by CLEMMIE EVERETT
This Summer, the Noroton Yacht Club Junior Sailing instructors worked with Post 53 of the Darien Emergency Medical Services to conduct a simulation of our Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in the waters off Darien, CT.
The instructors went out with several sailors and were beginning normal sailing practice with groups of Lasers, 420s and Optimists, when two instructors, Connor Brady and Laura Cuccio, noticed a 420 sailor waving for help. When they came alongside, he reported that his skipper had hit his head on the boom and fallen into the boat. He was now unresponsive. The instructors immediately radioed into the Noroton Junior Sailing Office for help, and the Office Manager, Charlotte Saxe, confirmed that she would dial 911.
Top photo: Noroton YC instructor Connor Brady notified the club’s Junior Sailing Office of an on-the-water “emergency,” while instructor Laura Cuccio tended to “injured” skipper Will Crane. Calvin Crosby (at right) sailed the 420 to shore. Below: Suspecting a spinal injury, the Emergency Medical Technicians from Darien EMS Post 53 checked the stricken sailor’s vital signs and stabilized him before transporting him to an ambulance.
On the water, Connor and Laura designated another instructor to take responsibility for their class, including the 420 crew who was soon going to be alone in his boat. They quickly pulled the injured sailor out of his boat, being careful to support his head and back and lay him down in their boat. They proceeded to the dock to meet the ambulance crew. Meanwhile, because the weather conditions were safe for sailing, other instructors kept their classes on the water.
Onshore, Charlotte had pulled the injured sailor’s waiver from her files, alerted the launch staff of the emergency, and was outside to meet and direct the ambulance to the drysail area.
The Post 53 crew met Connor and Laura at the dock and took over care for the injured sailor, checking his vital signs before lifting him out of the boat and up the ramp to the ambulance. Because he knew the most about the accident, Connor took the waiver and stepped into the ambulance to accompany his sailor to the hospital. After the drill, everyone involved sat down to debrief and fine-tune our existing EAP.
Overall, our drill went quite well. We were looking to find weak links in our EAP, and at the conclusion of the drill, we felt confident in our plan and pleased that we had identified some small points that could be tweaked. Some of these points were:
• On the fly, the instructors decided to change which dock they were coming into because they felt that the Opti dock was an easier place for them to dock a motorboat than the finger dock we had designated earlier. All agreed that the spot they chose was a better location. We are looking to paint that dock to designate it as our “Emergency Landing Zone,” and it will be kept clear of boats being tied up for extended periods of time.
• If the situation had required other sailors to be returning to the dock at the same time, we need to designate spaces for them to go. We agreed that Optimists and Lasers would go to the north side of the Opti dock and Pixels and 420s would go to any finger dock, thus leaving the south side open for emergency landings.
• The ambulance crew did not initially see the Office Manager waving because she was around the corner from the main entrance. In the future, she will obtain assistance from the launch staff so more than one club employee is available to direct the ambulance and if necessary, clear the path to the dock.
• If possible, the instructors on the water needed to provide more information about the emergency. If Post 53 had needed to send multiple ambulances, they would want to know this immediately. It’s easier to cancel resources than to pull in additional resources in the midst of a crisis.
• Because of his suspected back injury, the ambulance crew wished that the sailor had been in a boat where he could have been laid flat for the ride in. They also found it was more difficult than they anticipated to pull a sailor out of a boat and onto the dock.
We found that this drill was a helpful way to improve our EAP, and it has instilled confidence in our instructors that will hopefully be valuable should we ever face an actual emergency situation. We appreciate Post 53’s eagerness to help us out with this drill, which we plan to run every year during instructor orientation.