Being Prepared For An Accident (again)

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Back in May I did a post about ‘Being Prepared For An Accident‘ and I wanted to build upon this, drawing on a few additional recent travel experiences.

The first of these relates to taking a cruise on NCL. This is my second cruise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, in terms of the safety briefing, it showed, in my view, a further improvement. Whereas on the previous cruise the safety briefing felt little more than lip service in comparison to how things used to be done, this time, the focus was aimed at getting passengers informed before boarding rather than after. To do this, an email was sent asking us to watch a video. The video itself is on YouTube so can be viewed by anyone.

You were supposed to watch this video during the checking-in procedure and it was embedded within the website itself and you seemed unable to move to the next screen until you have watched the video (or, more strictly, since nobody is checking if you are actually watching or staying on that window/tab) the video has finished playing. Unlike what we have at my university with a range of safety and training exercises, there were no multiple choice questions to answer (which often seem so obvious to answer that you question whether watching or reading any of the supplied materials is necessary). I also got several reminder emails in the days leading up to the cruise itself asking me to watch the video (again). On board, we had to go to our muster station, but there was no additional briefing.

Personally, I found all of this sufficient. For two reasons. First, I have been on a number of cruises, so I have a fair understanding of what I should do. Second, I have little doubt that in an actual emergency I may forget what I should be doing regardless of how well I have apparently been trained. At that point, more than anything, what is needed is for the crew to provide clear instructions and for passengers to follow these instructions. For that to work no training is required on the part of the passengers beyond having the manners and ability to do as they told in an appropriate manner (which I do have some concerns about given the way some people behave generally, let alone during a stressful situation).

And that brings me to my second experience. I flew on one airline – which I won’t name – where, although I have no reason doubt that the crew were trained properly in what they are supposed to do in an emergency, throughout the pre-take-off safety briefing and throughout the flight, the sound system kept failing. This is frustrating enough as the sound comes and goes as they speak. But in an actual emergency such problems could cost lives. In the grand scheme of things (compared to the state of the flaps, engines, etc.), a sound system may not seem important, but, I would argue, a plane where the speakers are not working (though I assume that there is also a loud-hailer as a back-up) needs to be pulled in for an urgent maintenance service and repair.

Finally, and perhaps this is a bit more tongue-in-cheek, but it comes from my interest in symbols (and also recent observations at a hospital where there are just so many signs, notices, etc (often with fonts that are far too small) that I can’t imagine most people taking (m)any of the bits of information on display), it does worry me a little that apparently a sign is needed on the side of a plane’s jet engine (such as the one in the photo below that I took on a Norwegian Air flight) warning people not to stand by a jet engine that is running. Surely a certain degree of common sense can be assumed without the need for signs, which, by the time you have read them, could have led the person to endangering themselves in some form anyway.

As I concluded with my previous post on these issues, perhaps it is time to revisit how safety briefings are done – get rid of the clutter and bits that are not likely to make any difference in the end – but find a way to further enhance the position of cabin crew to ensure that they are given the respect that they are due and ensure that they will have the ability to communicate and give orders if an emergency occurs.

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