At the beginning of every commercial flight, passengers sit through a short safety demonstration of what to do in case of a loss of cabin pressure or an emergency evacuation.
The majority of people do not pay much attention, but would that change if people were given more information? British Airways has a flight safety awareness course for the public. Attendees learn an abbreviated version of what flight attendants learn.
One common instruction you hear is to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. There is a good reason. Passengers can become disoriented within 15 to 20 seconds as oxygen is sucked out of the plane. Within 30 to 45 seconds, passengers will start passing out.
Do you know the proper brace position? There are diagrams on the safety cards in each seat pocket, but you should pay attention to the details. Place your hands on your head with one hand on the other. If something falls, you will want one uninjured hand to help you unbuckle your seat belt when instructed.
While you’re waiting for the plane to take off, the pilots are doing safety drills to prepare in case something goes wrong during takeoff. Passengers can do this too. Practice buckling and unbuckling the seat belt. In the event of an emergency, you can panic, so that practice could help with muscle memory if you need to exit quickly.
A lot of thought goes into the layout of the plane as well. Red lights are used when an emergency evacuation is needed because they show up better in a smoke-filled cabin. Planes only come with one-strap seat belts because they would be too uncomfortable during a long flight. Cabin lights are dimmed after a flight to help passengers adjust for lighting when they exit the plane.
It’s incredible how much detail goes into planning for emergency. Each situation helps others learn from mistakes and figure out ways to operate more efficiently and safely. The chances of ever being in a situation where you need to evacuate a plane or put on an oxygen mask are extremely remote, but you still should be prepared. Thinking quickly and knowing what to do can make the difference between life and death for you and those sitting around you.