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10 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Surviving a Plane Crash

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10 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Surviving a Plane Crash

Plane crashes seem rare these days, but as last week’s vivid incident on the San Francisco runway reminds us, they still do happen and the results can be fatal. Since I am in the Florida Keys with my daughter and we are flying across the country in a few days, the San Francisco accident admittedly gave me a scare.  Fortunately, I came across an interview with Ben Sherwood, the author of The Survivor’s Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life, which included smart tips for increasing your odds that you will survive a plane crash – if you happen to be so unlucky as to be in one. As it is the summer travel season, I thought I would share Mr. Sherwood’s and other experts’ potentially life-saving tips with you:

1. Maybe the most important tip: Sit as close to an exit as possible. A study by University of Greenwich’s Ed Galea, an expert on how people react and survive in emergency situations, examined the seating charts of over 100 plane crashes and discovered that those within 5 rows of the emergency exits had much better odds of survival than those farther away from exit doors. Aisle seats are also statistically safer than other seats as it allows you to exit the plane faster than people in middle and window seats.

2. Galea also found that seats at the back of the plane were safer statistically than those in the front (sorry, First Class). Passengers in the tail of the airplane enjoy a 40% higher survival rate than those in the first few rows.

3. Always keep your seatbelt snugly buckled when sitting in your seat. “Snug” is the operative word here: Every centimeter of slack in your belt triples the G-Force your body will experience in the crash. Also, keep your belt low on your pelvis, rather than your abdomen, as your bones can handle impact better than your soft internal organs.

4. Pay attention to “Plus Three / Minus Eight.” This is aviation lingo referring to the first three minutes of being airborne and the last eight. Why is this time frame important? Eighty percent of all crashes happen in this eleven-minute window. Rather than take off your shoes, snooze or pick-up a magazine, pay close attention during take-off and landings for any signs that something may be amiss.

5. On average you have 90 seconds to exit a burning plane before the aluminum hull of the aircraft is no longer protective. Leave luggage, purses and laptops behind. Also, remove high-heeled shoes. Smoke is one of the biggest threats to plane crash survivors, so if possible, place a cloth over your nose and mouth as a rudimentary filter.  Again, if possible, for added protection make the cloth wet before using.

6. Sherwood emphasizes that how you react to an emergency situation and how prepared you are has significant bearing as to whether you will survive it or not. Easier said than done, but do not panic. Panic, says Sherwood, is the enemy of survival. Being prepared helps prevent panic. When boarding a plane memorize where you are vis-a-vis the emergency exits. Formulate and VISUALIZE your exit plan – for example what if the closest exit is not available, where is the second closest exit? The third? Imagine yourself getting to the closest exit and out to safety.  ”You are responsible for your life,” Galea warns, “If you know what you’re doing, you’ve got a better chance of surviving.”

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Cherise Udell

Cherise Udell is a mom, clean air advocate, anthropologist and feline aficionado with the nomadic habit of taking spontaneous sojourns to unusual destinations. Before her adventures in motherhood, she was an intrepid Amazon jungle guide equipped with a pair of sturdy wellingtons and a 24-inch machete, as well as a volunteer at a rainforest animal rescue center.

180 comments

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12:59PM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

hahah ai think its a bit funny article :P

1:11AM PDT on Sep 11, 2013

I don't think we will ever fly again since my husband had a major anxiety attack the last time we did fly!
I have a friend who loves to fly - I will forward her these tips! Thanks Cherise!

7:03PM PDT on Jul 25, 2013

good tips

6:16PM PDT on Jul 25, 2013

I don't travel for a long time but if I did ,I would appreciate the tips.
TY!!

4:14PM PDT on Jul 25, 2013

Thank you very much for the extremely useful and clever tips.
I hate flying with a passion, and avoid long flights if I can, but knowing this info might certainly be helpful.

7:01PM PDT on Jul 23, 2013

Thanks.

5:51PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

Aargh! Thanks for the tips...though it doesn't make my anguish for flying any less!

6:44AM PDT on Jul 21, 2013

noted. thanks a lot for sharing.

3:17PM PDT on Jul 20, 2013

The absolute BEST way to avoid dying in a plane crash is to NOT fly in the first place! My own car is more fuel-efficient than an airplane (okay, maybe not quite if you divide the cost of fuel by the number of occupants) AND the cost to drive myself beats the hell out of the cost of a plane ticket; I can bring my own meals and snacks; I can bring my cats and not have to worry about them dying in the cargo hold; and I never have to worry about being seated next to a drunk threatening to vomit all over my lap, or someone with mind-killing B.O., or have someone's unruly BRAT screaming their head off or kicking my seat from directly behind me, for the entire flight!!!

4:59AM PDT on Jul 20, 2013

Interesting article....if you fly. I can't afford the luxury, so I guess that would make MY odds better than any listed here...lol.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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