Human aspects on the evacuation of a passenger ship - passengers' and crew's capabilities and limitations to cope with a dangerous and demanding situation
Todays evacuation systems and equipment are not adapted to realistic circumstances. The equipment is complicated, difficult and dangerous to handle. The equipment is furthermore tested and approved in limited weather conditions which make it more or less impossible to launch the equipment, if the weather conditions are too bad. Nor is it possible to get access to all types of equipment on board, which hampers the crews prospect of performing training on board.
Full scale trials point out a number of situations which need to be investigated and developed further. Behaviour among passengers which should not entail any difficulties turned in some cases out to be a problem, e.g. donning a life vest. Communication is another area. The trials showed proof of uneasiness in handling walkie-talkies and an uncertainty in what to say combined with bad quality of sound in the PA-system. There has also been a lack of practice in handling the technical equipment and an unclear safety organization.
To map out the different phases of an evacuation a number of detailed trials must be carried out. To time different sequences is feasible, to try and quantify human behaviour is more difficult. The pilot test which was performed gave more questions than answers in its ambition to try and quantify the deteriorating effect of stress on our ability to solve problems. The only significant result was the difference between the group which had previous experience and the group which lacked this experience. The group with previous experience showed a better result.
Stress must be included in all aspects of an evacuation. Our ability to perform will be affected and careful consideration must be taken to this. Both in the design as well as the training of the crew and the structure of the safety organisation must consider the stress reactions which might occur among the passengers as well as among the crew.
The future research and development of optimization of the evacuation process must focus on the development of technical solutions which take human limitation into account. But the pedagogical outline of the education and training of marine officers must be investigated. We must also look at the contents of the education and ask ourselves if we provide the students with relevant knowledge. To be able to function under demanding situations they need to be prepared for them. They have to be provided with thorough knowledge of stress reactions within individuals as well as within the group. They must know how to deal with this and they must feel confident in their role as leaders. The leadership cannot only focus on the leadership during a crisis, the everyday leadership must motivate the crew to maintain a high level of safety. Communication is an important tool; it must be implemented in the every day tasks to make all crew members familiar to this.
How safety information is provided on board must be developed. More than half of all passengers do not know what to do in the case of an emergency which inevitably will hamper the evacuation of the ship. To save valuable time passengers must know what to do in case of an emergency.