The Costa Concordia cruise ship sank off the coast of Italy Jan. 14, 2012 and a lot of folks are trying to learn who is at fault and what the Captain might or should have done. When cruise ships sink, like the Carnival Paradise ship in 2009, I don't wonder what the Captain should have done, because I am not likely to find myself driving a 160-foot (50 meter) luxury cruise liner with 4200 people on board. I am more likely to be one of the 4,200 locked out of the bridge (where the driving happens). So what can I learn, to survive.
There are some concrete things that we can learn to do when the unthinkable happens. Most ships have many safety features regarding exits, life boat routes, and life vest storage (both in your cabin and throughout the ship). Personnel are trained to guide you during an emergency if one is announced; but often times this doesn't happen to avoid general panic. Most of us learned in school not to act until instructed, wait in line and behave, someone will tell you what to do. We have been hearing many interviews on the Costa Concordia tragedy of this vain, "No one told us what to do".
Here are Five Tips that take just a minute:
1. Take the safety drill seriously. When boarding a cruise ship learn the safety options including personally checking your PDF (personal flotation device) and for any children in your cabin. Check for alternate life vest storage when you first come aboard and throughout your visit. These signs are clearly marked, but not always prominent.
2. Check for Safety Equipment. Become familiar with exits and lifeboat signs where you are in the ship. They may not always be in English. This takes just a minute when you enter a new area. Always have an exit strategy.
3. When you sense danger, or something unusual is happening, like the ship stays tilted, take a minute to think and make choices now that will increase your survival. Just the because the person in uniform you talk to says every thing is fine, that doesn't mean that it is. Their job is to avoid panic, and give direction when they have it, if they have it. If something isn't right, you need to immediately create a plan of action to increase your chances of survival.
4. Listen for evacuation signal and intercom system for instructions. Put on your personal flotation device immediately then assist others to the exit and muster station. DO NOT head to the interior of the boat, although others may do so in a panic. Following directions will reduce chaos. But remember crew members may not speak English or be well trained. This will assist with your decision making.
5. Stay Calm and don't panic. Sounds easy, but reality is that 70-80 % of people suffer from impaired reasoning or becoming irrational. Most of that is because people just don't know what to do. Planning ahead of time can eliminate most of that stress. Staying calm will allow you to stay focused and reduce some anxiety in others. Panic kills. Pushing and shoving on a cruise ship will lead to injuries before ever leaving the ship. One and your done, the one minute rescuer.
Author: Wayne Bennett
Wayne Bennett is a recently retired 27 year veteran fire captain in southern California. He is also the owner of Survival Skills & Co. a business specializing in Disaster Response training for Schools and Businesses. He has trained over 100,000 persons since 1991 how to save lives in his one day "Disaster Survival Skills" workshops. His company also provides realistic kits and supplies for disaster preparedness. His company provides NIMS training, CPR & First Aid classes.
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