Water survival classes push for team bonding - | WBTV Charlotte

Water survival classes push for team bonding

(CBS News) (CBS News)
Simulated aircraft fuselage is dunked in water, spun upside down, and five team members at a time need to escape as the water rushes all around them. (CBS News) Simulated aircraft fuselage is dunked in water, spun upside down, and five team members at a time need to escape as the water rushes all around them. (CBS News)
(CBS News) -

A recent Gallup poll shows just 32 percent of Americans say they feel engaged in their work. That feeling can be a symptom of low morale in the workplace. So some companies are turning to unconventional methods to help boost morale. 

Survival Systems, a company that began by teaching water survival techniques with clients from first responders to the military, helps coworkers bond by pushing them out of their comfort zone.

Survival Systems realized its survival training lessons can be applied to the corporate world, teaching leadership, teamwork and helping boost morale, reports CBS News’ Dana Jacobson. But the class instills real fear in some people. 

Keith Wille of Survival Systems said a sense of danger can be the key to unity.

“It takes people out of their comfort zone and lets them deal with stress, maybe get better at dealing with it. It puts them in a bonding situation, so we want them to get tighter in their group,” Wille said.

The group we followed -- 10 daring men and women from the Mohegan Sun hotel and casino -- were learning to push their limits.

Poolside, there’s music blasting and artificial fog is pumped in to enhance the experience. The course begins with team members donning life vests in under 30 seconds. 

Then things kick off with a splash. Everyone drops from a 14-foot platform into the pool below.

“I have to say, jumping from the tower was the most frightening part for me. I almost didn’t do it, but I just went for it,” a participant named Mary said.

“What helped?” Jacobson asked.

“The fact that everybody else did it,” she said.

The early survival lessons are gentle -- how to stay afloat and warm as a group, as well as how to inflate and climb into a life raft. The tension picks up as the team leaves the safety of the raft and climbs into a rescue basket, simulating a helicopter airlift during a thunderstorm.

Once everyone’s evacuated, the first half of the class ends.

“I think the more challenging part is about to start. So we’re ready. We’re ready for anything,” another participant, Kevin, said. 

He’s right. The second half of the class ups the ante. Every challenge is an underwater escape. 

First comes something called the SWET chair. Breath held, buckled in upside down and disoriented, team members have to push out a window and get to the surface.

But the show-stopper -- if not the heart stopper -- is saved for last: a simulated aircraft fuselage.  Dunked in water, spun upside down, five team members at a time need to escape as the water rushes all around them.

“The idea that this is better team bonding, perhaps, than other things -- do you agree?” Jacobson asked.

“Oh, absolutely!” Mary said. “I feel like when you are in a moment of sheer panic, you can come together better than you would imagine. So everybody was kind of supportive and cheering you on, patting you on the back. And we survived!”

It’s pretty realistic in here, but it is a controlled environment. A cool thing is, one of the bonuses of taking the course is you really do learn the survival techniques.

Just hope you never need to use them.

All this is available for about $900 per person.

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