A Flight Attendant Explains Exactly How to Survive a Plane Crash

You have more power than you think.

First of all, we’re here to tell you: Don’t panic. Many people know flying commercial is extremely safe — even when scary. In fact, flying in a U.S. commercial aircraft was actually the safest place to be in the entire world last year, with zero fatalities from crashes.

So off the bat, you should be reminded that it is extremely unlikely you will ever be involved in a plane crash. (Travel + Leisure reports it happens only one time in about every 1.2 million flights.) That said, there’s no harm in arming yourself with a bit of preparedness, which alone can also ease nerves.

On Quora, United flight attendant Cheryl Schwartz shared her tips for surviving a plane crash when she answered the question: “When an airplane crashes and kills all of its passengers, what specifically causes the people to die?”

Schwartz said that right away, even before finding their seats, passengers should take notice of how many rows they are away from the closest emergency exit. In a true emergency, your visibility may be seriously impaired and imprinting that visual data in advance will be useful.

Schwartz also suggested knowing which brace position is the best one for each seat on the plane, as the answer is not uniform. When passengers have a seat in front of them, they should use that seat back as a brace to support their heads. Others’ best move will be to bend their bodies over their legs, and grab and hold behind their knees.

As well, as you always hear over the intercom, passengers should keep their seatbelt buckled as a precaution whenever they are seated on flights, even if air seems clear.

Beyond that, know what to leave behind: In a crash, those who try to rescue possessions may put the dozens, or hundreds, more in danger. “We have 90 seconds to evacuate 600 passengers or 30 passengers,” she wrote. “We have trained and know how to do it, and your carry-on doesn’t fit into the mix.”

As well, she added a detail that might come as a surprise to people with significant faith in the omnipresence of authorities: Do whatever you can to save yourself, as rescue may not come soon enough to help. She said, “Most crashes are survivable. Yet, with survivable crashes, crash scene investigators find passengers without a scratch on them still belted in their seats, dead.”

To sum up: To survive a plane crash, be aware, buckle your seatbelt, abandon your stuff, and be proactive.

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