just another false alarm. When it comes to investing in a man-overboard alarm, it is critical to have a system in place that you can trust the connection, signal, and viability of the alert to be able to respond immediately.

Charged Phone or Tablet Battery and Battery Consumption

Reliance on an app also means that you are reliant on your phone or tablet. Unfortunately, this means that your phone needs to be fully charged, readily available, and most likely connected to power as the Bluetooth will quickly drain battery life on the device. The reality is that most people don’t have a fully charged device on hand. If the device is charged, it will not stay charged for long, in which case it needs to be connected to a power source and therefore not as readily available in case of a fall overboard emergency.

Software and Hardware Compatibility

Most of these app-based systems require your smartphone or tablet to have Bluetooth 4.0 or higher. They also have hardware requirements i.e. iPhone/iPad 5 or later. Hardware and software systems are constantly evolving, which may require investments in hardware and software on a more regular basis to ensure that the app can be used.

Phone or Tablet Location and Availability

The reliance on the app’s device may require a dedicated tablet or phone just for this app-based man-overboard alarm system. We are used to living with our phones tethered to our bodies – in our pockets, hands, and sometimes we even forget where we leave them. This app will not be effective if it is in the man overboard’s pocket or somewhere else on the boat that is not easily accessible.

Alarm System Setup and Pairing Devices to the App

As easy as it can be to download an app to a tablet or smartphone, it can still be challenging to pair the man-overboard beacons to the app. Some of the forums that I came across indicated that it was sometimes very challenging to pair the beacons to the app.

When it comes to man-overboard safety, it is critical to know that the connection between the transmitter or beacon and the receiver or app is reliable and constant. When it comes to setting up any system, ease-of-setup is essential and the ALERT Transmitter and Receiver are created to automatically connect and maintain that connection at all times.

Fall-Overboard Rescue

When it comes to an actual fall overboard situation, it is critical that the alarm immediately alerts the crew and that there is a way to locate the man-overboard person. Some of these apps can take 5-10 seconds to sound the alarm after losing connection. In a man-overboard situation, every second counts. By 10 seconds a person may already have drifted 100 yards. Click here for an article about the activity of a fall overboard situation within the first minute.

There is a high likelihood that someone could fall overboard when it is dark or there is low lighting. Ideally, there is lighting on the man-overboard device to help find the person who fell overboard. It is best to have a device that has a strong light on it to help identify the person in the water. Some app-based systems don’t have LED lights on the units attached to the person involuntarily in the water. This could mean the difference between life and death.

There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace for effective fall overboard alerting. Emerald Marine Products has compiled both a presentation and an article to hopefully clarify the strengths and weaknesses of the products and technology acting as fall overboard alarms. Emerald Marine Products specializes in products specific to fall overboard situations. Alerting, training, retrieval, and recovery – the complete package to put you and your crew at ease when concerned about someone involuntarily entering the water.

Learn more about Emerald Marine Products’ set it and forget it man-overboard alarm system. For additional information about preventing fall overboard occurrences, check out Key Learnings from the American Waterways Operator’s committee panel discussion.


Confusing terms of man-overboard alerting products.

Confusion About Man Overboard Alerting Devices?

MSLD, EPIRBs, Personal Locator Beacons, are all search terms that define a device to alert of a person unintentionally in the water. Regardless of the term, our product if the most proven and defined Fall Overboard Alerting Product on the market.

There are about a dozen products on the market that are identified as fall-overboard locator beacon products. Two commonly used terms now used to market these devices are “Maritime Survivor Locating Devices (MSLD)” and a more recently introduced term, “Personal Man Overboard Beacons”. They are generally placed in five different categories:

    1. Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)
    2. VHF DSC frequency 156.525 (Channel 70)
    3. 121.5 MHz distress channel
    4. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon ( EPIRBs) transmitting to the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite
    5. Proximity transmission

In our article that goes into detail about these different type of alerting devices, we hope to clear up some of the confusion. To read the article, click here.

 


United States Coast Guard

United States Coast Guard Issues Safety Alert Reassessing Man-Overboard Risks

On April 24th, The United States Coast Guard released a Safety Alert reassessing man-overboard risks in response to a fatality that occurred while a personnel exchange was taking place at sea. You can read the full Safety Alert here  In the Alert it was stated, The ship’s Boatswain and Ordinary Seaman (OS) were manning the port side shell access port and pilot embarkation space behind a hydraulically operated bi-fold hatch door and were preparing for the pilot’s arrival. The port was located forward of the house and approximately 13-feet above the waterline. The Boatswain and OS were unable to monitor the seas from their position behind the hatch door. As the two crew members were in the process of opening the door, seas unexpectedly struck and violently forced it open, flooding the space. The OS was not wearing a harness or safety line nor a personal flotation device; he was subsequently swept out to sea. The Boatswain was forced onto the deck whereby the pilot ladder fell on him, fracturing his leg. The side shell door also sustained structural damage during the incident. Coast Guard Sector New York launched an extensive search and rescue mission that was terminated with no success after 28 hours. The OS was lost and presumed dead.”

The Safety Alert goes on to state, “This casualty reiterates the dangers of personnel exchanges at sea, especially in heavy weather conditions”. Emerald Marine Products agrees that casualty can occur in heavy weather conditions but we have historically seen casualties and near fatalities relating to man-overboard incidents occurring even in calm weather conditions. As reported in the past, man-overboard incidents are caused from many conditions, such as tripping on misplaced objects, dehydration, exhaustion, poor training. Regardless of weather, actions should be taken by companies to assure their employees are protected.

The Safety Alert goes on to state; “The Coast Guard strongly recommends owners and operators of deep draft vessels:

  • Review vessel Safety Management Systems, procedural manuals and guidance that relate to pilot transfers and update as appropriate, considering risks revealed by this casualty;
    • Reinforce the importance for crew members to wear personal protection devices and safety lines when working over the side of a vessel, when exposed to the elements or when there is an absence of a barrier that prevents an accidental water entry;
    • Ensure officers and crew identify potential hazards and conduct a risk assessment, to include consideration of weather conditions, prior to opening the side shell port hatches;
    • Ensure crew communications between Navigation Watch Officers and crew are clear and provide suitable supervision of activities, considering sea state and other changing conditions.”

Emerald Marine Products has heard that more Form CG-835V have been issued to companies that don’t fully comply with Management Safety Systems (SMS) or Towing Safety Management Systems (TSMS). In light of this latest Safety Alert, we are sure the US Coast Guard will be actively looking at many companies compliance with SMS or TSMS.

When companies review their SMS or TSMS policies they should seriously look at the ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System. In the case of the tragedy outlined earlier, the use of the ALERT system would have helped to track the seaman who was swept out to sea. The ALERT Man-Overboard System is recognized as the leading and fastest indicator of a man-overboard situation. Our automatic water activated transmitters report to the wheelhouse or other monitoring station within seconds of a MOB. A visual of a person in the water will assure a quick response and will be integral in the execution of your MOB recovery outlined in your SMS or TSMS. Why not invest in an alerting system that compliments your mandated MOB procedures? The investment is a fraction of your cost to implement a SMS or TSMS and will pay dividends by providing your employees with the confidence that in the event of a man-overboard incident, the crew will be notified within seconds, and tracking in the event that the MOB is lost will help in their quick recovery.

For more information about our products and how we help companies comply with their Safety Management System or Towing Safety Management System procedures, contact Emerald Marine Products via this contact link or call, 800-426-4201.


Best Man Overboard System Isn’t Just for Falling Overboard

From the Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies comes this startling statistic; “Workers at marine terminals have higher fatality, injury and illness rates than other workers in the U.S. In 2016 there were approximately 98,000 marine terminal and longshoring workers employed at U.S. ports. From 2011–2016 fatal injuries occurred at an annual rate of 17.0 per 100,000 workers, a rate more than five times that of the U.S. workforce overall. In the same period, there were also an average of 5,015 nonfatal injuries/illnesses per 100,000 workers each year, nearly double that of the U.S. workforce overall.

Emerald Marine Products has seen a significant increase in the use of our ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System due to the concerns for employees higher than average fall rate and industries moving to do more with less, which means some marine terminal locations may only have one or two employees doing the work. The “look out for your buddy” system of being aware of a person in the water isn’t very effective.

Marine Terminals specializing in transferring fertilizer, aggregate, or other agricultural products are seeing the cost-effectiveness and increased safety awareness by placing an ALERT Man-Overboard System at their location. The product not only alerts any individuals at that location that a worker is in the water, it can also be connected to other devices. Providing a regional or national center to be aware of an employee in the water and launch a rescue operations within seconds!

Originally the ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm system was developed for commercial fishermen and crew members of vessels where their chance of falling in water was great due to hauling gear on board, handling gear on deck, tripping, slipping or getting entangled in gear. But more and more Marine Terminal Operators are understanding the fact that their shore-side workers vulnerability is just as great, if not greater. Any fall in the water is scary and could be fatal, so the awareness of a person in the water is vital to a fast and successful rescue. Don’t let the term Man-Overboard Alarm System misguide you, our ALERT system is meant for any responsible company that has employee’s working near water. If your company has employees at any risk of falling in water and that event is undetected, you are at risk of significant liability issues. The ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System is the best man overboard system and could be a wise and financially prudent investment. For more information about our product and how it can keep your employees safe contact Emerald Marine Products via this contact link or call, 800-426-4201.


Fall Overboard Tragedy Can be Prevented

ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System

ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System protects all people on or near water.

As a manufacturer of products specific to fall overboard alerting and retrieval, we monitor the news for fall overboard incidents. Just today we read about two fatalities that occurred, each when a worker fell into the water and no one was aware of the issue until it became tragic. The Maritime Executive Online reported, “In the early hours of Saturday morning, a deckhand disappeared from a moored towboat on the Mississippi River at St. Joseph, Louisiana. The Coast Guard, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and the local sheriff’s department conducted a search of the river all day Saturday – including dragging the river and scanning with sonar – but without success. The search resumed Sunday morning.” In the same online issue of The Maritime Executive Online reported , “At about 1700 hours Sunday, Sector Honolulu received a distress call from the master of the fishing vessel Kawaiola, who reported that one of their crewmembers had gone overboard. The missing fisherman was last seen on the deck of the vessel at 1430 hours, and the crew did not realize that he was no longer aboard until several hours had passed.”

Two different locations, two different industries, two different work environments but both ended in the same outcome – a person fell into the water and no one was aware of this fall-overboard until minutes, even hours passed before this person was missed. We don’t know the details of these tragedies but we do know the use of an ALERT Man-Overboard transmitter on that worker could have averted the tragedy by altering the crew and vessel of a man-overboard (MOB).

Even if the person is wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), which definitely can give the person a greater opportunity for survival, there is still a need to alert the vessel that the person fell from, as this is the greatest chance of survival. The ALERT Transmitter immediately notifies the boat that a MOB has occurred, quickly calling into action all eyes and able bodies to rescue the man-overboard in minutes.

Emerald Marine Products is moved by these tragedies to reach out to the fishing community and to other small business that rely on the health and safety of their workers to continue to prosper in a very competitive and physically challenging work environment. We ask these enterprises to seriously consider investing in wearing and using PFD’s. We promise to do all we can to make our ALERT product available to you at a discount so finances are not the issue in preventing fishermen or small businesses from using a fall overboard alarm system. Because our ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System is automatic and water activated, when the person falls overboard, conscious or not, PFD wearer or not, the device when it gets wet will begin to transmit to the ALERT Receiver and within seconds the alarm is alerting all those in the area of a fall overboard situation.

We encourage solo fishermen, small fishing companies, non-profits catering to the commercial fishing industry, and other small businesses with employees working on or near water to contact us and see if we can help protect their fleets, We’d love to see these all too familiar headline’s about “Disappearing Deckhand” and “Search for Missing Fisherman” to have a better end to the story. A headline that reads, “Fisherman Falls Overboard and is Rescued by Crew”. Life saved, a story with a much better ending than the one’s we read all too often.


Fall Overboard Situations Presentation


Now available is a presentation given to the Signal Mutual Safety Meeting about Fall Overboard Situations, their cause, and solutions for fall overboard alerting and retrieval.


ALERT418 Man-Overboard Alarm System Introduction Video Now Available

Curious about our two ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm Systems? This new video provides information about the ALERT2 and ALERT418 systems. Their similarities and the improvements made with the new ALERT418 system.


Good News about OSCAR!

OSCAR – Water Rescue Training Dummy available in two colors.

Now available for special order is a high visibility Orange version of our popular OSCAR – Water Rescue Training Dummy(TM). Please specify the Orange version when ordering. Buy now as OSCAR – Water Rescue Training Dummy price increases to $749 on February 1, 2018.


Man-Overboard alert on Rosepoint Softwware.

COLD WEATHER COMPOUNDS MAN-OVERBOARD SITUATION

Man-Overboard alert on Rosepoint Softwware.

Man-Overboard alert on Rosepoint Software.

Whether on deck or shoreside, frigid weather is fatiguing and increases the chance of falling, especially when restrictive clothing that hinders normal balance is worn. If someone goes overboard, the situation is compounded by cold water shock. Emerald Marine Products’ ALERT Man-Overboard System is a simple, proven solution that instantly notifies those within the immediate area. It provides rescuers the extra seconds needed to keep the fall from becoming a fatality.
Water that’s only 60° is cold enough to generate muscle spasms, a gasp reflex and hyperventilation if fallen into. Sudden immersion can paralyze muscles and even cause a cardiac arrest. Unlike warm water, the MOB victim is unlikely to be able to shout. That’s what makes the ALERT System ideal for cold-weather workers.
In its most basic form, the ALERT system is a water-activated transmitter worn on a lifejacket and a receiver, typically installed in a wheelhouse or job office. When the device is submerged, it triggers the receiver’s alarm and flashing light, instantly notifying coworkers. The system can be wired to kill engines, set a chartplotter or GPS waypoint, and activate external strobes and speakers.


ALERT418 at WorkBoat Show!

ALERT418 Receiver and Transmitter

ALERT418 Receiver and Transmitter.

Emerald Marine Products announces a significant advancement in MOB protection: the state-of-the-art ALERT418® Man-Overboard Receiver. Integrating fully with current and first-generation ALERT transmitters, it’s ideal for commercial applications such as workboats, gas and oil platforms, ports and marine terminals, and shoreside construction sites. The innovative device leverages the latest advancements in electronics technology, while maintaining its predecessor’s proven and enviable safety record.

When an ALERT transmitter is submerged, the ALERT418 receiver instantly flashes and sounds a piercing alarm in a wheelhouse or shoreside office.

The ALERT418 Man-Overboard Receiver interfaces with popular NMEA 0183-compliant chartplotting software, so a waypoint can automatically be set upon transmitter activation. Additionally, it can be wired to kill engines, and activate external strobes and speakers.

What separates the ALERT system from AIS is its immediacy. It uses a radio signal, so there’s no satellite lag or waiting for an open channel. With a moving vessel, or river or tidal flow, an MOB victim can be swept out of sight quickly. The ALERT418 Man-Overboard Receiver provides the added seconds needed to keep a simple fall from becoming a fatality.

The ALERT418 product line will be available for demonstration at the Byrne, Rice & Turner Booth 1521 at this year’s Workboat show being held from November 29th through December 1 in New Orleans.

For further information contact Emerald Marine Products at 800-426-4201. Hope to see you at the show!