November 12, 2010 -
Welcome back. When you left us the crew was at their muster stations, the guests were in their staterooms listening to my voice that was keeping them informed and hopefully keeping them calm. Meanwhile the fire squads have had to come out of the engine room because the smoke was so thick, the captain is thinking what to do next and I am touching cloth.
It was at 7 am when we started getting reports that the smell of smoke was getting heavier and heavier in the guest areas and so after discussion with the captain it was decided that we should move all the guests from the aft section of the ship to the open decks. The conversation went something like this.
CAPTAIN JOHN: I AM CONCERNED THAT THE GUESTS MAY BE AFFECTED BY THE SMOKE SO WE NEED TO MOVE THEM TO THE OPEN DECKS
JOHN: JUST THE AFT SECTION CAPTAIN?
CAPTAIN: YES FOR NOW
Now remember the aft section is the group of cabins on decks 1, 2,6,7, and 8 that are above the engine room and so these were the cabins that were already smelling the smoke. Now I want to underline the word “smelling” in fact I would underline it if I knew how to on this sodding computer but what I want to emphasize is that these cabins smelt the smoke…..they did not see it. I was asked by a reporter today if reports that smoke was “bellowing down the corridor” were true. No, they were not! And so after a few deep breaths to make sure there was no anxiety in my voice, I made this announcement at just after 7 am.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – SOME OF YOU WHOSE CABINS ARE AT THE BACK SECTION OF THE VESSEL MAY BE SMELLING SMOKE. THEREFORE THE CAPTAIN HAS ASKED ALL GUESTS WHO ARE STAYING TOWARDS THE AFT SECTION OF THE SHIP ON DECKS 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, PLEASE DRESS WARMLY AND COME TO DECK 9, OR ON DECK 3.
IF YOU ARE ON THE MID SHIP OR FORWARD PART OF THE VESSEL PLEASE REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE FOR NOW. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I KNOW SOME OF YOU MAY BE WORRIED AND CONCERENED SO PLEASE LET ME TELL YOU THAT WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU AND THAT ALL OF THE CREW TRAIN FOR THESE SITUATIONS EVERY WEEK. PLEASE LISTEN TO THEM AND……….STAND BY PLEASE
Now the standby was because suddenly I realised I had made a huge mistake. I looked across at the captain who was busy in conversation with the fire squads and asked him one simple word but it was a word that would make such a difference to the guests. And that word was……. “life jackets.” As in do the guests need to bring them. The captain shook his head and I went back to my announcement.
SORRY LADIES AND GENTLEMEN………..I WANTED TO CHECK SOMETHING WITH THE CAPTAIN…………YOU DO NOT NEED YOUR LIFEJACKETS………..THIS IS JUST A PRECAUTION AGAINST THE SMOKE YOU ARE SMELLING. CREW MEMBERS, PLEASE ASSIST THE GUESTS TO THE OPEN DECKS.
And they did and as they moved to the open decks I kept talking to the guests and the crew on the PA system. I have no idea what I said, it was mostly waffle but waffle intended to calm everyone and I can only hope it worked. During all this time lots of things were happening all around me and I thought I would list some of the things I remember in a list format only because it helps me remember and I thought you might like to know what happens in such an event.
1. The captain had one of his officers call the Miami office operations manager on duty to let him know what was happening
2. The captain instructs all radio and telephone conversations to be conducted in English not Italian so that when they are played back on the voice recorders installed on the bridge that those listening will understand.
3. The captain instructed the 1st officer to make sure each fire squad recorded their oxygen levels with the bridge before they entered the engine room.
4. Duncan, my great friend and hotel director organised the special needs team whose went to help the guests in wheelchairs and those hearing impaired guests to the open decks.
5. The Chief Engineer Marco told the captain that the smoke was white, not black which suggested an electrical fire and not a fuel based fire.
6. The captain instructed the 1st officer to call United States Coast Guard on the VHF Radio and Satcom phone and told them what was happening and what the ship’s position was.
7. The Housekeeping Manager Rudy reported that the smell of smoke was now obvious across the ship.
It was that last one, number 7 that prompted the following conversation.
CAPTAIN: JOHN PLEASE PUT ALL THE GUESTS ON THE OPEN DECKS
And I was just about to do this when I heard for the very first time….the dreaded word……. fire on the walkie talkie, but I ignored it and was about to make an announcement when I also heard that we had lost power to all the elevators…….oh bugger. This changed my whole announcement which now went like this.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AS THE SMELL OF SMOKE IS AFFECTING MOST OF THE SHIP NOW THE CAPTAIN HAS ASKED ME TO ADVISE THAT YOU ALL MOVE TO THE OPEN DECKS PLEASE. NOW UNFORTUNATELY THE ELEVATORS ARE NOW OUT OF ORDER AND SO PLEASE USE THE STAIRS.
IF YOU NEED ASSISTANCE OUR CREW WILL PROVIDE IT FOR YOU. PLEASE STAY CALM, YOU DO NOT NEED YOUR LIFE JACKETS BUT I DO NEED YOU TO PLEASE MOVE TO THE OPEN DECKS FOR NOW.
I once again waffled on with what I hoped were calming words and which I will not bore you with here.
As I said earlier, Duncan and Rudy were organizing their special needs teams and making sure they were carried down the stairs to the open decks. Reports were that all the guests were calm and doing exactly what they were told. And so my attention turned to the word “fire” that I had heard seconds before making my announcement.
OK, let’s pause here so I can tell you something which regular readers of this blog will already know. I am to technology what Oprah Winfrey is to cage fighting. I can’t even operate the coffee make at home so I am not going to try and explain what happened or what caused it to happen.
Obviously this incident is, as I write, under investigation by a team of beards What I can tell you is that when I first heard the word fire it was because one of the fire teams had seen some electrical cabling was on fire……..and that was not good news at all.
It was then that I suddenly realised something which should have been obvious from the moment I walked on the bridge. We were dead in the water. There was no air conditioning, no lights and now no elevators.
It didn’t take Mr. Scott (Star Trek reference) to realise that there was no power on board ……….. this was getting very serious indeed.
Part 3 soon..