offshore in a while. I recently uploaded some old photos, so I've got some things to share.
Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) is required for everyone offshore. It's required so you have a chance of surviving incidents like this. The training program was developed for the North Sea fields and a lot of the course still involves cold water training (dealing with hypothermia, etc.). You generally take a morning course that's videos and a written exam.
I took the course 2 1/2 years ago. Certification should be renewed every 4-5 years (it varies by company).
The afternoon consists of in-pool activities. There are basic swimming lessons, but oddly enough you don't need to know how to swim to get HUET. All HUET training is done with a life preserver. There are a lot of old guys that don't know how to swim and (in order to give them a bit of a break, because HUET hasn't always been required) it's assumed that you'll always be able to access at least a life vest. The hardest part of the afternoon, by far, is pulling yourself into a life raft. The life raft keeps moving and flexing the harder you push. You job is to pull yourself in, pull the next guy in, and then take a break because after that, you're going to be totally exhausted.
The most fun (at least for me) was the actual HUET training where you practice escaping from a downed helicopter. You have to do it at least 3 times: once being lowered with the doors and windows out, once where you have to kick the doors out, and once where the helo rolls over and then you have to extricate yourself. When the helo flips over, your nasal cavity fills with water and it feels really, really weird. Some people can't deal with that and fail. Once the helo is flipped, it takes generally at least 5 or 10 seconds to get out. I tended to take my time and did it in somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute. We had two people that couldn't swim that were able to get out in well under 10 seconds. They passed the course.
The whole thing is safe as can be. There are divers in the water. The pool is heated (an absolute necessity, when you consider how long you're in the pool during the training). I volunteered to do it a fourth time for extra training. The extra session was to practice following someone else out in case you don't get a window seat. You have to sit there strapped in while the guy next to you fumbles around with his seat belt (all the while upside down).
I look forward to renewing my certification. Enjoy the video of my coworker extricating himself.
More HUET training footage from Norway:
UPDATE- One more photo to add:
The practice pool.