Commercial fishing is a dangerous and challenging occupation. Everyone wants to be safe, but the risk of injury is always there. Adding to the challenges of being at sea in hazardous conditions is the difficulty in finding first aid training that fits the needs of commercial fishermen. The U.S. Coast Guard requires that one or more crewmembers be first aid and CPR trained, but most first aid courses are “land-based” and assume you have quick access to an ambulance and hospital — not what you experience at sea, in poor weather and rough seas, working long hours on physically demanding tasks.
With this in mind, a team from Oregon State University and Oregon Sea Grant developed Fishermen First Aid and Safety Training (FFAST), designed around the principles of wilderness first aid to better enable fishermen to prevent and treat injuries they are likely to encounter at sea. The course meets U.S. Coast Guard requirements for on-board first aid training and complements a U.S. Coast Guard required training commonly known as the “Drill Conductor Course,” where fishermen learn how to conduct safety drills on a regular basis to prepare the crew for emergencies. The training takes into account the small crews, common injuries, vessel environments, cold water, rough seas and delayed emergency response times typical to Pacific Northwest fisheries.
This is the fourth year that OSU is hosting FFAST on the Oregon Coast. Trainings were held in Newport, Astoria and Port Orford between 2016 and spring 2019 as part of a research study looking at injury prevention in the Dungeness crab fishing fleet. This Fall’s courses will take place in Newport on Nov. 5-6. It is free to commercial fishermen and breakfast and lunch are provided thanks to generous support from Brown and Brown Marine Insurers in Newport.
The FFAST course takes 16 hours and includes basic CPR. FFAST has presentations, hands-on skill development and scenarios in which knowledge and skills are put together to respond to a simulated accident or illness. The course focuses on preparing fishermen to respond to common fishery injuries and illnesses ranging from the seasickness or chapped hands all the way to life-threatening injuries such as crush injuries or hypothermia. Topics are specific to fishing situations, such as the challenges of safely moving patients onboard rolling vessels in tight quarters. To pass the course students must demonstrate basic skill and scenario proficiency and pass a final exam with a minimum score of 70 percent.
So far, over 50 commercial fishermen/women have taken the FFAST course and the response has been very positive. OSU marine extension agents are still hearing from fishermen over a year later about how much they learned from the course. One fisherman – James Seitz, of Astoria – said that this is the first training he’s ever done, outside of his military days, that he thought prepared him for situations that he might actually encounter while fishing.
If you are interested in attending the Newport FFAST training in November, or would like more information, please contact Angee Doerr at [email protected] or 541-648-6816. Accommodation requests related to a disability can also be made at that time. You can also find more information about the FFAST course and other fishing safety resources at flippresources.org. For a short video about the course go to: youtu.be/4c3_x4wIYm4.