Thirteen people in survival suits jumped into the waters off Fisherman’s Terminal Thursday morning in Seattle. They were learning how to survive in the event of a ship abandonment, as part of the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association Vessel Safety Program.

The Coast Guard-approved courses teach safety and emergency preparedness to crews across the maritime industry including shipyard workers, crews on commercial fishing boats, crews on research and passenger vessels and on other work boats.

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During Thursday morning’s Personal Survival Techniques course, participants learned how to deploy, board and flip a life raft, along with swimming techniques including how to creating a human chain. 

They also learned how to put on one-piece, Neoprene immersion suits, which cover the entire body except for the eyes and nose. The suits are required to have a light and a whistle, and are designed to keep a person’s body warm for hours and keep them afloat.

NPFVOA Executive Director Karen Conrad said the course helps people “build confidence” that their survival suits will work, and practicing will create muscle memory for emergency situations. 

The organization started volunteer safety programs with the U.S. Coast Guard in the early 1980s when the commercial fishing industry launched a concerted effort to create safer working conditions. Conrad estimated about 49,000 people have participated.  

“You want to make sure that the fishing industry is safe for all workers so at the end of the day they come home,” Conrad said. “We want everyone to come home.” 

The Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial offers fishing crews a partial tuition rebate for certain safety programs for Washington state fisherman and vessels. For more information, visit: and click on the “Safety” tab.