The odds of getting into a plane crash are low. Very low. In fact, your odds are only 1 in 8,357 of dying in an “air and space transport incident,” as the National Safety Council calls it. In fact, you are more likely to die from a lightning strike than to face an aircraft evacuation. But, the reality is, every time you strap yourself to the seat in a metal tube as it hurls itself through the air, you are facing the possibility of an emergency evacuation.
Recent events such as the crash of Emirates flight 521 are a reminder that as safe as air travel is, quick thinking flight attendants and a competent flight crew can mean the difference life and death. Long lines, tight spaces, and elbow rubbing with strangers is now the norm when it comes to air travel. Although packed planes only add to the chaos during an evacuation, with a little foresight and these tips, you will find yourself better prepared in the unlikely event of an emergency.
1. Keep your shoes on during take-off and landing.
Taxi, take-off, and landing are the most critical phases of flight. They are so crucial that flight attendants and pilots are prohibited from communicating with each other unless they are discussing an issue related to the safety of the flight. It is okay to slip your shoes off during flight, but putting your shoes back on prior to landing will prevent you from having to run barefoot across a jet-fuel soaked tarmac.
2. Do not drink or take medication to help you relax.
Sometimes nerves, the desire to start vacation early, or down right fear of flying will cause a passenger to drink alcoholic beverages or take a prescription medication to ease the stress of air travel. And while a cocktail is alright, keep in mind that your blood will be thinner at the high altitude even after cabin pressurization, and this can make the effects of alcohol feel more pronounced. When it comes to prescription medications, make sure you discuss your travel plans and anxieties with your doctor. The chances of surviving a plane crash hinge on two things: the ability of the flight attendants to get the exits open and your ability to get yourself to the exit. Make sure you are sober-minded enough to think clearly and move quickly.
3. Consider the type of aircraft.
Every type of aircraft is different. Even if you fly all the time, you are more than likely flying on different types of airplanes and sitting in different seats each time you take to the sky. Every time you get on a plane, take a minute or two to review the safety information card in the seatback pocket in front of your seat. Look at the diagram of the door and make a mental note as to how it opens. Does the plane you are flying on have slides at all the doors? What about the window exits? If you look closely right before take-off and right before landing, you may be able to catch your flight attendant doing a quick 30-second review once she takes her jumpseat. During this review, flight attendants mentally review what their actions would be in the case of an evacuation. They picture themselves opening the door or over wing exit and mental review evacuation commands. As a passenger, you should be familiar with the evacuation procedures, too. Especially if you are stretching out in the exit row.
4. Know how far you are from the nearest exit.
“Take a moment to locate the exit nearest you keeping in mind that the closest usable exit may be located behind you.” More than likely you have heard these instructions repeated during the safety demonstration before every flight but how many times have you actually taken the time to locate the exit nearest to your seat? Some regional jets don’t have aft door in the back of the plane, so sitting toward the rear of the cabin means going forward to evacuate. Sometimes you may find yourself sitting just a row or two in front of the window exit and didn’t even notice during the hustle and bustle of boarding. Knowing exactly how many rows you are from the exit can make all the difference when trying to find your way through a dark or smoke filled cabin.
5. Do not take anything with you.
This one may be the biggest factor when it comes to quickly and safely evacuating during an emergency. Former flight attendant Bobby Laurie was pretty clear in his most recent Huffington Post article when he said, “Leave. Your. Luggage. Can you hear me? Did you read it right? Leave your luggage. Leave it. Go.” During the recent Emirates evacuation, numerous passengers were seen evacuating with carry-on bags and the cell phone video from inside the cabin is even scarier. Passengers took the time to open overhead bins in an attempt to retrieve carry on luggage. These open bins slowed down the movement of passengers and blocked the flow of egress as people attempted to get out of their seats. Probably the most surprising part watching these passengers attempt to retrieve their bags while hearing the flight attendants in the background yelling “Leave your bags behind! Jump! Jump and slide! Jump and slide!” When a plane is on fire, sinking into the water, or otherwise unsafe to occupy, precious seconds are just that, precious. Do not put your life or the life of another passenger at risk to retrieve you bags. Possessions are replaceable, people are not.