Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sleeping on Ship

A major thing you need to decide as the creator of the space ship is how and where your crew will sleep. On modern naval vessels the crew lives in a series of berthings divided by department. The bigger departments, such as Engineering and Supply Departments, have their own berthings while some of the smaller departments share space, depending on how much space is on ship and how large the departments are. Berthings are spaces that can be anywhere from eighteen people to a room to one hundred plus people to a berthing. The crew sleep in bunks three high with lockers under the mats used for sleeping, a small standup locker, and a shoebox large enough to fit a few pairs of shoes. Chiefs, or E-7 through E-9, live in a separate berthing divided more by rank than by department and the officers live in two person rooms called staterooms. (Higher ranking officers have their own staterooms while the lower ranking officers share a room.) Also, there are no co-ed berthings or staterooms, each gender is put together, whether it’s as the female officers, whose staterooms are all on the same passageway (hallway) on the same deck, or as the females of the crew or female chiefs, who are in separate berthings, again divided by rank and department but are separate from where the males sleep.
The berthings are cleaned daily by those living there, usually a rotating schedule of weekly cleaners work in the morning to clean the berthings, such as cleaning the bathrooms in the berthings, sweeping and moping the floors, dusting the room, and making sure everyone made their bed and didn’t leave things out that should be put away. The staterooms are cleaned by crewmembers sent by each department to do what is called “cranking”. People who go cranking either go to clean the chief’s berthing, work in the sculleries, and clean the staterooms, all of which areas are under the charge of CSes who make sure the jobs are done correctly.
There are many ways you can set up living quarters on your ship. You could have everyone in small individual rooms on a small ship or large individual rooms on a large ship. Most Star Trek shows had everyone in spacious individual rooms but in the Enterprise series the crew shared rooms while the higher officers got individual rooms. Give it some thought and decide how your crew will sleep because it can often come up in conversation or cause personal problems that can distract a character from work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Food on Ship

The last rating in the Supply Department is the CS rating, which stands for Culinary Specialist. They are the ones in charge of all the food served in what civilians call a cafeteria. On ship it is called a galley or the messdecks. There are at least four galleys on ship, one for general crew or E-6 and below, one called the Chief’s Mess for people ranking E-7 to E-9, another called the Wardroom where all the officers eat, and the last one is for the Commanding Officer on the ship and those he or she chooses to eat with them that meal. Each galley has a scullery with them, where the dishes are washed, which varies depending on the size of the messdeck attached to it. The sculleries for the Wardroom and Chief’s Mess are at most half the size of the one attached to the general crew messdeck. Many ships also have a separate messdeck for people ranking E-6 but most smaller ships merely have an area separated from the rest of the crew in the general crew messdeck for the first class petty officers, or E-6 personnel. Some of the larger ships have a few messdecks for the crew, each one specialized so one may be serving fast food items like burgers and fries while the other is serving a regular meal like lasagna and peas. Each messdeck also has a salad bar, a drink bar for sodas or coffee, and a desert area for cookies or pies or whatever the bakeroom made for the day. One last thing to think about concerning the messdecks is that meals are only served during specific hours. Although the Chief’s Mess and Wardroom make sure to always have a few plates of snacks available all day long, the crew messdeck is only open for meal times, although there may be fruit or some left over deserts left on the messdeck between meals for hungry crew members. While in port they serve three meals a day but underway the ship serves a fourth meal about midnight, called midrats, for those that work the late shift and sleep during the day.
A long with knowing where the galleys and messdecks on ship are, you also need to understand where and how the food is stored. There are two basic areas: the reefer decks and dry storage. Together the rooms take up a large part of the lowest deck of the ship and it is a huge pain to carry the food needed each day from those rooms to the galley that needs it. The dry storage is where the cans of things like syrup, ketchup, noodles, canned fruits, oatmeal, and any other thing you may put in a pantry or cupboard would go while all the stuff you would put in the refrigerator or freezer would go in the appropriate rooms in the reefer deck. True, if you have a replicator you probably have no need for food storage, but if you have food that doesn’t do good replicated or want to save energy to replicate other things like repair parts than you will need to think about food storage. You may even want a garden on ship to grow certain things, but that will be discussed in another post.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Haircuts, Laundry, and Mail on a Fictional Ship.

The other part of the SHes job consists of various workspaces that serve the whole crew of the ship, such as the barbershop, post office, and ship’s laundry. You may have the barbershop run by robots on your ship or you may have it run by crew members, as on a modern ship. However, appearance is a major part of the military as it presents a clean appearance to others and helps prevent germs from spreading too fast.
Most space ships I’ve heard or read about have their letters all sent electronically, which would likely eliminate the need for a post office but what if your crew have souvenirs they want to send home? You may make your crew stash them until they pull in but if your ship isn’t too far from their main lines of commerce you may be able to have ships dock with each other to send packages home or send shuttles out to places that can send packages home. If you decide to do things that way than you’ll need a postal clerk, even if it is only part time, as well as storage space for mail.
The other major job the SHes have is ship’s laundry. There are two parts to this and they can be broken down into crew and officer laundry. Crew laundry is a room with a bunch of washers and dryers that often break at differing rates since everyone in the crew usesthose same machines. The SHes are in charge of fixing the machines if they can, otherwise putting a sign on the machine saying “Out of Commission.” The officer’s laundry is a little different. Every officer’s restroom has a washer and dryer in it so they can do loads whenever no one else is using them. For more delicate things like uniforms they hang the clothes outside their doors, carefully marked inside the uniforms on tags, and the SHes put them through the correct wash cycle in large washers and dryers not for everyone’s use and use a press to quickly and precisely iron and press the uniforms before returning them to the officer’s door that night. Oh the joys of being an officer… True, you may be planning that every time your crew opens their drawers they find perfectly cleaned and pressed uniforms thanks to tiny robots in each drawer or something similar to a replicator, but even those systems break sometimes. No matter how you decide that your crew will wash their laundry, clean clothes tend to make a story run smoother while wearing dirty laundry can add tension and personal problems.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Some Oddjobs on Ship

Now that the Communication Department is finished, I want to talk about Supply Department.
It has three major job ratings in the department and is also in charge of moral. The
first rating I spoke of was the LSes, who are in charge of keeping extra repair parts on ship and an LS is always the hazmat custodian. The next rate, which I will start talking about today and finish on my next post are the SHes, who take care of the ship’s store and vending machines as well as other ship services. The third major rating in the Supply Department is the CSes, who take care of making all the meals and making sure the officers’ staterooms are clean and usable.
I spoke in an earlier post about using replicators and if you plan to use something
similar than you probably don’t need a ship store but you may want one for specialty items too rare or difficult to replicate or a place for the locals from each port call to set up a souvenir shop for the duration of the stop. Modern naval ships have a ship’s store because most are out at sea for weeks or months on end and most of the crew don’t have the space to keep things like snacks and hygiene products for that long. The ship’s store allows them to have more space for leisure items such as favorite books, study materials, or electronics. When they run out of stuff they need, including uniform items such as hats that may blow off in the wind, pins if they get promoted, or socks along with hygiene products or small leisure items for a splurge. The store also sells snack items such as candy and sodas, which are also sold at places on ship called the geedunk where vending machines are placed, or chips and salsa. For those hungry between meals or who had to work through meals there are hot plates from the CSes, which are basically plates of food kept from the last meal that can maybe be microwaved, or there are microwave meals, like
ramen noodles or Hot Pockets, at the ship’s store.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hazardous Material on Ship

A large portion of the paperwork generated daily on a modern naval ship is to check out hazardous materials, or hazmat as it is referred to on ship. Hazmat is any material that is deemed too dangerous to be readily available on ship, whether because it is highly flammable and could spread a fire faster than normal or because it gives off a vapor dangerous to breathe if handled in certain ways, and is kept in a locked room. The room is next to the hull of the ship and under water but easily isolated in case it explodes or there is a leak inside the room deemed too dangerous to deal with by the crew. The hazmat inside are all carefully organized and secured somehow so nothing shifts too much or tilts while the ship itself rolls with the waves. Each container has a sticker on it saying what its inventory number is, what date it needs to get checked for usability again, and its technical name. For anyone to do maintenance calling for anything from types of mechanical grease to most cleaning liquids and almost any other liquid or gel used on ship but not part of cooking the user has to print off a sheet of paper with the name and inventory number of the item requested and take it to the hazmat custodian. The custodian then enters the request in the computer program they have and prints out two receipts. Both get sighed and dated by the hazmat custodian and the user and the custodian ventures into the hazmat locker and brings back the necessary material. The user than takes their copy of the receipt and the material to their workspace to finish their maintenance. If the hazmat isn’t returned by the end of the work day, the hazmat custodian has the receipt as proof and the workspace the user belongs to gets penalized for not returning the hazmat on time. If the user wants to keep the hazmat longer than the single work day, he or she needs to get a few signatures on the sheet they print off before taking it down to the hazmat custodian. The custodian then makes a mark in the records and on the receipt saying when it will be returned so the workspace doesn’t get penalized.
As paint and primer are highly flammable they are also kept in the hazmat locker. However, those two liquids are also used daily on ship by someone so they have a paint locker as well. The main supply of unopened paint and primer cans is kept in the hazmat locker but a weeks supply or so is kept in a room called the paint locker. It is placed next to the hull but above water level and has thick walls, is easily isolated in case of fire, and has a special system installed that is designed to put out paint fires by covering the fire to block out any oxygen it needs. The same rules apply to the paint as to hazmat as far as requesting it daily only the sheet of paper is different and goes to the paint custodian, a person trained to pour and mix the paint and primer with the least mess possible whose day job it is to monitor the paint used on ship.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Repair Parts

Although I wrote briefly about needing extra parts on ship in case of emergency in an earlier post, I think it needs a more thorough explanation. There are systems, such as engine parts or critical navigation equipment that are required to have spare parts on ship at all times in case the system breaks. That way they can be fixed quickly and the mission can continue. The system that records and distributes the spare part throughout the Navy is maintained by people on ship, who correct the requests work centers send in for parts before sending it up, and by people at shore commands who actually ship the parts out. It’s actually a rather large work center that usually works long hours tracking parts and is important enough to need someone on duty 24/7, even in home port. If you have some sort of replicator, like in the many Star Trek series, this work center isn’t needed, however, if your ship isn’t that advanced, you will definitely need storage and record keeping on spare parts. It can cause tension to find out the part isn’t on ship and needs to be ordered or can ease tension to find the part onboard. Of course, “broken” parts can also be an amusing, though very expensive, way for that coworker to talk to that cute girl that is in charge of issuing repair parts… The ideas are endless, I just supply fact.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Internal Communication

Another major job the Communication Department does on a modern naval ship is to maintain internal communications. While email is a form of internal communications, I am referring to telephone lines and the ship wide intercom referred to as the 1MC. While underway the telephone lines run through the antennas to call off ship but are connected by landlines while in port when the antennas aren’t as active. The 1MC has speakers in almost every room in the ship and is used to give general announcements or summon people to the Quarterdeck or meetings they missed. Often if people can’t be contacted by the usual phone numbers their division uses the 1MC is used to tell them to call an extension number. Each phone has its own extension number and often there are many phones in a room, if the room is large and the people inside have many different duties.
Keeping the phones and 1MC going properly is a small part of what the Comms Department does as those systems rarely have problems, but it is an important job. If there is no way to communicate fast between people across ship, the work onboard the ship will slow down making less work get done a day and longer working hours while leads to lower moral and more exhaustion among both crew and officers. For that reason it is important to know what your ship uses as internal communications. Most ships in science fiction still tend to have some version of a general announcement system, even if it’s just a loud alarm heard ship-wide to call everyone to their battle stations or abandon ship. Star Trek usually has some version of the communicator, whether it’s the older version common in the original series that flipped open like a modern cell phone or the badge that they hit to talk to people. Other shows have had an intercom system where the scanners inside the ship found the receiver and the closest speaker was activated for the conversation but most science fiction television shows seem to like the idea of some sort of badge that the person hits to talk into on large space ships. I think it highly likely that the badge is in our future given how small cell phones already can be.
Whatever your mode of communication is, you definitely need to figure it out before you begin writing, even if you decide your fictional ship is small enough for them to merely shout and have the receiver get the message.

Friday, January 14, 2011

From Antenna to the Computer

Now that you have your antennas planned out and have decided on how your network on ship will work, it’s time to think about cabling. As you can see here, there are many types of cables. That site explains different types of cables and wires used to wire your own house safely. Those wires are designed to be low voltage cables safe for an amateur electrician to use. Ship wiring is high voltage, heavy conductivity cables that sometimes break, whether it’s from unusual weather, improper sealing jobs, or exposed cables getting tripped over or somehow worn down, cables do break or slow down. When that happens those cables need to be replaced. Granted, that usually occurs while the ship is docked somewhere and miles or the cables inside the walls and floating by the ceiling need to be traced then the bad cable removed and new cable put in to replace it. Sometimes cables go down on important systems that need to be patched immediately and the job can’t wait until the next port. For that reason there are always a certain number of people assigned to the ship that are specially trained to trace, test, and patch different types of cables and there is always test equipment onboard for troubleshooting any problems with systems. Often there are lengths of different cables kept on ship and all the maintainer needs to do is cut it and add connectors or end pieces to the cable and set up the patch.
Though you probably don’t want to learn the wiring diagrams of the ship or even of a single system it is still a good idea to keep in mind who to call if a bad wire is suspected or maybe an added evaluation point for advancement is that one person had documented training on one type of cabling while the other person had no training on cabling. The more facts you know, the less you need to search for that perfect plot twist or bragging point. Also, on a future ship run on computer systems, those cables will be going everywhere and Star Trek has cables replacing most piping on ship. However, that seems unstable as there seems to be a break a month somewhere on ship. Maybe that’s just to give people something to do or a reason for them to act oddly for a little while. Contamination can have such amusing plot points.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Antennas in Space

One of the major things Comms Department is responsible on modern day naval vessels are antennas. Modern antennas come in all sorts of shapes and sizes as you can see here. Most of those antennas are maintained by divisions inside the Comms Department although some are maintained by divisions in the Operations Department if the only department to use that antenna is the Operations Department.
As you can see, the antennas are all outside the skin of the ship. One thing that has puzzled me is how antennas exist in space. I can’t think of a single ship design that shows antennas as obvious as they are today and yet the theory is that messages can’t be received without the proper receptor, or antenna. Antennas work today because they are positioned carefully around the ship so they are able to “face” open water in almost 360 degrees. Since that is rarely possible on ship, unless on the main mast or to level, antennas are placed carefully to get the maximum “visibility” to pick up the necessary frequencies.
The only conclusions I can come up with it that somehow the ship hull itself works as the antennas, with wires going from all the hull plates to a computer to separate the frequencies and send them to the necessary systems. Another idea would be that my ship could have a web of antennas, maybe a few inches off the hull held securely against the great speeds needed to make space travel viable, or a web firmly on the hull that would work as the antenna system, picking up signals and frequencies as it sped through space. Once you’ve figured out what type of antennas your fictional ship has you will need to decide how much maintenance is needed, who does it (crew or robots), how many are needed, and how often things need to get done.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Message Systems on Ship

The first thing you need to know when planning out the uses and rooms needed for the Communications Department is how your species relays messages. Modern ships use variations of email for both personal correspondences and official messages. Many science fiction tv shows or movies show audio and video messages sent through space. Often those messages are viewed only in people’s private quarters, according to science fiction shows, but can be routed to any console if it’s an official or live message. In modern times the only way to get a live message on ship is to call someone over the telephone. Otherwise email works and can be accessed at almost any computer consol through individual logins. I say almost any consol because there are two networks onboard. The first system is for anyone to use and is internet as everyone knows it, with access to Google, online banking, Wikipedia, and some email sites. Each ship has different restrictions on sites like Facebook, blogging sites, porn, known bad sites, and chat rooms that it could be hurtful to the ship or illegal to access but each ship has occasional access to this network. The other network is for official military business and basically has its own version of Wikipedia that tells things like ship capabilities and locations of ships as well as official email for things like ship’s orders. It is the job of people in the Comms Department to maintain the network’s connection, restrictions, and people’s profiles so everyone with permission can access the network safely.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Comms Officer-the Reality

The Comms Officer, every Star Trek ship had one. They were almost always on the bridge with an earpiece in their ear or focusing on their computer screens. Their only job seemed to be listening to or for frequencies from other ships or translating communications sent to the ship and they seemed to be the only ones in the department, although there was probably at least one other, not as talented, officer that did their job so they weren’t awake 24/7 whenever not docked.
However, in modern naval ships the Comms, or Communication, Officer is the department head of a department that not only monitors official messages fleet wide, especially intended for the ship they’re assigned to, but also maintains the computer networks and antennas onboard as well as internal methods of communication like phones and the ship-wide intercom system.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dental on Ship

The other part of the department was the dental hygiene area of healthcare. For the most part dental care is simple. One room for regular care like checkups and cleanings with another room for things like basic surgeries and checkups would work well for a crew of maybe a thousand with one dentist and two or three hygienists. Also you may want a room set aside nearby for creating things like individualized dentures, mouth guards, and fake teeth. It may be easiest to just have regular molds that get ground down to fit the individual’s mouth but modern dentists tend to make molds by actually making impressions of the person’s teeth, then making molds from the impressions. Of course, if you have some sort of way on board to say something and have it be, like the replicator in the Star Trek franchise, you don’t need a separate room to create dental prosthesis parts. All your characters need to do is say a few words or press a few buttons and the computer will search the records for the patient’s records and pop out whatever was asked for, perfectly individualized to the patient.
Something to think about concerning dental care is that most adults would already have gotten their teeth perfected as a child. However, if you have family onboard, such as a family ship like in Star Trek: Next Generation or a colonization ship or any other ship that may have children onboard long-term, you’ll likely need orthodontics care.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Medical Needs on Ship

If your fictional ship won’t have readily accessible off ship medical aid, they’ll need all the capabilities a modern ER which means the abilities to do blood work and tests like X-rays or MRIs to diagnose problems and medicine on hand to help most basic problems. Having medicines and vaccines on ship will mean having storage on ship so besides the storage for normal medical things like sterile gauzes and whatever syringes are used by your people you’ll also have to keep a room ready for liquid medicine to stay safe over long periods of time which means some version of refrigerator or freezer as well as a device to warm up the medicine before injecting it into the warm bloodstream. You will also need to be able to diagnose things such as radiation problems, pregnancies, STDs, nerve problems, possible chemical imbalances, or alien diseases. In many shows, such as the Star Trek franchise, people can be diagnosed by merely putting them in a tube or running a scanner over them. You could always get away with just putting people in tubes that diagnose and heal them by computer but what if there is a glitch in the programming or the person has something so rare the computer isn’t programmed to look for? It’s always smart to have at least one doctor onboard or at the very least a nurse who can easily consult with a doctor over interstellar communications.
If your ship is expected to be deployed for months at a time with no or little trusted medical aid nearby it would be smart to have a way for the doctors to grow their own medicine. The doctor in the series Enterprise travelled with a menagerie of animals from all over the known universe and he used their blood or excrement or skin or venom to heal the humans. Various episodes have shown the doctors on ship needing to grow bacteria or plants for medicines so it could be best to have a sterile room or area with optimal or adjustable light to grow things. Also there will need to be a lot of database space for medical research, historical data, and species biology needed to diagnose lesser known diseases as well as technology to diagnose new diseases your crewmembers may pick up from alien species. You’ll also need surgical capabilities, whether that means putting them in a tube or bed for a few hours so the computer can fix them or having a sterile room and a few doctors and nurses trained to do the hands on version. Another thing to keep in mind is pregnancies and the reproductive health of your crew. Although you could make it mandatory that the crew takes birth control pills or shots, which will need to be taken on schedule for everyone and dispensed every few weeks or months, your doctor would likely still need to be ready to deal with STIs from alien species or dormant ones from crewmembers. If you make such measures optional than there is the possibility of pregnancies onboard and if you are too far away to safely send the mother to off ship medical facilities for the duration than your doctor will need to be able to give her the medicine and checkups needed both before and after birth. Luckily a normal sterile medical bed can be adjusted for the birth and any checkups. In fact, most of the things in medical and on ship can be adjusted to do many things. You should just know most of the uses of the things on your ship.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Medical Lab, Part One

The next department I’m going to talk about is the Medical/Dental Department, specifically the medical side for now.
The first thing you need o know is the purpose of your ship. As we already discussed that much earlier, you should know if your ship is expected to be away from a spaceport for long periods of time or if it merely goes between ports and is rarely without medical aid for a week or more. Another thing to think about is whether there is better medical aid nearby, such as if your ship is part of a caravan that travels together or if your species has an ambulance that can zip in, pick up and injured, and zip them to a hospital ship or nearby station. I won’t be talking much on a hospital ship as that would need to combine an entire hospital with a movable space ship. Although there are such ships in modern navies, I am not knowledgeable enough on medicine to explain all the rooms a hospital ship would need besides the basic stuff I’ve covered already. That said I would like you to remember that most hospitals, at least most of the ones without the city in their name, are specialized in at least one area. Some focus on brain surgery, some focus on hearts or aging research while others focus on children or studying diseases. If you have a hospital ship, it’s likely that there will be some areas that have larger rooms and more staff than other areas while some areas may be practically ignored.
Now that you have figured out how much off ship medical support your ship will have you can decide how much your ship needs in medical space. Your crew will need to do basic first aid such as fixing cuts and probably fixing or putting casts on broken bones. They’ll need to be able to clean any wound to prevent infection and give pain medication until the injured can be treated. If your ship will never be far from medical aid, especially near stations that are always well stocked, that is all you really need for medical facilities. However, if your ship will be travelling more than a day out of range of fast medical aid or is likely to be under attack and moving people between ships would be foolish, the ship will need more medical capabilities.