You're on an airplane waiting to leave the gate. After settling into your cramped seat, you start a podcast only to be interrupted by a flight attendant holding up life vests and oxygen masks. "What's the point," you sigh to yourself. "If this plane goes down, then we're all dead anyway." You replace your earbuds and close your eyes.
But wait — maybe you should be paying a bit more attention. The survival rate in plane accidents is actually about 95.7 percent, meaning the odds are on your side, especially if you know what to do [source: NTSB].
Take Josh Peltz, a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549, which crashed into the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009. Seated in the exit row, Josh used the chaotic moments before impact to brush up on how to open the exit door. After hitting the water, he jumped into action, swiftly opening the door and preventing a pileup of people behind him [source: Northedge].
Aside from noting instructions printed on the plane and delivered by the flight attendant, there are other ways to improve your chances of survival. Try to sit within five rows of an emergency exit and keep your shoes on during takeoff and landing. This should help you escape quickly and safely: Most crash survivors evacuate in less than 90 seconds [source: Sherwood].
And if that doesn't make you feel better, remember: Your chance of dying in a plane crash is only 1 in 90 million! [source: Sherwood]
Author's Note: 10 Pieces of Disaster Safety Advice You Should Ignore
Writing this article led me to reflect on my own experience with disaster. When I was just 5 years old, my family and I huddled in the hallway as a tornado threatened our home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Luckily, it hopped over us, but nearby neighborhoods were not so lucky. I remember obsessively watching the weather reports for years after this encounter. Certainly, my fear has diminished with age, thanks in no small part to a greater understanding of disasters and how to prepare for them. And yet, in researching this piece I learned even more comforting disaster safety advice. Now I know not to touch any metal on my car during a lightning storm, and not to seek shelter in a doorway for an earthquake. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling better already.
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- American Red Cross. "Families Can Prepare for Disaster with Financial Planning." Sept. 19, 2012. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Families-Can-Prepare-for-Disaster-with-Financial-Planning
- Associated Press. "1979 Texas tornado led to safety changes." USA Today. April 9, 2004. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/weather/resources/safety/2004-04-09-wichita-falls-tornado_x.htm
- Associated Press. "Hurricane experts: Stop taping windows for storms." CBS News. March 27, 2012. (Jan. 10, 2015) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/hurricane-experts-stop-taping-windows-for-storms/
- Belluz, Julia and Steven Hoffman. "The evidence on travel bans for diseases like Ebola is clear: They don't work."Vox. Oct. 18, 2014. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://www.vox.com/2014/10/18/6994413/research-travel-bans-ebola-virus-outbreak
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- Edwards, Roger. "Tornado Safety." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Storm Prediction Center. (Jan. 15, 2015) http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html
- Federal Alliance for Safe Homes Inc. "We're Busting the #1 Hurricane Preparedness Myth." 2014. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://www.greathurricaneblowout.org/protect_tapeless.php
- Federal Emergency Management Agency. "How to Prepare for an Earthquake." (Jan. 11, 2015) http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1408632135401-3d0521fa59d0dd4016e82f08fe7f3732/PrepareAthon_EARTHQUAKES_HTG_FINAL_508.pdf
- Insurance Information Institute. "Am I Covered? Common Questions Asked by Homeowners about Insurance." (Jan. 12, 2015) http://www.iii.org/article/am-i-covered
- Jones, Lucile M. and Mark Benthien. "Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country." Southern California Earthquake Center. 2011. (Jan. 15, 2015) http://www.earthquakecountry.info/roots/step5.html
- Karesh, William. "7 Common Myths about Pandemics and New Diseases." The Huffington Post. June 27, 2013. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-william-karesh/pandemics-common-myths_b_3498381.html
- Kelly, Kate. "Remember Duck and Cover? What Safety Experts May Have Been Thinking." The Huffington Post. Oct. 26, 2010. (Jan. 12, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-kelly/remember-duck-and-cover-w_b_774134.html
- Kenny, Charles. "Fighting Ebola: The American Argument Against an African Travel Ban." Bloomberg Businessweek. Oct. 6, 2014. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-06/fighting-ebola-an-african-travel-ban-is-bad-for-the-u-dot-s-dot-too#p1
- National Lightning Safety Institute. "Vehicles and Lightning." 2015. (Jan. 10, 2015) http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls/vehicle_strike.html
- National Transportation Safety Board. "Survivability of Accidents Involving Part 121 U.S. Air Carrier Operations, 1983 Through 2000." March 5, 2001. (Jan. 14, 2015) http://app.ntsb.gov/doclib/safetystudies/SR0101.pdf
- National Weather Service. "Lightning Safety." 2015. (Jan. 10, 2015) http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/fatalities.htm
- Northedge, Charlotte and Ros Anderson. "Plane Crashes: The People who fell to Earth." The Guardian. Feb. 20, 2009. (Jan. 9, 2015) http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/feb/21/plane-crashes
- Reynolds, Glenn Harlan. "The Unexpected Return of 'Duck and Cover.'" The Atlantic. Jan. 4, 2011. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/01/the-unexpected-return-of-duck-and-cover/68776/
- Sherwood, Ben. "The Great Plane Crash Myth." The Daily Beast. Jan. 17, 2009. (Jan. 9, 2015) http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/01/17/the-great-plane-crash-myth.html
- Sherwood, Ben. "The Survivors Club." Grand Central Publishing. 2009.
- Southern California Earthquake Center. "Drop! Cover! Hold on!" 2011. (Jan. 15, 2015) http://dropcoverholdon.org/
- The World Bank. "Ebola: Economic Impact Already Serious; Could be 'Catastrophic' Without Swift Response." Sept. 17, 2014. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/09/17/ebola-economic-impact-serious-catastrophic-swift-response-countries-international-community-world-bank
- University of Greenwich. "How to Survive a Plane Crash: Tips from Greenwich Professor." Nov. 15, 2011. (Jan. 9, 2015) http://www2.gre.ac.uk/about/news/articles/2011/a2093-how-to-survive-an-air-crash
- Williams, Jack. "Answers Archive: Tornado Safety." USA Today. Jan. 16, 2006. (Jan. 11, 2015) http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/weather/resources/askjack/watorsaf.htm
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