I book the exit row on flights whenever I can. Why? For the extra legroom of course! Oh wait…I’m also responsible for the door in case of an in-flight emergency?!
On a recent flight, I was sitting in an exit row when I was awakened out of a sound sleep with people screaming, “Fire! Fire!”. I was in row 12 and the commotion was happening around row 4. People were screaming and pointing at the floor. The flight attendants arrived on the scene and then confusion ensued for about 15 minutes, with those of us sitting farther back not knowing what happened. Smoke was filling the cabin, people were coughing, and the plane started to drop in altitude. I was on the verge of panic. We were going down and I was going to be responsible for this door!
After what seemed like a lifetime, and me mourning all of the people I would leave on this earth when we crashed into the Florida abyss, a flight attendant finally informed us of the situation. A woman’s phone exploded in her pocket, she threw it on the floor, and a fellow passenger grabbed the blazing phone and threw it in the bathroom sink. Phew…we weren’t crashing and I wouldn’t need to operate the door next to me. But we did make an emergency landing at a nearby airport, greeted by fire trucks and ambulances. The people that handled the phone sustained some burns, but there were thankfully no major injuries.
Needless to say, this situation made me rethink the responsibility of sitting in an exit row and how to respond to travel emergencies in general.
The following are some tips to help you be at ease during your travels and prepared if an in-flight emergency arises:
Know where the exits are.
No matter if you’re in a crowd at a concert or traveling on an airplane, know where the exits are. Hotel rooms, for example, typically have an emergency route posted – take a couple minutes to review it. Being aware of your surroundings is important for your personal safety in general, no matter where you are.
Keep yourself in check and focus on immediate needs. Keeping a level head in an emergency can help de-escalate situations and help save lives.
Take a first-aid kit along.
I bring a small first-aid kit, which fits in my purse, with me when I travel. You can purchase one online or at your local pharmacy.
Keep thieves away.
Leave your expensive jewelry at home and don’t take unnecessary technology with you. Keep the valuable items you do bring in your carry-on bags while traveling and in a safe, if available, when not in use. Also, don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing clothing that calls out “tourist” or accessories such as fanny packs.
Get travel insurance.
Don’t regret leaving home without travel insurance. It’s inexpensive and beats being stuck with costly medical or trip interruption expenses. Everything from lost bags to hospitalization can be covered. Contact us if you need recommendations for quality travel insurance.
Leave information with an emergency contact.
Give your complete itinerary to someone you trust (e.g., family member, partner, or friend). Be sure to include the names and contact info for lodging, flight numbers, the name of the car rental company, etc. And give the person a color copy of your passport if you’re traveling out of the country.
Write down important numbers.
Most of us rely heavily on technology, but in an emergency phone service may not be available. Be sure to have important phone numbers written on a piece of paper so that you can access them if needed. Also, know your country’s embassy information and register with it when traveling internationally.
And most importantly, don’t worry! The chances of something harmful or life-threatening happening during your travels are slim. But, it’s always better to be prepared if a situation does arise.
I wish you safe travels! And if you book the exit row, read the card in the seat back in front of you.
Please share any additional travel safety tips you have in the comments below.
by Julie Slagter