The Muster Drill
Given the Costa Concordia tragedy, I will open with a few comments on the importance of the muster drill. As a former holder of a US Coast Guard Masters License I have observed these drills with a critical eye. In recent years I have cruised on Crystal, Oceania and Silversea and all ships had full muster drills prior to departure. Having only been aboard only a few hours, the muster drill gives the passenger the opportunity to locate their life jackets, get familiar with them and become knowledgeable with the location and procedures of the life-boat stations. A critical aspect of the drill is that the crew station themselves on the stairways and hallways to give directions to the passengers. Since everyone is wearing a life jacket, the crew ware brightly colored hats which distinguish them from the passengers. The crew on Crystal and Silversea took their duties seriously and were easily identifiable by their hats. On Oceania the crew were more casual about wearing their caps and often grouped together chatting. On our trans-Atlantic on the Whisper last spring the crew was superb in performing their responsibilities, but once on deck the muster officer in charge did not wear easily identifiable clothing or headgear. With his uniform covered by his life jacket he looked like any other passenger. I spoke with him latter and he felt that his hand-held radio on his belt ( where I have my cell phone ) distinguished him from the passengers. In a crisis environment the passengers would not have known which individual was in command. The ships officers need to be required to be easily identifiable, and if they object, the cruise lines should have them replaced.
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