SOP 3.1: Arrival to the scene of the incident (RCC)
To ensure correct tasks and measures for the applicable units, find out about available resources as well as the capabilities of the Search and Rescue units (SRUs) on-scene. Information on the following facts will assist the decision- making process when planning tasks for units:
• Rescue vessels with the capability of entering and working in the hazardous atmosphere (hot and warm zones – rescue operations)
• Rescue vessels with limited capability or without the capability of entering hazardous atmosphere (cold zone – isolation and support)
• Rescue craft on board rescue vessels that can be used for transport, boarding and evacuation (hot and warm zones)
• Other vessels in the area (cold zone or outside the restriction area – support and transport)
• Available aircraft for transport/ reconnaissance
• Available special groups (e.g. Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG))
• Capacity for detection and monitoring
• Capacity for decontamination and first aid / emergency medical care
• Capacity of the available personnel
• Available Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Response equipment
3.1.2 HNS risk assessment
The available Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) and risk information should be requested from experts. When evaluating the risks on-scene, information on the suggested area restrictions, safe direction to approach the dangerous area, suggested working zone definitions (incl. entry and exit points), possible explosive, flammable or toxic hazard involved, drifting calculations (prediction tools) and latest weather forecast should be available.
Rescue Coordinating Centre (RCC) coordinates distress communication in the area and determines the channels and frequencies that can be used in different sections of the rescue operation. Inform participating units about the on-scene communication table, including back-up channels, to ensure that all necessary information will reach all relevant units on-scene.
3.1.4 Rescue operation
Depending on the situation, the rescue action option can be offensive (e.g. rescuing persons and active efforts to minimize the effect of HNS), defensive (e.g. rescuing and evacuating persons) or even non-intervention if the situation is too risky for rescue personnel to enter the distressed vessel or response actions are impossible to execute, for example due to the chemical reaction on board the distressed vessel.
In the rescue plan, at least the following procedures should be planned and performed:
• Area isolation procedures • Protection procedures (both vessel and personnel)
• Preparation process to receive contaminated persons
• Supportive procedures (transport, safe environment, first aid, equipment and material)
• Rescue procedures
To ensure and secure continuous and effective SAR operation, the supportive procedures such as replacement of personnel, materials and equipment have to be organised in the early planning phase.
After the planning process is completed and the first action plan formulated, the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator (SMC) or On-scene Coordinator (OSC) should consult with the master of the DV and inform all SRUs on-scene.
This first on-scene rescue plan should include at least the following information:
• Planned tasks and possible actions on-scene for each SRU
• HNS risk information (explosive, flammable, etc.)
• Status of the distressed vessel (HNS situation on board)
• Area restrictions
• Safe direction for SRUs to approach and authorization process to enter the restricted area
• Detection and monitoring plan
• Entry points to the warm and hot zones
• Emergency plan (e.g. withdrawal in case of an unexpected deterioration)
• Estimations / drifting calculations
• Regular Situation reports (SITREPs) to SRUs and other maritime traffic in the area The rescue action plan should be updated regularly to respond to alterations in the situation.
SOP 3.2: Arrival to the scene of incident (SRU)
3.2.1 Safety measures
Prior to entering the incident area, the Search and Rescue Units (SRUs) should prepare and test the vessel- specific protection systems according to the organisational, vessel-specific and system-based safety procedures. The correct function of the following systems is crucial when entering the hazardous atmosphere:
• Pressurization of the vessel (i.e. overpressurizing system, back-up systems and devices)
• Gas detection, monitoring and analysing systems
• Equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX)
• Water curtain or water spray system
• Water and/or foam cannons and monitors
• Emergency evacuation and rescue plan
All the spaces and equipment needed in the Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) incident should be tested prior to arriving on-scene. These spaces and equipment contain emergency medical care or first aid facilities, decontamination procedures for the casualties and rescue personnel, available and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), other protective equipment and portable or hand-held detection and measurement equipment.
3.2.2 Detection and measurement
When arriving at the area, arrange continuous monitoring to detect possible HNS from the air or from the water surface. This action is needed to formulate and update areas where the HNS concentration is at the risk level due to its toxicity or explosiveness/ flammability. Oxygen deficiency is also important to monitor, as the plume or cloud can initially decrease the oxygen content of the air. Monitoring should be continuous and the results of the measurements reported to the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) for updating the rescue plan and area restrictions. To identify the involved substance(s) and concentration, air (and water) samples should be taken from the area if possible.
3.2.3 Remote sensors
To avoid unnecessary risk, the first stage detection should be done using remote gas detection and monitoring devices (e.g. systems using infra-red light) or specific drones designed to detect or take samples from the HNS. Using a thermal imaging system, it is also possible to detect fire or a chemical reaction on board the Distressed Vessel (DV) from a distance.
3.2.4 Fixed and portable sensors
Fixed and portable sensors have to be used for detection and measurements when the SRU intends to enter the hazardous atmosphere on a mission (e.g. rescuing casualties from the dangerous area or when executing the measurement task) or to give an early warning for the crew when approaching the dangerous area. Fixed sensors are often part of the gas detection and analysing system and this system has to be activated when there is a potential risk of HNS.
Portable and handheld devices such as gas tracing tubes, portable gas chromatographs, photoionisation instruments, flammability risk- monitoring devices, and oxygen- deficient air monitoring devices are compulsory for the teams for monitoring or identifying the substance(s) in the area.
3.2.5 Visual monitoring
To monitor a possible HNS gas cloud or leak visually, weather conditions (wind, humidity, waves) that affect the observation should be taken into account as well as current knowledge of the substance. (However, the HNS involved may not necessarily produce a visible cloud or plume.) The latest weather forecast and drifting estimation should be used to support on-scene monitoring.
3.2.6 Detection and monitoring teams
Prior to launching rescue operations in the hazardous zone, it is essential to monitor the oxygen level, flammable or explosive vapours, and the level of toxic vapours. Plan and order the task for the detection and monitoring patrols. The purpose of these measurements is to define the outer limits of the dangerous area to determine the area restrictions as well as to take samples to identify the substance and concentration involved. The applicable rescue craft or tender could be used when the possible dangerous area is around the distressed vessel. Teams should have the following information prior to executing the task:
• Sampling plan (starting point, route, safe direction and distance to approach etc.)
• Appropriate detection and measurement equipment
• Applicable rescue craft or tender and equipment (e.g. risk of explosive or flammable substance on the area)
• First team to enter dangerous area in situation where HNS is not identified should be equipped with the highest possible PPE level
3.2.7 Situation Report (SITREP)
RCC should be informed by the SRUs at regular intervals concerning the situation on-scene, weather conditions, ongoing and planned activities and results from the measurements. Request the information of the updated drifting estimation and weather forecast from the RCC or experts.
Authorization for the SRUs and other maritime traffic to enter the area should be coordinated and done in cooperation with the RCC.