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Flying high...and low...with Survival Systems

It sounds like a description of a particularly twisted carnival ride:

HELICOPTER DISASTER!

DITCH! DITCH! DITCH! YOU'RE CRASHING INTO THE OCEAN!

DIZZYING CHILLS AS COPTER FLIPS ON IMPACT!

STRUGGLE TO ESCAPE YOUR SEATBELT AS CABIN FILLS WITH WATER!

HOLD YOUR BREATH AND TRY TO ESCAPE IN TOTAL DARKNESS!

Actually, this is a description of just one of the avenues of training and preparation at Survival Systems USA — a safety and survival education company in Groton that supplies comprehensive theory and spooky-good simulation training for underwater crash and open sea survival situations.

Recently, we spent a few days with the trainers and personnel at Survival Systems USA for the latest in our "Behind the Scenes" series, where we take folks into nooks and crannies in places and businesses where you might not normally have access.

With the gracious guidance of the Survival Systems staff, we toured the facilities, accompanied clients and instructors on an ocean survival session and Koster underwent three different "helicopter crash" dunks in the facility's astoundingly realistic simulator.

Here's some of what you'll see and learn in the video:

-The cold reality of the METS — modular egress training simulators — which put YOU front and center in any of a variety of airline/helicopter cabin or cockpit scenarios where, well, you're going down.

-Lost-at-sea scenarios with you and others crammed into a life raft for the long haul. This ain't no Hitchcock film! How do you survive, make the best out of your situation, and utilize the tools at your disposal to best affect your rescue?

(For the record, there are several courses covering a comprehensive span of survival scenarios, and you can custom-build sessions for your specific needs. These range from aircraft ditching to disaster first aid to arctic land survival.)

-One fun thing to learn that you probably don't know: if you're unfortunate enough to be in a plane crash, almost every survival instinct you have is wrong and you'll react counter-intuitively to what you should do. How do you train to rectify that?

A second fun thing to learn: you know all those pre-takeoff flight attendant instructions about exit windows and oxygen masks? You think you've heard it all before and can figure it out if something happens? So, instead of listening yet again to the speech, you open the in-flight magazine and start the interview with Pauly Shore? You heard it here first: You'd better stinkin' pay attention.

-And a third thing: No matter how many times you tell yourself "it's just a simulator," the first time through is pretty much going to blow your mind. And if they decide to turn on the fake hurricane to add some creepy special effects, well, have a good time with that!

Fear is a good thing — as long as you know what to do with it. Fortunately, these folks do an incredible job of preparing you not in terms of specifically what to do, but how to work within the context of panic and fear.

You'd be correct in figuring that most of the folks who'd sign up for any of the Survival Systems USA courses are pilots, military, police or fire personnel, or professionals involved in sea exploration. But, yes, there are regular civilians who, basically, just have a phobia about flying.

Here's something else: the things you learn at SS-USA serve as metaphors for real-life experiences. Maybe, after graduating a SS-USA course, you're not only much better equipped in the event of an air/sea tragedy, but you'll find yourself much more calm and organized in everyday workplace or home-life situations.

For more information on Survival Systems USA, call (860) 405-0002 or access survivalsystemsinc.com.

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