We’ve all set through the flight attendant safety briefings before takeoff, including how to properly wear an airline oxygen mask in case of an emergency. But were we actually listening and paying attention?
Last April, when an engine on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 failed and broke apart, tragically killing a passenger and forcing an emergency landing, photos emerged showing the vast majority of passengers wearing their oxygen masks incorrectly—some had them on upside down, many didn’t have the mask covering their noses.
So, do yourself and the passenger next to you a favor and take a minute to read the following on how to properly wear an airline emergency oxygen mask, courtesy of stuff.com.
Pay attention—even if you’ve heard it before
Grant Amos is principal director of Flying Without Fear, an Air New Zealand program to help flyers become more informed, safe and comfortable airline passengers.
“Humans tend to operate on the basis that ‘It won’t happen to me, and if it does, I’ll be fine in an emergency because I’m sure I’ll know what to do,’” Amos says. “There is that concept that ‘I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it’ people don’t fully understand what they’re getting involved in.” Amos said the Southwest flight proved that many U.S. passengers didn’t know what they were doing.
Flying has been made very easy and seamless, Amos says, and as a result “passengers lost sight of the fact they they’re not in their living rooms—and if something goes wrong they have to know what to do—properly.”
While frequent flyers may assume they already understand all the standard safety precautions, equipment and procedures vary between airlines and airplanes, so it pays to pay attention each and every time you are on a plane and the flight attendant goes through the mandatory safety briefing.
Should an emergency, or even very rough turbulence, occur, a well-briefed passenger will depend less on crew members, stay calmer, avoid panic, and have a greater chance of survival.
How to properly wear a mask
On the Southwest flight, many passengers were holding the mask by hand over their mouths,” Amos reports. “Some of them were too busy worrying about selfies and sending texts to worry about oxygen – when getting oxygen was the most crucial thing,” he adds.
An aircraft’s oxygen mask should be worn over your mouth and nose, and the elastic band should be around your head.
A recent Air New Zealand safety video says: “If you need some 21st century air, oxygen masks will fall down from above. Just pull down on the mask, and place it over your nose and mouth. Pull on both sides of the elastic to tighten it. Don’t worry if the bag doesn’t inflate, oxygen will flow easily. And make sure you’ve got your own mask on before helping children, or those who are less able.”
Count the rows to the doors/exits
What else can flyers do besides pay attention to the safety briefing? The Federal Aviation Administration advises flyers to count the number of rows between them and the nearest exit upon boarding the flight, according to Condé Nast Traveler.
Business Insider reported that John Chesire, a retired airline captain, pays special attention to each airplane’s aisles to be prepared for emergencies. “For one thing, I always look around to find the nearest emergency exit,” Cheshire wrote. “Then I count the number of seats between me and that exit. It only takes a quick glance. I do this so if ever necessary, I can in the dark, or under water, or if there is smoke, or if upside down, I know beforehand where the exit is, and I can blindly count the number of seats by touch to reach that emergency exit row, because I have counted them,” Chesire added. “It’s quick and easy to do, every time.”
Also try to remember a second and third exit from the plane in case the aisle closest to you is blocked. And, according to The HuffPost, if you want to further protect yourself as a passenger, consider studying the safety card in your seat-back pocket. Even if you’re able to count ahead and reach the exit aisles in the event of an emergency, some exits open differently depending on the type of plane.