The odds of being killed on a single airline flight are one in 4.7 million but it is still essential to know the survival tactics to follow in case you find yourself in an imminent plane crash. While crash fatalities are at an all-time low, safe travellers are prepared for the worst. Here are a number of tips that can help.
Your carry-on bag
Flight crews ask you to keep your luggage clear of the aisles for a reason; in the event of an evacuation, your bag should be blocking an escape route.
With as little as 90 seconds to evacuate a burning place, the precious time spent reaching for luggage could be a life and death decision for someone.
A Popular Mechanics study of 20 commercial jet crashes with both fatalities and survivors found that passengers seated in the rear cabin (behind the wings) had a 69 percent chance of survival, compared with just 49 percent for those in first class.
However, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice leg room for safety’s sake. Exit rows are perhaps the safest place to sit on the whole plane. In the event of an evacuation, the closer you are to an exit, the higher the chance you’ll escape without injury.
How to sit
You need to brace yourself. In a 2015 crash simulation, Boeing found that passengers who both wore their seat belts and assumed a brace position (feet flat, head cradled against their knees or the seat in front of them if possible) had a better chance of surviving a plane crash.
Seat-belted fliers who did not brace suffered serious head injuries, and those with no seat belts or bracing died on impact.
During a crash
the first thing to do is to put the gas mask on the minute it drops. During a loss of cabin pressure, the fall in oxygen can make you become unconscious in as little as 20 seconds.
Listen to your flight attendants: Always secure your oxygen mask before helping others. You can’t help yourself or anyone for that matter if you can’t breathe.
What to wear
The National Transportation Safety Board says that 68 percent of plane crash fatalities occur in post-crash fires, not in the initial impact. You can plan ahead while you pack your luggage. On the day you’re flying, avoid wearing flammable synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon. Instead, opt for natural materials like cotton or wool. It’s also a good idea to favour long pants (like jeans) and a long-sleeved shirt for extra protection from flames and sharp objects.
What to wear on your feet
Slippers might seem like a good idea for braving airport security, but in the chaos of a crash or evacuation, they’ll only slow you down. The same goes for high heels that can lead to stumbling, and may even be sharp enough to pop the inflatable exit slide. Wear a pair of comfortable flats or sneakers, and keep them on your feet through the whole flight.
Not only can loose shoes get in other passengers’ way and hinder your own mobility during an evacuation, but also remember that nobody wants to smell your stinky feet.