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.


OSCAR – Water Rescue Training Dummy in action

Recently Kenny Brown, Founder of Maritime Throwdown used OSCAR – Water Rescue Training Dummy to show the differences between a retrieval of a Man-Overboard (MOB) with and without proper retrieval equipment. Thank you Kenny for a well produced video. Every maritime company doing MOB drills should look at OSCAR – Water Rescue Training Dummy as a cost-effective and efficient training dummy. Your employees will appreciate both your concern for their lives and their backs as they carry our lightweight (when empty) and full weight (when filled with water) dummy to provide realistic MOB retrieval exercises.


Emerald Marine Products included in the Marine News 100 Recognition

Marine News Issue of the MN100


Emerald Marine Products is pleased to announce that we were selected to be part of the 2018 Marine News MN100. MN100 is Marine News magazine (www.marinelink.com) yearly review of the best companies serving the workboat, brown water, inland and coastal markets. Emerald Marine Products was awarded inclusion in the Equipment/OEM Division for our ALERT418 Man-Overboard Alarm System product. Also cited in the article is our support of safety for the maritime industry for over twenty years with our other products, the ALERT2 Man-Overboad Alarm System and our OSCAR – Water Rescue Training Dummy. We appreciate the recognition and honor of providing safety products to the maritime and other industries working on or near water. For an image of the article, click here.


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.


University Readies Its Ships Against MOB Incident

Safety is important on any boat, even more so when scientists and inexperienced students are working on deck. The School of Oceanography at the University of Washington protects those on board its two research vessels with Emerald Marine Products’ ALERT Man-Overboard (MOB) Alarm Systems™. If someone should fall overboard, an alarm instantly sounds, providing critical extra time for a successful recovery in the cold Pacific Northwest waters and points beyond.

The university purchased ALERT2 systems for its 274′ R/V Thomas G. Thompson and 66′ R/V Clifford A. Barnes. Each is equipped with an ALERT2 Receiver, 18″ whip antenna, seven Transmitters with Spray Tight Pouches and a Man-Overboard Portable Direction Finder to pinpoint the victim in darkness or heavy seas.

Especially on the smaller Clifford A. Barnes, where people are often alone on deck, everyone wears a work vest and has access to a small and lightweight ALERT2 Transmitter. If the unit is immersed in water, it triggers the receiver to activate a piercing alarm in the wheelhouse. Unlike MOB systems that rely on satellites, like AIS, the ALERT2 is instantaneous.

There’s a need for immediacy. At even a mere 3 kts, an MOB will be 100′ astern in just 20 seconds. The sooner crew can launch a locally-managed rescue operation, the greater the success will be.

“We chose the ALERT system because of its simplicity and affordability—it’s a good value,” said Capt. Douglas Russell, manager of marine operations. “And, we received great customer care during the purchase process.” Package prices start as low as $1,068.

Founded in 1930, the Seattle-based School of Oceanography at the University of Washington provides its students with the academic tools and resources to study the marine environment, and its interaction with the earth and atmosphere. It offers baccalaureate and graduate degree programs. Its website is www.ocean.washington.edu.


Man-Overboard Transmitter Becomes the New Standard

Emerald Marine Products announces the release of the ALERT418™ Man-Overboard Transmitter. Made in the USA, the enhanced unit is based on the company’s proven ALERT2 Transmitter, and is compatible with its Man-Overboard alarm system receiver and portable direction finder.

Designed for working mariners, the ALERT418 Man-Overboard Transmitter is smaller and lighter than its predecessor: only 4.25? L x 1.5? W x 1? D and 3.6 oz. For normal working conditions, it’s worn attached to a PFD. A Spray Tight Pouch is available for wet environments. 

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ALERT2 Man-Overboard Alarm System™ versus AIS

There is a lot of hype about an AIS (Automatic Identification System) device as being the solution of a Man-Overboard Alarm device. The truth is, an AIS device is not necessarily the best solution for a Man-Overboard (MOB) situation because of the lag-time associated with its technology. The ALERT2 Man-Overboard System is all about knowing a MOB has occurred in seconds, the greatest chance of rescue is from the vessel the MOB fell from. Here are the differences:
EventALERT2 Man-Overboard Alarm SystemAIS
Fall Overboard (event)Upon immersion the MOB wonders what the heck happened.Upon immersion the MOB wonders what the heck happened.
MOB comes up for air (+10 sec.)Luckily MOB is coherent and now above the waves. MOB looking at surroundings trying to get barrings. At this point the ALERT2 is already transmitting to ALERT2 Receiver.Luckily MOB is alert and now above the waves. MOB looking at surroundings trying to get barrings. Hopefully not panicked, MOB needs to remember how to activate AIS.
What is happening on vessel? (+20 sec.)ALERT2 Receiver howls and crew take action to search for MOB. If the boat has ALERT2 Receiver wired for engine kill, the boat has stopped moving.If MOB is successful, AIS is turned on. If first attempt fails, other manual activation may be required. Once activated AIS searches for GPS coordinates.
Search & Rescue (+30 sec.)Crew on vessel are looking for a visual of MOB. Once sighted, a crew member will lock-on to MOB as others begin rescue.Once GPS coordinates are located, the transmission to AIS-enabled receiver receives broadcast. Furthermore, the AIS icon may appear on the chart plotter as a vessel, not a MOB – so crew may still not be aware of person overboard.
1 minute has passedVessel traveling 6 knots has separated 600 feet from MOB! ALERT2 MOB has either been sighted or ALERT2 Portable Direction Finder is able to home in on signal.Because of lag-time, MOB will probably no longer be in sight. All rescue will be dependent on following GPS coordinates.
3 minutes have passedWith transmission of alarm automatic, evasive action has commenced and rescue is well on way.In reality rescue is probably just beginning.

Check out the ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm Products.

The ALERT Man-Overboard Alarm System is made up of:


Dredger

When Mere Seconds Count

There are a dozen products on the market that are identified as fall-overboard locator beacons. Our product, the ALERT2 Man-Overboard Alarm System™ has two functions that differentiate from the other fall-overboard locator beacons on the market.

For a vessel moving 6 knots, a person who has fallen overboard will drift 100 feet in 10 seconds, 600 feet in 60 seconds. In between that 10 and 60 seconds, even on a clear day, they are no longer visible to the crew on the boat they just fell off of. When time is of the essence, ALERT2 is far superior to the other fall-overboard locator beacons.

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