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Suited Up To Survive

Category: General Article

Every summer, the members of the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Youth Volunteer Program participate in a unique opportunity designed to familiarize them with the gear and techniques used to survive an emergency at sea. The Aquarium offers this training because many teen volunteers may be interested in careers which would require them to work on boats and ships.

The training includes learning the proper way to put on survival suits, affectionately called “Gumby suits” because they make the participants look like the famous clay cartoon character. Once everyone’s suited up, they enter the cold water of the Aquarium’s holding tanks to practice various survival techniques.

Ruby Moon leads the training. Coming from a fishing family, she has a personal investment in sea safety. She reminds the participants that carrying this gear on board a boat and knowing how to use it isn’t just a good idea, it’s required by U.S. maritime law.

Before safety regulations were in place, men and women lost at sea were rarely recovered. Often, rescue efforts weren’t even attempted because they were so unlikely to succeed. Today, better safety protocols, specially designed gear and high-tech communication devices assist the U.S. Coast Guard in launching a rescue and allow more people to survive disasters at sea.

Ruby stresses how the gear is only one component to surviving at sea. Just as important is working cooperatively and maintaining a positive mental attitude. Toward this end, the teens simulate helping an injured person into a life boat and then entertain themselves with songs and games while awaiting rescue.

Despite the inherent risks of working on a boat, most of the volunteers aren’t preoccupied with the thought of having to survive an emergency at sea.

Seventeen-year-old Danyon is a good example. After college, he plans to join the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study whales. When asked if he worries about being in an emergency situation at sea he’s quick to answer: “No, I’m not worried about it at all. But it’s still a really good idea to know how to use the equipment, because anything can happen and you should be prepared.”

You can see more about the Youth Volunteer’s safety training by viewing the video Ready, Set, Suit Up! shown to the right.

Related information: Water and Beach Safety | Lifesaving Services on the Oregon Coast

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Ready, Set, Suit Up!

Youth volunteers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium squeeze into what they call "Gumby suits," strange-looking safety gear which will increase your chances of surviving a disaster at sea. It's all part of an annual training to prepare youth for potential marine careers.