The recent Costa Concordia cruise ship accident got me thinking about Travel Safety. I love cruising and have gone on at least 25 cruises. Most cruise lines conduct a Life Boat Drill prior to leaving the dock, but completing it within 24 hours of sailing does meet maritime recommendations. In the past the drills were typically conducted with passengers meeting on the deck nearest to their assigned life boat. These drills familiarize passengers with exactly where they have to go and how to wear their life jacket.
The cruise ships I’ve traveled the past two years have changed this practice with passengers gathering in large meeting areas for a general briefing. The passengers of the Concordia had neither. I’m not sure how the crew could manage getting passengers from a large theater or lounge through the narrow passage ways and out to the life boats in an orderly manner.
Learning your way around the ship is another concern, especially the ships that carry more than 2000 passengers. I can generally negotiate my way around the ship after about 5 days on board. In other words, just before it’s time to disembark the vessel and go home! The passengers had exactly 3 hours on board before the Concordia ran aground. It sounds like the entire incident was confusing for all with the crew giving directions to return to cabins in some reports. That is the reason I decided to share some safety tips. While cruising is still a safe mode of travel and a great option for resort style travel, it’s just as important on a ship as it is in a hotel to know what to do in case of an emergency.
From a safety perspective, the first thing you should do when traveling is to make yourself aware of your location as it relates to emergency exits. On a cruise ship, after finding your cabin, locate the nearest stair case and know how many landings you need to pass to reach the deck where your muster station is located (life boat stations are called Muster Stations on the ship, meaning you must come there is case of a drill or emergency). Relate the number of landings with something you know you can remember, i.e. if you were born in October and you have to reach the 10th landing for your muster station you can remember 10 as the 10th month. I recommend you spend your time prior to the ship’s departure using the closest stair way (the elevators are full anyway!) and climbing/descending to the deck where your muster station is located a couple of times. You’ll know whether to go to your right (starboard) or to your left (port). This helps in case you find yourself stressed in the unlikely event of an emergency.
This same advice applies to checking into a hotel. Find the nearest stairwell in relation to your room and know which way to turn and which side of the hall it is on. Count the number of doors you will have to pass before reaching the emergency exit. This may sound unnecessary but should there be a lot of smoke in the hall way, you will need to crawl and visibility will make it difficult to figure out which door is the exit.
Air travel is one of our safest modes of travel however if there is an emergency keep these precautions in mind. Look at the aircraft briefing in the seat pocket in front of you. It doesn’t matter how often you fly, you need to do this for your safety. Determine if the nearest exit is in front or behind you. Count the number of seats you will need to pass before you reach the closest exit, but keep both in mind. Remember Captain Sully’s emergency landing on the Hudson River. Passengers at the rear of the aircraft started to open the rear exit ignoring the instructions of the flight attendant. Follow the directions of the flight crew. If the flight attendant hadn’t fought to get passengers attention to go to the wing exits, the plane would have sank quickly into the river.
Fire is the biggest hazard during aircraft emergencies. Dress to minimize injuries. Wear only cotton clothing as it will quickly burn away, not melt into your skin like polyester and other synthetic material. Wear hard sole shoes, preferably leather so you can move through the aircraft without the problem of heat against the bottom of athletic shoes. It’s a good idea to skip hair spray and avoid carrying flammable materials, i.e. cigarette lighters. Skipping the hair spray is the hardest for me to remember. I do it every day and it’s automatic but I do plan ahead when I travel by air.
When traveling abroad, be sure to register with the US State Department. They send email alerts in case they have issued any travel warnings for the countries you plan to visit. It helps them assist you if you have problems while abroad. They can reissue a passport should yours be lost or stolen. If you do find yourself in need of assistance while abroad go to any US Consulate or US Embassy.
Keep things in perspective. Remember you and your family are irreplaceable. Forget the purse, jewelry, and other valuables in your cabin, hotel room or luggage/carry-ons. Report to the muster station, get in the stairway fire escape, or find your exit and make sure your family is doing the same. The valuables can be replaced but humans are priceless and can never be replaced.
Below you will find links covering some of the topics in this article as well as tips for personal safety while traveling.
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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances. Travel policies and packages are subject to change without notice. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact travel providers and hotels at the time of your bookings to confirm pricing, itinerary, and all costs. The comments and observations are limited to the author’s personal experience and your results may vary significantly. This article and replies to comments are not intended to substitute for professional travel services. Our reply is time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change.
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