Posted by: Korry | January 19, 2012

Emergency Preparation Tips

Last night, my wife and I were watching some of the news coming in about the capsizing of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy. Aside from our mutual disgust with the cowardly “captain” who apparently took the first opportunity he could to get off the boat, the aspect that most fascinated us was the actual evacuation by the passengers…in the middle of the night.

Would you have been ready?

Thankfully, there are a few simple tips you can follow to increase your chances of surviving one of these incredibly rare events. Wanna know the best part? They take virtually no time at all to actually implement in your routine.

Tip #1: Always leave yourself an out. Every good flight plan needs a “Plan B”. When I’m on an airliner, that means knowing where the exits are, which one is closest to me and–if I’m really on my game–counting the rows between me and the exit. On a cruise ship, that means knowing my route to the life boat. In a hotel, it means studying the layout map on the back of the hotel door and possibly even looking closely at the actual exit stair door so I know what it looks like, particularly the bottom of the door in case smoke is filling the hallway. Most of the time, this takes all of about thirty seconds. It’s worth it.

Tip #2: Take emergency drills and procedures seriously. Do you listen to the flight attendants safety spiel? What about taking a quick look at the emergency card in the seat back? Or if you’re on a cruise, did you really participate in the safety drill or were you just biding your time before you could go explore the ship? On our honeymoon cruise, our safety drill involved meeting in the dining hall and finding our group number. Sad to say, but I would have had no idea where our actual life boat was, and I’m guessing that would have been very useful information if we had been in an actual emergency.

Tip #3: Never assume an alarm is just a drill. A little over a year ago, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland at a nice hotel. At about 2AM, the fire alarm started blaring. If you stay in hotels enough, you know this happens from time to time and is often a false alarm. So I sat in my bed waiting for the alarm to stop. But it kept going…and going…and going. I went to the door, looked through the peephole and even opened the door to see if other people were leaving. Finally, after a good 5 minutes or so, I threw on some clothes and headed for the stairs and into the cold air. As it turns out, the kitchen had caught fire. It wasn’t a drill, but I was treating it like one. I wasted at least five valuable minutes that could have meant the difference of me safely escaping or not. I got lucky. Never again will I be so cavalier about a fire alarm, because next time I might not be so lucky.

Tip #3: Dress for success. When I’m on a plane, I wear comfortable clothes, particularly shoes. Ladies, the heels look great, but you may regret wearing them if you’re jumping onto an emergency slide. And while I’m talking about shoes, remember that most accidents occur on takeoff or landing, so make sure that you have your shoes on during those times. It’s tempting to take them off and slide them under the seat in front of you, but I doubt you’ll want to take the time to put them on and tie them up during an evacuation.

Tip #4: Pack for success. You’re not going to be taking much (if anything) with you when you evacuate, so keep the most important things near you. Keep your cell phone, wallet, passport and any other critical items in your pockets. Again, you don’t want to have to go searching for them in the heat of battle.

Look, I’m not suggesting you want to constantly live in “worst case scenario land” where you walk around all day imagining all the terrible things that could possibly happen regardless of how likely (or unlikely) those events may be. What fun is that?  But if you like living, at least thinking about worst case scenarios may truly save your life.

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