The recent tragic crash of Aeroflot flight 1492 has dredged up a commonly discussed topic – passenger preparation and response in the event an aircraft emergency. Early reports from the May 5th crash that took the lives of at least 40 passengers, indicate that many survivors took extra time during the evacuation process (while the airplane was burning) to retrieve personal belongings. Video that spread around social media in the hours after the accident appeared to show passengers exiting the escape slides and running on the airfield with bags, suitcases, and other items in hand.
It is important to follow these basic rules in the event of an emergency, to ensure not only your safety, but the safety of fellow passengers.
1. Read the safety card and listen to the safety briefing. This is something that everyone should do on every flight, even if you are a frequent flyer. Both are in place for a reason – your safety. Each aircraft type is unique and the emergency procedures might be different from one aircraft to another. It takes less than five minutes to do both. And, if you see other passengers nearby not doing the same and are comfortable doing so, kindly engage them in conversation regarding emergency procedures. I know several people that are not shy about speaking with fellow passengers about emergency procedures. Who knows? Your discussion might save their life, or yours.
2. Familiarize yourself with the closest exit (and other escape routes). It is important to know where the closest exit is if you need to make a timely escape. Emergencies come in many forms – some might impair your vision or senses, so knowing which direction to go is important. The closest exits might also become unusable based on the severity of the situation. Just know the possible ways to get out.
3. Listen to crew instructions. If there is an emergency, the crew will be directive. Listen to them. Do not begin to move until told to do so by the crew. Expeditiously follow the crew’s directions and the likelihood of a positive outcome increases exponentially.
4. DO NOT RETRIEVE YOUR BELONGINGS. Absolutely nothing you have with you is worth risking your life, or endangering the lives of fellow passengers in an attempt to take something off the aircraft. Airplanes are certified for all passengers to exit in under 90 seconds. That time does not include retrieving personal belongings. Leave your things and get out.
As passengers, we owe each other the courtesy and respect of knowing the proper response in an emergency.