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Submarine Escape Procedures

Michael Menor Professor Cady English 151 25 February 2013 Submarine Escape Procedures There are many catastrophes that can affect the operation of a submarine; fire and flooding can crimple a submarine completely if either is not resolved quickly. Submariners are trained to combat all forms of fire and flooding in different scenarios that are closely monitored in Submarine School. As a last resort, sailors are also trained in submarine escape in the very rare occasion that they must escape from the ship.

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Submarine escape is only effective at depths less than 600 feet; escape any greater depth would be impossible. Michael Menor deployed with two nuclear fast-attack submarines; the USS Santa Fe and the USS Albuquerque; during his four and a half year enlistment in the United States Navy. He is well versed in submarine escape and hopes that this will give you an understanding on how to escape from the depths of the sea. Every ship is equipped with two escape trunks, or hatches as some may call it; one forward and aft, both of which have similar dimensions and operation procedures.

Each trunk is able to hold two escape personnel. The Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment; also known as a SEIE Suit; is a last resort option if a Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle, or DSRV is unable to save personnel from a disabled submarine. The suit is a single piece construction capable of controlling pressure to prevent decompression sickness, or “the bends”, which is a side effect of rapidly ascending from ocean depths. Each suit is also equipped with a life boat that is contained within a pouch attached to the left hip.

Familiarity with the escape hatch valves is not required; all operations are handled by personnel from within the ship. For the purposes of this procedure we will call these personnel “Supervisors,” since they are usually experienced supervisory personnel with the knowledge of operating the escape hatch. Depending on where the casualty, is you will always want to choose the escape trunk that is not in the affected compartment. Whether it is flooding in the forward compartment; your escape will be in the aft escape trunk in the Engine Room. The same pplies to a casualty in the aft compartment; your escape will be via the forward escape trunk. During this procedure you will be performing all actions from within the forward escape trunk. On the rare occasion that submarine personnel are not able to stop flooding in the engine room that leaves the ship sinking into the depths, and laid to rest on a sea shelf 500 feet below the surface. You will then need to don a SEIE suit by placing both feet into the suit and taking the zipper, which is placed on the outer side of the left leg and pulling this up until it is at your belly button.

As you would put on a coat; place both arms into each sleeve equipped with rubber gloves and flip the hood onto your head. You must then pull on the zipper, which continues upwards centered on your chest, and up to the hood. One common issue that can occur is the zipper getting stuck, or feeling as if it will not budge—remember that it was designed to keep water out of the suit—if this happens you will need to request the assistance of someone else.

Now that you have the suit on you will need to make your way to the escape hatch ladder and climb into the 6 foot cylindrical space, which is only designed to hold two escape personnel; the two of you will be standing directly across from each other with your backs against the bulkhead. There is a charging hose attached to the left arm of your suit, attach this hose to the charging manifold on the bulkhead (wall) located to your left; the charging hose will inflate your suit to create a bubble barrier between you and the outside pressures of the ocean.

Remember this is your source of oxygen, so continuing to keep the charging hose connected during your time in the escape hatch is crucial. As your suits are being charged please keep your feet away from the lower hatch as the Supervisors begin close and seal it. Once it is confirmed sealed a rush of water will begin to flood the hatch. Due to the buoyancy of your inflated suit you will begin to float; do not let this happen. To prevent this there is a handle to your right that you will be able to use to maintain your grip and keep you anchored safely.

Supervisors will then pressurize the hatch to match the outside pressure outside of the hull. The first person that entered hatch will be the first one to escape; once the hatch is clear the second person will wait 30 seconds and follow to prevent getting entangled with one another. Since you are the lucky one to enter first, you will get to escape first. Supervisors will open the upper hatch; continue to maintain your grip until the upper hatch has reached its fully opened and locked position. Supervisors will use a wrench or hammer to knock on the lower hatch three times.

This will give you the signal that the upper hatch is clear and you can escape. Release your grip from both the handle and the charging manifold. Allow the suit to take over as its positive buoyancy lifts you out of the hatch and upwards to the surface. The suit is designed to maintain proper atmospheric pressure for your safety during the ascent; as you will be traveling about 30 feet per second. Upon reaching the surface ensure that you are floating on your back, while in this position you need to reach into the pouch on your left hip and remove the life raft; pull on the yellow handle and allow the raft to self-inflate.

Once inflated pull yourself onto the raft; during this time you can unzip the hood of your suit. The raft comes equipped with a drogue, water desalination kit, and equipment such as smoke signals, and flares to assist with your rescue. Congratulations on your successful escape; now you will wait for rescue personnel to find you and the others from your ship. At the surface it is highly recommended to regroup with other personnel from the ship and tie your rafts together. This will create a larger object for rescuers to spot during their search.