No one likes to think of being involved in accidents or crash could happen to them, but should an accident occur there are statistically proven preparatory and response strategies that can increase your chances of surviving. These preparatory and response strategies have both physical and mental elements that when acted on together, may save your life.
Individuals trained in survival techniques will tell you that being prepared requires a positive mindset that is void of a fatalistic attitude that you are automatically doomed if involved in a significant accident. Rather, individuals who focus on the various things they could do to increase their odds of survival and act upon those thoughts and decisions have a greater chance of making it out alive.
How to Prepare Ahead of Time to Increase Your Chances of Survival
- Dress appropriately. Yes, what you wear can have an impact on helping you survive a crash or increasing your risk of injury and not surviving.
- Wear snug fitting as compared to loose-fitting clothing as this can offer protection against getting snagged on objects that could restrict your movement and chance of escaping a wreckage.
- Wear clothing made of cotton or natural materials as these do not burn or melt as rapidly as does clothing made from synthetic materials. Any additional cushioning that layered clothing may offer can also help absorb impacts.
- Wear shoes that can be tied with laces to prevent them from being knocked off. You might have to walk to a safe location or through sharp debris. Because lower extremity (foot, ankle, and leg) injuries are common in both vehicle and plane crashes, shoes that provide ankle support may also prove helpful in escaping the wreckage.
- If you know you will be traveling in cold weather, making sure you have sufficient clothing that you could put on to protect you from the elements if needed is wise.
- Wear your seatbelt and be properly positioned. Whether in a vehicle or a plane, wearing your seatbelt offers protection.
- As it pertains to a vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTFA) states that half of all vehicle accident deaths could have been prevented if the victim would have been properly wearing a seatbelt. Of course, the proper application requires that the lap belt be securely fastened low around your hips (hip bones). Wearing it higher not only reduces its effectiveness but may lead to damage to internal organs. Also, the shoulder harness should be securely worn across the shoulder and chest, and not tucked under your arm or placed behind your back. Your seat should be positioned mostly upright and your back pressed against it and feet placed flat on the floor. All the safety designs are based on this positioning.
Also, be sure that your airbags are in proper operating mode and engaged for activation should a crash occur.
- As it pertains to a plane. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that a seatbelt must be applied (and shoulder harnesses if installed) during aircraft movement on surface, takeoff, and landing. If a crash is going to occur, research has shown that the best impact positioning is to lean forward and hold your head against the seat ahead of you to reduce the risk of the secondary impact of the head and pull your limbs inward toward your body to reduce them from flailing about on impact.
Lower extremity injury (broken feet and legs) is common in plane crashes and is associated with impending escape from the wreckage. Storing your carry-on bag beneath the seat in front of you, as compared to in the overhead storage, will offer some padding against injury and help prevent legs from sliding under and becoming caught or pinned.
While the FFA also states that no seat is safer than another on a plane, statistical data from post-analysis of plane crashes shows that individuals that sit in the middle seats of the rear 1/3 of the plane are safer, experiencing a 32% fatality rate, while those seated in the middle section of the plane have a 39% fatality rate, and those sitting in the front 1/3 section of the plane have a 38% fatality rate. It is believed that being somewhat protected from impact by being surrounded by other people and/or structures contributes to this protection. Further, sitting within 5 rows of an exit was also associated with increased survival rates, demonstrating that a quicker exit of a wreckage can make the difference between death and survival.
It is also strongly advised to pay close attention to the pre-flight safety briefing instructions as data has shown that most passengers do not pay attention. As a demonstration to the importance of paying attention, only 10 of the 150 passengers on board the 2009 US Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River grabbed their life vests and evacuated with them.
- Eliminate potential flying objects, or properly secure them.
While this recommendation is more applicable as airline regulations require that your carry-on bags be properly stored in overhead bins or under the seat in front of you, the number of potentially dangerous objects that could be accelerated in high rates in the event of an accident. These projectiles could be unfastened passengers to cell phones, laptop computers, backpacks, pets, and a whole assortment of other items that people may carry in their vehicles.
Use storage locations wisely to secure as many items that are traveling with you, use unoccupied seatbelts to strap down backpacks, place certain objects under seats when possible, and take advantage of your trunk or pickup bed to place certain larger items.