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Jennifer Nagu: 8 Important Things to Note For Survival in the Event of a Plane Crash



dreamstime_m_29653198Juliane Koepke was the lone survivor of Lansa flight 508 over Peru in 1971. After falling two miles into the rain forest strapped to her seat, Juliane who was 17 years old at the time severed her collarbone and ruptured her knee ligaments.
She had been taught survival skills by her father, and this contributed to saving her life after staying ten days in the forest.

Perhaps, she was lucky. Or wasn’t she?

This past week, an Emirates flight EK51 from India crash-landed at the Dubai international airport with 300 people on board, while a DHL Cargo Plane in Italy skidded of the runway and ended up on a road near the airport; with no serious fatalities. While investigations on the probable cause of both crashes are ongoing, the laudable effort of the Emirates Crew in evacuating 282 passengers in 90 seconds shows a high safety standard and professionalism.

While, this level of professionalism could be easily associated with airlines Operated in Europe, Middle East and the America’s, it may not be the same with airlines in this part of the world.  You just might be left with the sole responsibility of saving yourself in a Nigerian situation. So, a good knowledge some emergency tips may come in handy.

In my mind I imagine an airplane emergency situation to be one heavily laden with the most paralyzing fear and unease. A scenario where no one is listening to anyone, but everyone is driven into a helpless prayer mode. A friend I once spoke with, who was once cut up in an airplane emergency here in Nigeria said to me, “It’s overwhelming. I even pee-ed on myself”. We laughed over this, but deep down it was not funny. It just wasn’t.

What really happens during an airplane emergency? You may ask.  They’re unpredictable events so no one may really know the true feel of it – till you have experienced and survived one of course. It is most times unpredictable if, it’s going to be a crash landing or whether you’re going to have a fire in one of the engines. But in any case we owe ourselves the favor of staying Safety and Survival conscious at all time.

Professor Ed Galea, a renowned aviation safety expert studied over 2,000 air crash survivor reports in 2011 and reached a unique finding on surviving aircraft emergencies. He said, “Surviving an aircraft emergency especially those on ground, is not a matter of fate alone. You can help yourself by doing the right things”. With reference to Galea’s discussions on surviving crashes, I have rolled out 8 tips which could be very useful:

They come in no particular order.

Listen for instructions from the flight attendants
Listen to the safety briefing given by the flight attendants at the start of a flight! I can guarantee over 50 to 60% of people don’t pay attention. It could be useful. Flight attendants are trained predominantly to prioritize the safety of their passengers. Emergency drills are often times conducted to test their abilities in times of imminent danger. They are trained to seize the urgency of the moment, hold the attention of the passengers, dictate actions, execute actions, and ensure a safe evacuation of any airplane. It is for this reason that instructions from the flight attendants are key in times of emergencies. A video of the Emirates incident last week showed passengers scrambling for laptops, trying to get their belongings from the overhead compartments, while flight attendants screamed instructions to dash for the emergency exit. This is dangerous!

Donning your oxygen masks
The oxygen masks in the airplane are to provide supplemental oxygen in cases of Loss of pressurization or in cases of emergencies. You may be carried away by the fear of the unknown but trust me, you may require the oxygen mask. Your brain would require extra oxygen. In any case listen to the flight attendants for instructions.

Bracing for impact
The underlying principle of bracing for impact has remained the same in all situations. Research has shown that it’s best to lean forward in advance of an anticipated crash so your head is close to the seat in front of you. To press you toward the back of that seat, the theory says, reduces the risk of a deadly secondary impact, where your head whips forward and slams into a hard surface. In any event, you are trying to do three basic things by bracing. Get your upper body as low as possible to reduce the effect at impact; stop yourself from flying forward and hitting the seat or other parts of the aircraft interior; and preventing injury to your legs and ankles that will hinder your escape from the aircraft.

Releasing the seat belt
One of the most bizarre findings into crashes and passenger behavior is that continually people struggle to undo their seat belts! The reason is that in times of stress people revert to learned, normal behavior and when it comes to seat belts, people are used to pressing a button, like the ones in their cars. Aircraft seat belts unbuckle. It is a latch you’ve got to pull. Practice opening your seatbelt before you are airborne, it could come in handy.

Dealing with smoke
In dealing with smoke, your first priority is to get down low under the smoke. By laying low, you have access to fresh uncontaminated air. Also, you must cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth. To improvise, you could Use clothing ripped from seat covers around you. You also must wet the cloth for it to be effective. Any water can be used, including urine! Also, finding your way through the thick dark smoke could be a problem.

Professor Galea believes counting the number of seat rows from your seating position to the emergency exit, before any flight can come in handy in the advent of thick smoke and darkness(during an emergency). By counting, you can feel your way through when the cabin is dark and filled with thick smoke.

Getting Out of the plane and leaving the crash site as soon as possible
You must leave the crash site fast enough! People do the most remarkable things after crashes. One of the strangest of which is trying to retrieve some, or all of their possessions. You don’t have time, the possessions will slow you (and others) down, and you will need both hands free, whether it’s to remove obstacles, hold a pad over your nose and mouth. Before you exit though, check quickly that it is viable. Both inside and out.  Once out of the aircraft don’t block the exit for the people coming behind you. Back away.

Surviving in Water
If you are in the water and miraculously still alive! Use your life jacket or a floating wreckage to keep afloat. Don’t inflate your vest until you need it to keep afloat. Swim into the waves and wind; the wind will carry fire and smoke away from you; wave action will carry floating fuel away from you. If fuel is burning on the surface of the water, dive down.  Unless you can swim to shore you should avoid swimming and save your energy as much as possible.  It is important to relax.  Watch for life rafts being deployed; some planes are equipped with them. Hang onto the life raft if you are not injured; reserve the raft space for children and those who are injured. But stay with the rafts; they will be spotted more easily by rescue workers than a single person floating in a life vest.

If you’re with your family, talk to your children about what to do in the event of an emergency. Divide the responsibility of helping your children between you and your partner. It’s easier for one adult to help a single child than for both to try to keep everyone together.

Photo Credit: Photographerlondon |

Jennifer Nagu is a Lagos based Freelance-writer, editor and Aviation professional, specializing in Aviation, wellness and travel related matters. She has published work with notable media platforms across Africa, like Ynaija of the Red media group, Guardian Nigeria Newspaper, New York based wellness publication Thrive global, founded by mogul Arianna Huffington and Ndalo media's Habari Magazine. She holds a degree in communications from Covenant univerity and an IATA diploma in Airline Quality diploma from Geneva.


  1. Err

    August 9, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    May God not let us use this advice,someone like me that’s a stone inside water….may God continue to protect us.

    • nene+

      August 10, 2016 at 3:44 am

      Oluwaooo!!! Scary but very educative! Ordinary elevator scares living day light out of me. Hmmmm aircraft, I pray the good Lord of Heaven and Earth to always guide us alive. Fall from where to where? Thick clouds and beneath is the Pacific, Atlantic or Indian Ocean? Or desert where bh and other terrorist and co hibernate?

      May God almighty protect us always Amen!

  2. Gorgeous

    August 9, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    My worst nightmare but this was very useful. Thank you!

  3. Tosin

    August 10, 2016 at 5:01 am


  4. Jo!

    August 10, 2016 at 7:52 am

    “Startup Design Ankara Entity” ??????looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool

    Very useful tips by the way.
    But that description though, hehehehe. Àfi entity.
    Was having this conversation with someone recently about “startups”, looks like everybody and their cousin is getting swept away by the entrepreneural wave. I LOVE it!!!
    Previously, when I heard startups, I’d think tech, but these days, everything is a startup, natural hair care, clothes, Ankara design (sigh), I mean, it’s just semantics right? So they can actually be called startups. The problem however is that the tech industry is a bit different, you genuinely can’t use their model to run and sustain a “normal” business, but many people with calling themselves startups try to align closely with the tech guys and are completely bought over by the tech industry’s perceived “glitz and glam” (under all that glam is a shitload of work and stress btw, at least for the successful ones) the speaking sessions, the “intelligent” convos, the “smart” articles, and for some reason they get carried away by their own hype and forget to focus on the basics.
    If there’s one thing a (Nigerian) entrepreneur needs to note, ONE thing. It is NEVER. BELIEVE. YOUR. OWN. HYPE. You’ll feel like you’ve begun to arrive and start to get complacent, the moment you start speaking to large groups of people and people start telling you how your advice helped them, it’s all over, it’s just the human thing, it gets hard for you to step back and accept that maybe you were wrong somewhere because I mean, you’re now an “oga” now, some humble pills get harder to swallow. Because, ego and swollen head. I feel like that’s what happened to fashpa, I might be wrong though and I also think dressmeoutlet needs to watch it. Ensure your “Products” part of your 4 Ps is solid before you delve heads on into “promotions”
    But what do I know though?

    Sorry about this long & totally OP post on your article, lol. It doesn’t even have anything with you, loool. And here I am ranting.
    My tip though, because a TRUCKLOAD of people have done and still do “Ankara Design”, in heading your “Entity” try and make user you offer a unique offering, and also ensure that its scalable. Because I’m sure you don’t ONLY want to sell in a few stores for the rest of your business

    All the best

    • Hotspice_yimu

      August 10, 2016 at 9:22 am

      kini gbogbo eleyi gan.
      if you want to rant why not do so under the career section or better still send your opinion to BN for publication.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      August 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      The pleasure of coming to the comments section is that you get to read opinions on aspects of the topic or the writer that you may not ordinarily address your mind to. We are tickled differently and it’s a pleasure to learn. What might be irritating to you may be a source of inspiration to another, and some other times, a life saver. Let’s not be narrow minded people on this street.

  5. DeeNqs

    August 10, 2016 at 9:38 am

    @Jo: u need to calm down several notches
    Wow, u gat energy
    “Start ups” is relative
    Be ranting upandan

  6. glow

    August 10, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Experienced air turbulence twice these past 2 months….now I am suddenly scared of flying though I had no issues with that since these past 11yrs I have been flying. Reading this article just aggravated my fear greatly….and I have to fly again in October……Bella Naija…ese pupo oooo. #sadface

  7. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    August 11, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Very insightful article. I like the range of your thoughts. It shows you are well rounded. Good luck with the “Entity”. Enjoy!

  8. Isha

    August 12, 2016 at 8:11 am

    This is great! Thank you Jenny for caring for others by your advice. As an aviator I really do not have fear when flying but I feel for fellow passengers who have phobia. This is also for crew who themselves need to survive. I still believe it is the safest means of transportation. Thank you again and keep letting us know about issues like this in aviation.

  9. Dada

    August 12, 2016 at 10:05 am


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