Thursday, April 15, 2010

What Are Your Chances of Surviving a Plane Crash?

I have been reading several books on the subject of people surviving disasters of all kinds. (It is almost the start of hurricane season, after all.) Several were suggested by Tam, and I finally got my hands on a copy of  The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Shurwood.

Just at the beginning, but it is a good book. Full of things that will surprise you if you think the usual things about emergencies.

So what are your chances of surviving a plane crash?

Your odds of survival are 95.7 percent.

The NTSB studied airplane accidents between 1983 and 2000 involving more than 53,000 people. More than 51,000 people survived those crashes. When you plug in the actual numbers they come to just shy of 96%.

But people don't know this. They think they are doomed in the event of a crash, so they ignore the safety info. They are drunk before they get on the plane and have two more drinks on the way. Maybe they just have a death wish.

The problem is, they end up blocking the rows, reacting slowly and end up negatively effecting the survival chances of people around them. People actually try to take their carry-on luggage. It isn't worth it, and will probably kill someone else - either when you drop it down the escape slide or when you abandon it blocking a row, and slowing everything down.

In those cases where not everyone is going to survive. Your survival is greatly impacted by your actions. (That comes from another book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why by Amanda Ripley.)

It doesn't matter where you sit in the plane on average. People live and die sitting in adjacent seats in most crashes.

So why don't people know this? Why don't they pay attention to where the exits are? Why don't they stay sober enough to have a chance at escape? I don't have the answers to those questions.

Here are some other questions you should know the answer to, if you fly.

In the event of explosive decompression at 30,000 ft. How long do you have to put on your oxygen mask before you black out?

In the event of fire, how long on average do you have to evacuate the plane before flash-over raises the temperature to 2000 degrees or better, killing anyone left inside?

There is more to disaster survival than just airplane mishaps. There are getting out of a building in the event of fire or other problem. (A lot people in the twin towers went to their desks to collect something. Women who only had high-heels were forced to abandon them and flee in bare feet. This also caused problems for people trying to deal with mounds of discarded shoes.)

Last interesting tidbit of information:

Can a fall kill you? The woman who survived the longest free-fall without a parachute is Vesna Vulovik who fell 33,000 feet when the plane she was in broke up in flight and survived. (That is roughly 6 miles!) Can a fall kill you? Sure. Falling is one of the leading causes of death. But it doesn't always have to be that way.

3 comments:

Zendo Deb said...

In the event of explosive decompression at 30,000 ft. How long do you have to put on your oxygen mask before you black out?

Answer = less than 15 seconds, maybe much less - a lot depends on who you are. That is why you are supposed to put your mask on first, not after you help your kids. (Be part of the solution, NOT part of the problem!)

In the event of fire, how long on average do you have to evacuate the plane before flash-over raises the temperature to 2000 degrees or better, killing anyone left inside?

Answer = 90 seconds. Do you still want to try to get your PC out of the overhead bin? If you do, you will likely kill the person sitting next to you, even if you manage to survive.

tjbbpgobIII said...

Sit in the back of the plane, there's never been one recorded instance of a plane backing into a mountain. I believe that comes from one of the old Notre Dame coaches.

Zendo Deb said...

Funny, but beside the point. There have been crashes where the tail of the plane hit first, and everyone in the back section died.