How to Survive a Plane Crash

With the holidays just around the corner, we're closing in on the busiest travel season of the year. Are you as prepared to fly as you should be? The Doctors   cameras were rolling on a recent shoot with pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears, who learned a lesson in preparedness when everyone's worst travel nightmare came true.

Recently, Dr. Sears took a flight that could have ended in disaster. As smoke filled the cabin, the airplane began to shake violently, and oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Dr. Sears and his camera crew were forced to brace themselves for impact and exit the plane via an evacuation slide.

Being prepared, both mentally and physically, is the key to surviving a plane crash. Just a decade ago, passengers were 10 times more likely to die in a plane crash, according to an Associated Press analysis of National Transportation Safety Board data. But, modern innovations, such as sturdier seats, fire-retardant cabin parts and better ground proximity warning systems have improved the odds, according to the analysis.

Safety Tips: 

• Where You Sit Makes a Difference: According to a study by Popular Mechanics, passengers near the tail end of the aircraft are 40 percent  more likely to survive a crash.

Wear Appropriate Clothing on Flights: The more your body is covered by clothing during a crash, the more likely you are to stay warm and  avoid burns. Wool is preferable; it doesn't lose insulation as quickly as cotton does when wet. It's also less  flammable than cotton.

Wear Appropriate Shoes: It's not easy to use evacuation slides and escape fire and toxic smoke, while wearing the wrong footwear. High  heels are not allowed on the slides, and sandal wearers should be aware that feet can easily be cut by sharp debris scattered about during a crash.

Know Where the Exits Are: It's always smart to have a good indication of where you are sitting relative to the exits on a plane. Familiarize yourself with not only the  location of the nearest emergency exit but the distance to it. If you're sitting next to an exit door, learn its mechanics.

Wear Your Seatbelt Low: Where you place your seat belt on your body matters. The lower it is on your pelvis, the better chance you have  of not being thrown or suffering internal injuries from the belt. The pelvis is one of the body's stronger structures. If the belt is on your belly, you have a greater chance of suffering internal injuries when it presses against you during impact.

Whatever You Do, Don't Panic: Panicking greatly reduces your ability to react quickly and reasonably.

Listen to and Follow Directions: Most importantly, listen to crew members' instructions to keep things orderly and avoid panic. They've undergone rigorous training to prepare themselves for crashes.

Put on Your Lifejacket: In case of a water landing, put your life jacket on ahead of time, but don't inflate it until you are outside the cabin. Fetch  an extra blanket and your jacket, if you have one.

Brace for Impact: The Federal Aviation Administration recommends the crash position: Extend your arms and cross your hands and place them on the seat in front of you. Then place your head against the back of your hands and plant your feet as far underneath your own seat as you can.

Leave Your Belongings: Don't try to rescue your belongings. It slows you and everyone else down.

Stay Low to Avoid Smoke: Smoke can begin filling the plane 30 seconds after a crash as fire enters its body. At 60 seconds, that smoke will become toxic as fire burns the plane's plastics, fabrics and fuel. After two minutes, fire will begin to start fully engulfing the cabin, meaning you should stay as low as you can to avoid fumes.

Get Away From the Plane: When you make it out of the plane, get as far away from the crash, as quickly as possible. Hide behind something large in case of an explosion.

Related Research:
• 95.7% of passengers involved in airplane crashes, categorized as accidents, survived.
• The chance of being killed in an airplane disaster in the United States is 1 in 14 million.
• Flying is statistically 23 times safer than driving and is as dangerous as riding an elevator.

What would you do if disaster struck?
A family survives a plane crash
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Plane preparations for children
The Doctors take flight