In a previous blog I asked the question “Do airplanes have ‘safe seats?’” After all, if you were on-board a plane that was experiencing a major problem wouldn’t you want to be in a seat that offered the best chance of survival? As it turns out, aviation safety experts say that each crash has so many different variables that it would be “very difficult — if not impossible –to determine if any one seat offers a better chance of surviving a crash than another.” But take heart, studies show between 1983 and 2000, more than 95% of people involved in U.S. plane crashes survived.
With that said if you are anything like me you might be wondering what can you do to avoid being part of the 5% that don’t make it out alive.
Ed Galea, survived a 1985 airline crash that claimed the lives of 55 passengers. He recently spoke out about what he learned from his horrific incident and what useful information he obtained from reading interviews with 2,000 survivors of 105 other plane crashes. In doing so he came up with a list of tips on how to survive a plane crash:
1. Have a Plan
Studies show 50% of airline passengers travel in groups. Galea says if you are traveling with family members, you should insist that the airline does not separate you throughout the aircraft. He says you never want to waste time searching for each other when you should be concentrating on getting out alive. For example, if you have a family with two adults and two children, plan on having one adult be responsible for a particular child and the other adult responsible for the other child. Each pair should discuss an escape strategy before takeoff and each child should know which parent is going to be looking after them in case of an emergency.
Galea says it might sound ridiculous, but it’s very serious: Remember how to undo your seat belt. Galea’s research has shown that in the heat of the moment, even airline employees have been known to get this wrong. If you can’t undo your seat belt then you can’t evacuate and your chances of survival plummet.
3. No Magic Seat
As I mentioned before, airline safety experts maintain that there is no such thing as a “safe” seat in an emergency. However, Galea maintains there is an element of luck involved. He found that the average distance a survivor will travel in an evacuation is seven seat rows. So sit within seven rows of an exit and count exactly how many rows you are from the nearest exit. Count so that you can find an exit in the dark.
Galea says during a plane crash time is of the essence because if you survive the impact, then smoke and flames are what you have to worry about. Since surviving his plane crash, Galea carries a smoke hood on all of his flights. But, he warns that if you’re going to follow his example you must learn how to use it. Otherwise you’ll waste time trying to put it on — time that could be used for making an exit.
5. Be Prepared
Listen to the preflight briefing by the flight attendants and read the safety card. And if you’re about to crash, adopt the brace position — head down, ankles behind knees.