Air Travel: Cabin Safety

Flying is a fast and efficient way for families to travel to their vacation destinations, businessmen/women to make their meetings, and grandparents to see their grandchildren. As convenient as traveling by air is, it is equally risky. While flight attendants and pilots have increased their efforts to ensure safer flights since the hijackings on 9/11, passengers must also assume responsibility for their safety. This includes taking precautions before and after boarding.

What to Wear
Dressing appropriately for air travel can help prevent serious injury and even save your life. In an emergency, the escape slide may be your only chance at evacuation and survival. Although the slide can save your life, the friction from it creates heat, extreme heat that can lead to serious second- and even third-degree burns. Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts made of natural fibers can protect the skin from the heat as well as from flying debris that can cause injury. It is important to avoid clothing made of synthetic fibers since these materials could melt to the skin in extreme heat.

As for footwear, anything that delays a person from evacuating the plane will increase his or her risk of injury or death from smoke inhalation or flying debris. Comfortable, closed-toe shoes without heels are the safest choices. Avoid high heels since they may have to be removed before evacuation, making you more vulnerable to stepping on broken glass or metal.

Preflight
Upon boarding the plane, each passenger should locate the exit closest to them and count the number of seats to the exit row. In an emergency, if the plane fills with smoke, knowing the number of seats to the exit row is crucial to quickly exiting the plane.

The Federal Aviation Association regulates that flight attendants must give preflight instructions that explain the emergency equipment and operation of the aircraft. These instructions can become repetitive and tedious for the frequent flier. However each aircraft and crew has slightly different procedures, so even the most experienced flier needs to listen to this important safety information. In addition to listening to the crew's instructions, passengers should also read the safety card in the seat pocket in front of them.

Carry-On Baggage
Falling baggage causes about 4,500 injuries each year in the United States. Generally, the weight limit for carry-on bags is 40 lbs. However, even baggage that weighs less than 40 lbs. can cause serious injury if it is stored improperly and/or if it shifts during flight and then falls on a passenger. One way to ensure proper storage of luggage is to have flight attendants put it in the overhead compartment. They are trained to safely secure it. When you go to retrieve your baggage, open compartments slowly and make sure your head and the heads of others are out of the way.

Seatbelts
Wear your seatbelt throughout the entire flight! There is no better way to protect yourself from unexpected turbulence than to have your seatbelt tightly secured around your waist. Turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to passengers and flight crew. Pilots try to predict turbulence and often turn the seatbelt sign off when they expect a relatively smooth flight. However, pilots cannot always anticipate turbulence, so passengers should only unbuckle their seatbelt if they need to use the lavatory.

-- Kristin Crawford

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