Worst Case Scenario
Accidents Will Happen Part 2: Accident with Injuries
column, Worst Case Scenario by Kelly Sanford, highlights a hypothetical
situation that captains may experience and offers advice from experts on
how to handle it. The February 2012 column details the responses
necessary for injuries that occur after an accident on board.
The deck crew secure the harness to the first Jet Ski and
lift it from its cradle. The swell causes a pendulum effect once the Jet Ski is
raised from its chocks; worried the ski might hit the boat while being lowered,
a deckhand climbs on the Jet Ski with a fender. The effort is successful, and
he returns to the flybridge for a second trip down.
Amused by the sight of the deckhand descending on a Jet
Ski with a fender, the owner films the process on the aft deck with his cell
phone. To keep the ski from knocking into the fashion boards, the deckhand
leans in to position the fender when the harness suddenly gives way, sending
the deckhand and Jet Ski falling. Due to his position, the deckhand’s body
flips over forward; his lower body hits the rail below and then crashes into
the water alongside the Jet Ski.
The owner witnesses the entire event. As his crew rush to
the deck- hand’s aid, it becomes clear that the situation is life threatening.
Over- come by the events, the owner starts experiencing chest pains and has
trouble breathing. A relaxing day at anchor has suddenly become a multiple
casualty situation and a matter of life or death.
Setting aside the urge to revisit why the protocol of
riding on any- thing being lowered by the davit is not acceptable, there
is the subsequent worst-case scenario. Peril now has two people in need
of urgent medical assistance in a location far from immediate hospital access.
For the best possible outcome in a situation like the one
described, the crew’s level of preparedness is going to be the determining
factor. “For yachts that will navigate to remote areas, there should be a
thorough risk management plan known and understood by the yacht manager,
captain and the chief medical officer...[and] the captain and crew should have
an emergency contact sheet readily available for quick reference,” says Scott
Stamper, senior vice president at Atlass Insurance.
The possibility of a multiple-casualty situation is just
one of many reasons all crew need to have regular practice and training with
emergency situations and basic understanding of the procedural protocol
following an accident.
“The yacht should have an emergency plan and practice
drills occasionally whenever there are any crewmembers on board,” says Rob Carron,
vice president of Marsh’s Luxury Yacht Practice. “All crewmembers should be
required to attend these drills. Everyone on board should be aware of where the
emergency equipment is stored and be current with how to use the equipment in
[a] time of need.”
In a busy season, drills can become cursory and occasionally
delayed due to schedule demands. Yet the potential to be blindsided by a
serious medical emergency is a constant factor. There is no quick-fix
compensation for full preparedness, but keeping all emergency equipment and
information readily accessible and well placarded will bolster the emergency
training and management plan aboard.
In the event of a life and limb situation, access to dedicated
telemedical assistance almost certainly will be an asset and potential game
changer. “MedAire or other similar companies, if pre-contracted, are [an]
excellent risk management tool,” says Stamper. “They are globally available to
provide a wealth of medical related consultation and services; however, they
will not be paying the expenses associated with treatment and/or medical
evacuation.” For this reason, among the list of emergency contacts should be
the yacht’s insurers. “The expenses for emergency medical evacuation via
aviation resources are typically approved only when coordinated by the
insurer,” Stamper says. “In most circumstances, medical evacuation is warranted
only when loss of life or limb are a potential.”
“Always seek the best possible immediate medical
attention available at the time of need,” Carron says. But, while efforts are
being made to stabilize the injured, if it’s clear that emergency transport
will be required, Carron echoes Stamper’s advice to “contact your insurance
broker or carrier as soon as possible. The carrier will assign a representative
who will assist with related questions and [the] procedure to follow.” Obviously,
this is a priority secondary to the immediate medical needs of those in peril.
It’s important to note that certain criteria will deter-
mine whether a medical evacuation will be covered by insurance or whether those
costs — which can be substantial — will fall on the owner’s shoulders. Even if
a medical evacuation is deemed necessary, “This would not necessarily include a
flight back to the U.S. or EU, but to the nearest suitable medical facility,”
In addition to making preparations for medical situations,
and aside from needing to be well versed in the workings and logistical
requirements for running the yacht, savvy captains should take time to learn
the nuances of the yacht’s Protection and Indemnity insurance so they know what
to do and what to expect in an accident’s wake. “There are many different
policy wordings...all with varying levels of coverage,” says Natalya Russkaya
of Atlass Insurance. “A properly written policy will cover most losses, but
ultimately the captain should act as if they did not have insurance and take
every possible precaution to preserve life, limb and property.”