Being prepared, both mentally and physically, is key to surviving a plane crash.
Thanks to improvements in airplane design and flight navigation systems, plane crashes and malfunctions are not only less common today than they were 30 years ago, but also less fatal.
Just a decade ago, passengers were 10 times as likely to die in a plane crash, according to an Associated Press analysis of National Transportation Safety Board data. But modern innovations such as sturdier seats, fire-retardant cabin parts and better ground proximity warning systems have made it so there are only two deaths for every 100 million fliers, according to the analysis.
How to be safe before your plane goes down
- It's always smart to have a good indication of where you are on the plane. Familiarize yourself with not only the location of the nearest emergency exit, but the distance to it. If you're sitting next to an exit door, learn its mechanics.
- Where you sit makes a difference. According to a study by Popular Mechanics, passengers near the tail end of the aircraft are 40 percent more likely to survive a crash.
- Where you place your seat belt on your body matters. The lower it is on your pelvis, the better chance you have of not being thrown or suffering internal injuries from the belt. The pelvis is one of the body's stronger structures. If the belt is on your belly, you have a greater chance of suffering internal injuries when it presses against you during impact.
- Be prepared and don't panic. Panicking greatly reduces your ability to react quickly and reasonably.
- The more your body is covered by clothing during a crash, the more likely you are to stay warm and avoid burns. Wool is the most preferable material; it does not lose insulation as quickly as cotton does when wet, and it's also less flammable than cotton.
What to do if your plane crashes
- If you know in advance the plane is going to crash, brace yourself for impact. The Federal Aviation Administration recommends the crash position: Extend your arms and cross your hands and place them on the seat in front of you. Then place your head against the back of your hands and plant your feet as far underneath your own seat as you can.
If you make it out of the plane, get as far away from the crash as quickly as possible and hide behind something large in case of an explosion.
In case of a water landing, put your life jacket on ahead of time, but don't inflate it until you are outside the cabin. Fetch an extra blanket and your jacket, if you have one.
- Smoke can begin filling the plane 30 seconds after a crash as fire enters its body. At 60 seconds, that smoke will become toxic as fire burns the plane's plastics, fabrics and fuel. After two minutes, fire will begin to start fully engulfing the cabin, meaning you should stay as low as you can to avoid fumes.
- Don't try to rescue your belongings. It slows you and everyone else down.
- It's not easy to use evacuation slides and escape fire and toxic smoke while wearing the wrong footwear. High heels are not allowed on the slides and sandal wearers should be aware that feet can easily be cut by sharp debris scattered about during a crash.
- Most important, listen to crew members' instructions. They've undergone rigorous training to prepare themselves for crashes.
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