Plan to Walk Away

As my sister and I board our Frontier flight from Denver to Fort Lauderdale our thoughts go to two recent airline mishaps. In both the Continental flight that “veered” off the runway in Denver and the US Airways Hudson River landing all passengers and crew survived by quickly evacuating and assisting other passengers.

Ninety seconds is the standard for the successful evacuation of a fully loaded plane in an emergency situation. When you see how long it takes to load and unload a normal flight this seems an impossible task. Yet, recent occurrences show it’s possible.

Several years ago I participated in an event for travel writers at the United Airlines Training Center in Denver. Part of the day included a mock evacuation. I learned facts and procedures that have changed some of my habits when flying and hopefully prepared me to walk away from an event like we’ve seen recently.

  • Panty hose shred on the evacuation slide causing burns. Women if you ever wanted a reason to fly in comfort, this is it. Leave the panty hose at home. Seriously, slacks are better than dresses, skirts or shorts.

  • Natural fiber clothing is best.

  • Do not wear flip-flops or high heels when flying. When you get to the end of the evacuation slide it could be a run for your life – away from fire or explosion. I used to slip my shoes off as soon as I was seated, but I’ve changed that habit and keep them on until we’re well into the flight and have them back on for landing.

  • Know where the exits are located. We hear it all the time but do we really pay attention? The exit nearest you may be blocked or unusable for some reason. Have a plan B in mind. Count rows of seats ahead and behind you to exits. Know your surroundings.

  • Comply with stowing your personal items under the seat in front of you. As tempting as it may be to place something by your feet the path you block could be your path to safety.

  • Know proper “Brace” or “Crash” positions – it’s on that card in the seat pocket in front of you. If traveling with children know procedure to best protect them. Comply with flight crew instructions, they are trained professionals prepared to do their job.

  • The nearest exit may be blocked or the door won’t open for some reason. Don’t waste time – move to another exit. When we did the mock evacuation one group did not exit the “plane” in 90 seconds. Their door would not open. Mostly men, well traveled and experienced, they were absolutely sure they could do it and weren’t going to give up.

  • Emergency floor lights leading to exits may not function, depend on yourself not mechanical or electrical factors.

  • If you’re in an emergency row study the door. Where does it say to grasp? Do you push, pull, shove or turn? In what direction? Should you throw the door out the opening or turn and place it across a row of seats? Never on the floor. Be aware the door will be heavy, 35-40 pounds.

  • Before opening any exit, look through a window to check for smoke, fire or debris/obstructions.

  • Don’t stop to get personal items before evacuating – it could be your laptop or your life. This has been an issue during some incidences.

  • Once out of the plane move away quickly. Don’t block the route for others and get away from potential fire.

I don’t want to be paranoid and I’m not going to quit flying but being aware helps in being prepared. Hopefully we all enjoy many future flights without incident but just in case these dozen tips could make a difference. Safe and happy travels.

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