by Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler
The recent spate of aircraft incidents is reaffirming the importance of the pre-flight safety briefing.
Amid the wave of tragic headlines from the Germanwings crash investigation, scenes of another airline accident made the news over the weekend when an Air Canada Airbus A320 jet landed short of the runway in Nova Scotia. All 133 passengers and five crew members successfully evacuated the plane in under two minutes, with about two dozen transported to the hospital, mostly with minor injuries. All but one (who remained in the hospital at press time) were quickly examined and released.
While the causes of this incident are still undetermined, evacuations are more common than you'd think. In the past few years, we've seen several notable cases in the U.S., including the July 2013 Asiana crash at San Francisco airport, in which more than 300 people survived and three died. A few months later a Southwest Airlines 737 suffered a hard landing at LaGuardia airport and all passengers exited swiftly, though still with a few injuries. Most recently, a Delta MD-88 slid off the LaGuardia runway (and nearly into the water) in a snowstorm, but all 132 onboard safely evacuated.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that more than 95 percent of those involved in airline accidents survive. The vital way to be among those survivors is in knowing how to get off a plane once an emergency occurs, all information presented during the pre-flight safety briefing. The FAA -- which has a whole unit devoted to evacuation science -- says that few fliers pay any attention to the pre-flight safety briefing, either because they think they've heard it all before, or, strangely, because they believe if they crash there's nothing they can do about it.
Saving your life is an emergency crash situation may be simpler than it seems, so it's worth revisiting the advice from experts at the FAA on what to do:
1. Listen closely to that safety briefing before takeoff and study the seatback safety card; yes, you have heard it before, but a refresher is always a good idea.
2. Count the number of rows between you and the two nearest exits at the start of the flight; in a real evacuation, however, if one isn't working, move on quickly to the next.
3. Assume the brace position upon impact -- head down, arms crossed.
4. Leave all belongings behind; whatever it is, it's not worth risking your life or your fellow passengers' lives. Carry ID, cash, and credit cards in a place that's safe, but easy for you to grab and put in your pocket if you have to exit.
5. If there's smoke, keep your head low and cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or other article of clothing.
6. Dress in natural fabrics. Clothes made of natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool, denim, or leather, offer better protection from high heat than synthetics.
7. Jump feet first into the center of the slide, arms folded and legs together; don't sit down, which will slow the process.
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