Why don’t the people in safety demonstrations act scared?

This question, which of course is fatuous, struck me because, owing to my recent flights and cruises, which exposed me to many safety demonstrations, I was struck by how calm people are in these videos and photos.

If you’ve ever seen a cellphone video of the interior of an airplane cabin in which people think they’re going to crash, it’s pandemonium. People are crying, screaming, making what they think are their last phone calls, and so on. That’s to be expected, especially if the plane is lurching, or an engine’s on fire, or the aircraft is plummeting downward.

But in the safety demonstrations, people putting on oxygen masks or bracing themselves or donning lifejackets are calm as cucumbers. They even look placid, and move with assuredness.

I can tell you, though, that if the eight-tone “abandon ship” signal sounded on this cruise, and I had to put on one of those complicated “cold weather suits”, with a fancy and cumbersome life vest AND a fanny pack loaded with provisions (and long underwear and socks!), I don’t know if I’d be able to do it. (To their credit, Hurtigruten makes sure that every passenger knows exactly what to do and where to go in case of an emergency, and their equipment is top notch. It’s just that I’d be so frightened I don’t know if I could remember the instructions.)

Clearly, the answer to my silly title question is that companies don’t want to show people panicking in emergencies: it’s not the way we should behave, and showing scared passengers doesn’t inspire confidence in an airplane or ship! But it could make for some hilarious satirical safety videos and cards.

I figured I could find some of these on the Internet, but it took a while to find just one, and you have to use the right search terms. There’s some funny stuff out there, too, as in the second picture.

 

 

66 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    lol (to that last one)

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    People will act in all kinds of ways in panic situations. You never know how you will act until you actually experience an event. If you can remember where the exit is, you are probably doing good. In an airplane it is calming information because it gives people the idea you may actually survive a crash. More than likely you won’t.

    It is why the idea of having the average citizen carrying guns in case shooting should start is pretty stupid. It is much more likely the person with a gun will do nothing or maybe worse, shoot an innocent person. Studies of soldiers in battle the first time will show that more than half will not fire their gun.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      That is why, although I own a gun, I do not plan to get a concealed carry license. The likelihood of an occasion when I would need a gun seems less than one where I would use in incorrectly.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      In an airplane it is calming information because it gives people the idea you may actually survive a crash. More than likely you won’t.

      Most crashes happen in landing or take-off. (Which is why the aviation industry quotes deaths per thousand passenger kilometres, not per take-off/ landing pair. Very few crashes happen outside the take-off/ landing processes; thousands of ground-km can intervene between a take-off and a landing. Even fewer crashes happen on the ground. Doh!)
      In a takeoff/ landing crash, the most important predictor of passenger survival is gender. Second is a passenger’s frequency of flying; third is the size of group the passenger is in.
      The reason for this is that in a survivable crash, it gets very physical inside the cabin.
      – People fight to get to the exits.
      – Men kill (or walk over ; same difference) women and children to get to the exits.
      – Those who know where the exits are, go there without getting lost. Those who get lost, die.
      – Groups travelling together can fight off others to get to the exits.
      This goes against the laws of “chivalry”. That upsets some people. It doesn’t make it untrue.
      Flying with civilians scares the shit out of me. You can predict that they will panic, and then things will get very nasty. At least when I flew for work, I generally knew how the other PAX had been trained and could predict their reactions reasonably well. Civilians are plain scary.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 2:32 am | Permalink

        On the other hand, there have been documented occasions when the aircraft has made a bad landing and caught fire (or similar) and the self-loading cargo in Cattle Class have just sat there like a bunch of… cattle with the hostess screaming at them to move…

        It seems that under stress the human reaction is one of two extremes, either utter panic or total dazed inertia. Both are, needless to say, not good.

        cr

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

          This is why flying with un-trained civilians is terrifying. You don’t know what they’re going to do, apart from the general expectation that they’re going to try to maximise the total body count by minimising their personal body count.

      • Gabrielle
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        Back in 1998, I was on a vacation with a tour group to Scandinavia. On the flights we took on SAS Airlines between Scandinavian countries, there was no assigned seating to board the planes. Instead, at the boarding announcements, there would be upwards of 100 people rushing towards the boarding gate.

        Every single time, adult men would push their way to the front of the crowd, I suppose so they could get the better seats. Women and children were left at the rear of the crowd. I remember the other (mostly older) women saying out loud that they couldn’t believe this, and also noticing some of the men turning around to see who was complaining. They looked puzzled, too.

        What I also recall is that no women would push their way to the front, perhaps because of lack of physical strength and height, and lack of courage. I certainly know that there’s no way that my petite self could shove a bunch of six foot tall men out of my way.

        Otherwise on our trip, people were perfectly polite and friendly.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:22 am | Permalink

          Exactly what I would expect too. I generally wait until the last dozen or two of people boarding, regardless of boarding order, because standing in queues is a complete WOMBAT (Waste Of Money, Brains And Time).

  3. Jay
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    In an emergency, fear isn’t helpful. Focusing on the task at hand is.

    • Tom Besson
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes. Stay calm and carry on.

  4. rickflick
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I find these placards from the Twilight Zone very amusing. I saw one that showed the models with calm faces going through absurd behaviors. The placid expressions enhanced the humor for me.

  5. Mark Reaume
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of Airplane, “All right everybody, get into crash positions!”

  6. Posted November 14, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I often think of the amazing composure of the heroes of United Flight 93 and wonder how I would act. My only scary experience was a blown tire on take off. The plane circled a couple of times and then landed. We passengers had to brace which made everyone nervous, but no panic.

    • max blancke
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      It is really interesting to try to predict how people will act in super high-stress situations. There is of course a great deal of effort that goes into designing training simulations that bring you as close to that stress as possible, but you never really get there. You always know that you are in a designed simulation, even if the fire is real.

      I think it is a very common experience for people going into combat or responding to their first fire to be very worried about how they will react, and wondering the same about their buddies.

      I did get to see two different people go legitimately crazy the first time we went into combat, and it happened before we were really under any fire. We were close enough to see and sort of feel the explosions, but were not yet in any actual danger. One guy had hysterical paralysis, and had to be carried away as if he had suffered a serious spinal injury. The other guy tried unsuccessfully to kill us all to spare us from the horrors ahead. Most people just deal with it and do their jobs.

      The first time I fought a serious fire, it happened in a place where the only way to get to the fire was down a series of stairways, right down through the smoke and heat. There was no way to get below or beside it, so we were almost blind going down. Afterwards, I was glad the fire was out, but I was almost ecstatic that I was able to go down that ladderway. But in those situations, there are always a few people who decide to “go to the fire locker and get more hoses”.

      I will end my diatribe, but this is a subject that I find endlessly fascinating.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 14, 2019 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        Going into fire is terrifying enough on the training ground. The only real time I’ve had to do it in real life, I had to send the other fire-trained person around to kick in the door of the apartment above and evacuate the people from there. That left me with a lanky useless liability of a physicist called Bob.
        The people upstairs were evacuated ; Bob nearly set me on fire, but was incompetent at that too. So I think I made the right allocation of personnel to tasks.

  7. grasshopper
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Imagine yourself on a sinking cruise ship, and discovering that the captain and crew of the vessel had already abandoned the ship without raising an alarm, before you discovered you were in mortal peril.

    MTS Oceanos was a French-built and Greek-owned cruise ship that sank in 1991 due to uncontrolled flooding. Her captain and some of the crew were convicted of negligence for fleeing the ship without helping the passengers, who were subsequently rescued thanks to the efforts of the ship’s entertainers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTS_Oceanos

    • Posted November 14, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Wow. Those passengers must have been pretty shocked when they got to the bridge and found no one there.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Don’t forget the captain of the Costa Concordia in 2012 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costa_Concordia_disaster.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        Then there is this courageous and noble female ship’s captain who rescues migrants cast into the sea and faces imprisonment for her actions. https://www.npr.org/2019/08/21/753107888/captain-who-rescued-migrants-at-sea-refuses-paris-medal-calling-it-hypocritical.

        • max blancke
          Posted November 14, 2019 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

          This is a different story, and not at all what it is presented as.
          The NGO vessels loiter right off the Libyan coast, meet the boats full of refugees, and always bring them to Europe.
          There is reasonable evidence that the boats carrying the refugees are usually driven back to the smuggler’s ports in Libya. What seems to be the focus of the criminal proceedings is whether the NGOs actually coordinate their pickups with the smugglers in advance.
          It does seem that many of these transfers happen in calm weather, and in broad daylight. The NGO boats never take the refugees to safe ports in Tunisia or Egypt which are much closer, or back to the Libyan ports that they departed from, even though that would be a matter of only a few minutes. Only Europe.
          I am sure there are open borders advocates here that probably believe it is a great idea to allow unlimited immigration from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. I disagree.
          I do believe that those in genuine distress should always be rescued. But if criminal human smugglers are creating “distress” situations deliberately as part of their business model, it is a matter for law enforcement.

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:33 am | Permalink

            I didn’t know about any of this, never saw even a hint of anything squirrelly in anything I read, which is not to cast doubt on what you state but to say only that info on this sure isn’t readily available and all I had to go on were media reports that stressed unalloyed moral courage, a virtue in woefully short supply these days. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised that such machinations are going on. Seems as if everything becomes a racket sooner or later. I’d like to be disabused of my misinformation. Where can I read about this? I went several Google pages into a search and found nothing. Perhaps I’m not using the right search terms.

            • max blancke
              Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

              It is perfectly understandable to have only seen this issue from the perspective of heroic lifesaving. That is a compelling story. And I know some of the people participating in this, and they are generally very well intentioned.
              And some of the loudest voices against the NGOs are not the best sorts of people.

              Here is one article that is full of opinion, but also has enough data to be worth reading,especially for the maps, even if it is the Daily Mail-
              https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-4434182/When-does-rescue-mission-ferry-service.html

              If you can work through the language issues, this one provides some images of smugglers participating in the rescues-

              https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article167345863/Dieses-Material-bringt-deutsche-Hilfsorganisation-in-Bedraengnis.html

              I personally think this is another story of good intentions incrementally turning into something bad. Once the NGOs decide that they intend to save as many migrants as possible from dangerous sea conditions, it is not unreasonable for them to move their search area closer to the points of origin, and the smugglers naturally want to launch their boats when are where the refugees will be picked up soonest, and which allows the boat and especially the motor to be used again. Lots of little steps, and the end result is the NGO boats well inside Libyan territorial waters,and coordinating with the smugglers in mission planning. Some of the players involved are hardcore open borders people, who have undoubtedly pushed events in this direction.

              • Jenny Haniver
                Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

                Thanks very much. I’m anxious to read the links you provide. Even if one tries to be wary and is concerned about learning the full picture, it’s so easy to think that what one sees is all that’s there, especially if it comports with one’s hopes and preconceived notions.

                Just to say, I frequently go to the Daily Mail. It may be regarded as a tabloid but I find that it often has excellent information which is corroborated elsewhere. And sometimes, when I read a story in a ‘serious’ media outlet, I’ll check the Daily Mail and find more detailed information, and usually the details are juicy as well as true, though I can’t speak to the accuracy of their stories on the likes of the Kardashians! During the recent break in the impeachment hearings, I checked the Daily Mail to see what that paper had to say about Roger Stone’s conviction. Oh, my!

    • Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      My grandparents were on the Andrea Doria when it sank and my grandfather was even given a medal for saving other passengers.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted November 14, 2019 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        I do hope that their experiences were recorded. Did you get to hear their accounts first-hand?

        • Posted November 15, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

          Yes we did. They had their room key when the collision happened, and my mum still had it…

      • Posted November 14, 2019 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        That is something. I remember the Andrea Doria as a child. It was a big deal. I remember pictures of the ship on its side.

        Family lore is that a great great uncle tried to leave the Titanic in a dress. He was Scottish, so it was probably a kilt. Of course we don’t brag about that much.

        • rickflick
          Posted November 14, 2019 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

          “…tried to leave…”
          Does that mean they made him go back to his berth and change before they let him board a lifeboat? That’s too cruel even for a Scotsman. They do say women and children first, so maybe there’s more to the story.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

          Thank goodness the trans movement wasn’t around then! Everybody on board would have gone down with the ship because they’d have been arguing so much about sex and gender and whether trans women should be accorded the same status as cis women, and where did trans men belong.

      • Paul S
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        My father was on a military transport that took on some of the passengers. I have a picture of her in front of me listing hard astarboard, waterline at the deck, as I write.

        • Posted November 15, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

          Documentaries abound, and this one mentions my grandmother by name. Maybe you can spot your father too…

  8. Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    On BA, they crack jokes and smile.

  9. Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    The guy pushing the kid out of the way 😹

  10. DrBrydon
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    In the last year or so I heard a piece on NPR about humorous safety videos that airlines have been doing recently. The person being interview talked about how hard it was to get people to pay attention. Does it matter, the interviewer asked? Yes, he said. Apparently, a large percentage (I don’t remember the number) of the passengers on the flight that landed on the Hudson didn’t have their life vests on correctly. Luckily, they didn’t have to rely on them.

    Interestingly, the person also pointed out that airlines still use the old flap type of seat belt, and that modern cars don’t, so that there are people who don’t know how to use them. I had never thought about that.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      The really lucky thing for all the people on that airplane was the pilot they had. A guy with tons of hours flying and lots of emergency training time that airline pilots get in simulators.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 14, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        The pilot (Schellenberger? – something like that) performed an exercise that he was required to pass (in the simulator) as part of his commercial pilot’s license.
        Landing on water (when to, why to, how to) is a required part of being licensed to fly passengers over water. Capt.Schellenberger performed this difficult action competently. As his license required him to be able to do. As his examinations required him to demonstrate competence in, in order to retain his license to fly passengers over water.

        • rickflick
          Posted November 14, 2019 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

          I think Schellenberger was also a safety instructor as well as being trained to perform the way he did. Teaching is a good way to absorb information and may have been decisive in the outcome over the Hudson River.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted November 15, 2019 at 2:44 am | Permalink

            Sullenberger.

            But landing an airliner on water is an extremely tricky thing to do. MUCH trickier than landing wheels-up on flat ground. If the glide angle is even slightly wrong, the engines will ‘dig in’ or the tail will ‘bounce’ off the surface, either way the nose will dig in and the whole thing will break up.

            It requires both great skill and great luck in having calm water available and lots of rescue craft handy.

            cr

            • rickflick
              Posted November 15, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

              Absolutely right. I remember some media, as they are known to do, asked Sully if he didn’t thank God for the outcome. He said something to the effect: No, it was the professional training he and his crew received.
              As a pilot of small aircraft myself, I was trained in the basics of ditching. But, I always tried to minimize time over water by plotting a land route when possible. Once, when heading for the Oshkosh air convention we decided to shorten our route by flying over Lake Michigan. To minimize the time over water, we flew at 12,000 feet so that in an engine out midway through the crossing we would be able to glide most of the way to shore. I think we calculate our risk as only about 10 minutes out of reach of shore.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 17, 2019 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

                Yes. Water is really the worst possible surface for landing. Soft enough to dig in, yet (at flying speeds) virtually rock-solid to a direct impact. And if you survive, you then have the joys of drowning, hypothermia and sometimes sharks to contemplate – not normally an issue with a land crash (carnivorous animals are not normally a hazard)…

                cr

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

            Maybe. But “controlled flight into terrain” (ditching or landing off-runway) is a required part of a commercial pilot’s competence, and is tested (and re-tested) on a regular basis in the simulator. Performing an expected part of one’s competence is about as unexpected as a driver performing an emergency stop correctly during their driving test. (The repeated competence testing of drivers to retain their certificate of competence for driving is a topic we can return to.)
            Avoiding the “concrete canyons” of New York would be testing flying for anyone?
            NB : the linked video is a scheduled (and fairly busy) route ; these pilots probably do this milk-run 3 or 4 times daily.
            If you want free entertainment on a flight, try getting a seat where you can see through to the pilot’s activities. Though sometimes that might be discouraging.
            Is there a commercial airline that has “Cockpit Cam” on their in-flight entertainment box? That might be interesting.

            • rickflick
              Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

              Avoiding the “concrete canyons” of New York…

              Sully was offered trying to reach Newark or turn back to LaGuardia. He decided he couldn’t risk either because of the chance of coming up short and plowing into residences. The river was it.
              I’ve flown the Hudson River Corridor as it is called in a light plane, which puts you at about 1000′ altitude, from White Planes to well past the Statue of Liberty. It’s a bit tense mainly because of traffic such as the many tourist choppers that operate off a dock in the harbor.
              Here’s a video that gives an idea of what it’s like. You can start at 21:40 to see the larger buildings on Manhattan. At 23:20 we approach the “Lady” (Statue of Liberty). 26:27 – Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. 30:00 approaching Manhattan from the southeast. 30:50 passing Freedom Tower. 32:50 USS Intrepid aircraft carrier – now a museum. 35:30 George Washington Bridge.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted November 19, 2019 at 6:33 am | Permalink

              Just one nitpick, gravelinspector: “Controlled flight into terrain” is the phrase used for a full head-on crash, usually unintentional, such as e.g. Air New Zealand 901 into Mt Erebus. It isn’t generally used for a crash-landing or attempt.

              “A controlled flight into terrain is an accident in which an airworthy aircraft, under pilot control, is unintentionally flown into the ground, a mountain, a body of water or an obstacle. In a typical CFIT scenario, the crew is unaware of the impending disaster until it is too late.” – Wikipedia.

              cr

        • Keith
          Posted November 19, 2019 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

          Flight simulators can’t replicate a water landing, as Captain Sullenberger stated during an interview. So it’s not something that he had ever been able to practice.

          His skill and ability to remain calm during that experience was remarkable.

          • rickflick
            Posted November 20, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

            Yes. The key things about a water landing are getting the angle of attack right, the speed right, accounting for wind and waves if any, not hitting any solid objects like boats, and judging your altitude just before touchdown. That’s a lot to keep in mind when you’ve got a couple of hundred living human beings counting on you to get it all right.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Here’s one for British Airways. Rowan Atkinson appears near the end.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCoQwZ9BQ9Q

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      airlines still use the old flap type of seat belt,

      They require a single action in the direction of releasing the harness. Pressing “in” or “down” on a button (the different standards differ) to release a strap at 90 degrees to the direction of push … requires more thought.
      In any case, if the aircraft only uses “lap straps” (“gut-busters”, if you like), then it is emphatically not intended to maintain airframe integrity in a survivable crash. If the airframe was intended to protect the PAX from death, they’d have a restraint system with 4- or 5- points of restraint per body. And if you released your harness, an alarm would sound instructing the flight crew to divert to the nearest landing point in response to the emergency.

      Oh, the look on people’s faces when I told them that a marginally-survivable crash broke the ankles or lower legs of 60% of the passengers. OK, they drowned. But the airframe distortion prevented their backs from being broken in the crash, as designed. If they’d retained consciousness, more than one of them might have been able to release their harnesses and surface in the ice-cold sea from 30m below surface.

    • max blancke
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      When the cabin is dark, upside down, and mostly full of water is a terrible time to acquaint oneself with the locations of the exits and how the doors open.
      I think that there is probably data showing what minimum percentage of passengers knowing this information would lead to a successful evacuation.
      One thing they did when I was a cadet was that an senior cadet would come up behind you, put a blindfold on you, and tell you to make your way to the open deck. They did it a lot, and often to people way down in the bottom of the ship. The point, of course, was not to get you to memorize the plans of that ship, but to get you into a way of thinking where you are always plotting escape solutions, more or less subconsciously. It becomes a lifestyle. I cannot sleep comfortably unless I have clothes, shoes, and a flashlight where I can reach for them in the dark. And that is at home. On the ship, I also keep my lifejacket and survival suit in the same place next to my bed.

      One thing I always do with passengers is train them in different lifeboat and liferaft launching duties, and try to reinforce in them the idea that even though the crew does these things during drills, it is likely that an actual abandon ship situation would be the end of a series of emergencies, which might occupy or disable many of the crew members. I don’t think liability would allow this to happen on ships like the one Dr. Coyne is on, but our passengers are usually military or other folks aboard for professional reasons. So I can make them learn how to operate the winch or start the lifeboat engine. Ideally, everyone learns to do every job.

  11. Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    “I can tell you, though, that if the eight-tone “abandon ship” signal sounded on this cruise, and I had to put on one of those complicated “cold weather suits”, with a fancy and cumbersome life vest AND a fanny pack loaded with provisions (and long underwear and socks!), I don’t know if I’d be able to do it.”

    Be careful! If Hurtigruten read this they may require you to wear that stuff all the time.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      You’ve never had to un-soil an immersion suit.
      No, that wasn’t a question.

  12. Jonathan Gallant
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    My own nautical career, with a shipwreck or two and finally participation in a cruise to Alaska, was once recounted in an internet magazine. The high points were:

    “It occurred to me that my daughter Joanna had lived in the Northwest her whole life, so far, without yet seeing the magnificent country of SE Alaska. So, when I had the opportunity to secure cut-rate fares on the last Alaskan cruise of the season, I grabbed it.

    …My seafaring experience has been long and varied. In the 60s, I was navigator and first mate of a cabin cruiser named The Honorable Admiral T. Head when she tried to go ashore at Lopez Island. …Then, I was for some years master of the good ship Narwhal, a double-ender whaleboat that my partner and I converted to sail, gaff-cutter rig. The boat was so intensely picturesque, especially whenever she went aground, that tourists used to follow us around with cameras in hand.

    …When Joanna and I went aboard our cruise ship, I briefly mentioned my long nautical experience to a deck officer and confided that I was available to take the wheel, should an emergency arise. The deck officer relayed this information to the bridge, after which the PA system immediately ordered all passengers to don their life-vests. The deck officer also advised that I might find it comfortable to spend the entire cruise in my cabin, inasmuch as the captain would order Abandon Ship if I were found anywhere else. However, during the cruise I was often able to sneak out of the cabin in disguise and join Joanna on deck or in the buffet.”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      Cap’n Bligh!
      Long time, no cat! Regardless of the number of tails.

  13. max blancke
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Many years ago, I was a young officer who was charged with updating liferaft launching placards for a whole class of ships.

    I wanted to be subtle, so I only added a few shark fins to the image of the swimmers boarding the raft in the water. And a drowned crew member sinking lifelessly below.

    I worked really hard on it, and I have no idea if anyone ever noticed. But they were definitely manufactured and posted on several ships.

    But seriously, panic is the worst thing that can happen in an emergency situation.
    I had the unfortunate experience to find myself leading shipboard firefighting efforts on a couple of occasions. Pretending to be perfectly calm is very difficult and absolutely essential. People absolutely respond to that, as they are often in an unfamiliar and scary situation, and unsure how to react. I have to think that showing calm people on the instruction card helps somewhat.

    Similarly, my Dad taught me that the best way to teach a dog to be comfortable around gunfire is to take the dog near where someone is shooting, and act nonchalant.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      I wanted to be subtle, so I only added a few shark fins to the image of the swimmers boarding the raft in the water. And a drowned crew member sinking lifelessly below.

      I worked really hard on it, and I have no idea if anyone ever noticed. But they were definitely manufactured and posted on several ships.

      I hesitate to laugh. But I do snigger.
      Back in the early years of the millennium, I attended a Parliamentary Committee evidence session where several of my union colleagues gave their evidence over North Sea helicopter safety. (The engines of EC225s had started falling out of their mountings, mid-flight. About 60 deaths un-good. So far.) But I made one of the MPs “gathering evidence” turns a “I’d rather not lunch, thank you.” shade of green by saying how UK-voting personnel were listening to her committee even when they were more concerned of dieing of shark attack than hypothermia or impact.

      It was really a quite unpleasant shade of green she turned. Result!

      • max blancke
        Posted November 16, 2019 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        I am not keen on being ferried offshore by helicopter, especially when we have to be lowered down to the deck. Of course, being beat to death on a crew boat in rough seas has disadvantages as well. But the next time I fly, I will be sure to keep thinking about the gearbox lube pump, so thanks for that.

        I should stop hogging the forum with stories, but I will allow myself one more.

        When I lived in Houston, years ago, I was returning home on a very bumpy flight. I was sitting next to a person who appeared to be an aeronautical engineer, which was apparent to me by the calculations he had been doing on the tray table for most of the flight. But there was a lot of turbulence. When I finally spoke to him, I said “Do you know what I think about at times like this?…..Metal fatigue”.

        His eyes bugged out very satisfyingly.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 18, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          The only person I know who flew regularly to installations and was winched down was a HLO (Helicopter Landing Officer), who was required to be on deck to be external eyes for the pilots as they landed.
          He found being winched down to be a relaxing alternative to doing HALO entries under enemy fire for 2 Para. (“High Altitude Low Opening”)
          That was for the normally-unmanned SPM (single point mooring) buoy which his installation used for the tricky task of coupling up to a shuttle tanker. There would have been around a dozen other people doing similar jobs in the northern sector. In the southern sector the sea state was normally low enough to permit re-manning by boat, not by air.

  14. Posted November 14, 2019 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Ah Fight Club, the ultimate confrontation of oneself. The reason no one acts panicked is because one knows in all honesty that they would hate themselves if allowed to see themselves panicked – the facade would crumble, the veil lifted.

  15. eric
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Why do they look so calm?
    Because paralytic fear looks a lot like calm. 🙂

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 14, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Paralysis is rarely an effective strategy in life-ending situations.

  16. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    If you’ve ever seen a cellphone video of the interior of an airplane cabin in which people think they’re going to crash,

    … you’ll see why promoting “headless chicken” mode is not effective.
    Having been literally shitting myself in an near crash-landing, the PAX were, like myself, preoccupied with yanking their harnesses tight, trying to grab an orienting structure, and muttering “Stercus stercus moriturimus sum” (which dog-Latin tells me means, “Oh shit, oh shit, this time I’m really going to die.”)
    OK, all of that helicopter’s PAX had been through the underwater escape drills, ad nauseam. It didn’t stop me from shitting my breeks, probably not anyone else either, but with the watertight zip and neck-seal nobody else knew apart from the steward. He was very busy that afternoon.
    Grit your teeth ; accept that ships do sink ; when the crew tell you to jump, say “How high” after your feet leave the deck. And if you’ve got useful skills (do you have a first-aid ticket?), identify yourself to your lifeboat’s cox’n ASAP and before the next drill. Having someone else to focus on is a good way of getting into procedure, and putting your breek’s cleanliness into the background.

    and I had to put on one of those complicated “cold weather suits”, with a fancy and cumbersome life vest

    Hmmm. Not an Arctic-grade immersion suit I’m familiar with.
    Practice in your cabin. The ones I’m familiar with, you lay flat on your back (as if you’re floating in the sea), slide yourself in feet first, then pull the zip up to belly-level. Then, arms into the sleeves, hands into the “lobster claws”, grab the long cord on the zipper (Oh, that is why it is so long!) and pull it up to your neck.
    The ones I’m familiar with are intended to be used by someone who has already fallen overboard, and the suit is thrown at them, in the water.
    That’s for the accepted 2/6/6 suits in use in Arctic Norway and Canada – I doubt that wheels have been re-invented for “Down South”.
    If this doesn’t fit with what is in your cabin locker (emergencies happen at god-Awful O’clock, always), ask a steward or officer to give you additional training. They really, really want to not have to teach you this at god-Awful O’clock, as the waves are breaking onto the lifeboat deck.

    The “2/2/6” description for suits is 2degC water temperature, by no more than 2degC core body temperature drop, by 6 hours immersion. No, that’s not theoretical it is experimental. 2DegC water temperature is the buffering from seawater crystallising ice ; at a body temperature of less than 35 degC (2 degC drop), one loses the ability to think and act coherently ; 6 hours is your time to recover the victim, before they’re probably DMMF. Having used them in the 3.5degC waters off Nova Scotia, they’re almost palatial. Compared to cabin clothes and 4degC North Sea water, they’re positively sybaritic.

    If the cox’n considers you potentially useful, you’ll be hanging out of the low-level door of the boat, fishing the people who didn’t pay attention to the briefings out of the water. 6 hours and 2degC is an optimistic estimate – if you’re in the water in cabin clothes they have a much shorter window to play with.
    This is not a drill. Ever.
    Sorry for pissing on the advertising brochure. TTBOMK there hasn’t been a civilian ship go turtle in Antarctic waters.
    Yet.
    When (this is not a typo for “if”) it happens, it will not be nice.

    To make you feel better, a lot of the basic science on this was done on prisoners at Dachau KZ. Utterly reprehensible work, but the data remains useful. Without it, informed volunteers would have come much closer to dieing in the ice-water tanks.

  17. Posted November 15, 2019 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Spare a thought for Violet Jessop, a stewardess on the White Star Line’s RNS Olympic when it collided with a British warship HMS Hawke. There were no casualties and the Olympic made it back to port without sinking.

    Undeterred by the mishap, Miss Jessop transferred to the Olympic’s sister ship RMS Titanic and was onboard when it sank four days later.

    Titanic and Olympic had a sister ship “Britannic”. During the First World War it was converted to a hospital ship and Violet Jessop was serving on board as a nurse when it suffered an unexplained explosion (probably a mine) and sank.

    Violet Jessop continued to work aboard ships until she retired in 1950. Probably she reasoned that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place four times.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      “Probably she reasoned that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place four times.”

      That is, of course, totally erroneous statistics.

      Like the Irishman (in pre-terrorist-hysteria days) who used to carry a bomb in his baggage whenever he caught a plane. He had read that the chances of there being a bomb on a plane were one in 10,000, therefore he reasoned the chances of there being another bomb was one in 100 million…

      cr

  18. Stevec
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    I’ve known a few people who had to go out to North Sea oil rigs on helicopters. The risk of a crash into the ocean is significant.

    So they don’t “give a safety lecture” with some nice photos because it’s basically useless. Instead they crash a helicopter cabin upside down into a swimming pool and have you unstrap yourself and swim out.

    First time you do it you may well fail and need to be rescued. If you completely freak out you might not be allowed to pass.

    Point is, the only way to prepare for something like this is with a realistic simulation.

    The safety demonstrations on commercial flights (and various other craft) are so everyone can go through the motions of ticking the right boxes. It’s zero value for saving lives in the event of a real crash.

    Notice as well that they have life jackets even if you are, for example, flying from Denver to Phoenix. Why? Parachutes might be useful. Life jackets not so much.

    It’s just window dressing..

    • Posted November 15, 2019 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Are there no large bodies of water between Denver and Phoenix that the plane might be forced to land on. US 1549 was scheduled to fly from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina on 15/1/2009 which doesn’t require overflying any oceans and yet they ended up in the middle of a river.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I wondered that. Gunnison Lake, Navajo Lake, Theodore Roosevelt Lake, Bartlett Reservoir…

        cr

  19. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Pretty sure this idea was in Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

    Was a novel, then a movie. One of those books I ought to read one day…


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