flightmum











{February 20, 2013}   Evacuate! Evacuate!

You go through your entire career hoping that you never have to use your emergency training to face the unexpected on an aircraft. Even though we silently think about the inevitable before every take-off and every landing, as per our regulations, so as to mentally prepare ourselves for anything at all to come our way.

Annually,  we attend a flight attendant emergency prep refresher course and practice fighting fires, shouting out our commands and activating the emergency door slides and evacuating the aircraft in 90 seconds.

Some flight attendants fly for 30 plus years and never have anything more serious to deal with on the airplane more than a scraped knee. And that’s the way we like it.

After three years of flying,  I had a real live emergency on my aircraft. This is how it went down.  I was working a flight to Jamaica on a Boeing 767. Flight was full. My jumpseat was in the back of the aircraft. We took off without incident.  Ten minutes later,  the Captain comes over the p.a. and says the code words to let the flight attendants know that there is something wrong on the airplane. 

The in charge flight attendant went into the flight deck to find out what was going on. She got all the necessary information and called us to brief us on the situation.  The captain said that his flight deck indication showed that we had TOO much oil on the gauge and having too much oil on the plane is dangerous and a fire hazard.  We were going to return to the airport and have maintenance look at it.

Right away, we prepared the cabin for imminent landing. The captain said that is was going to be a high alert abnormal landing and NOT an emergency landing. We sat in our jumpseat and silently reviewed all of our emergency procedures ‘just in case’.

We held our breath as the plane landed. Thankfully,  it landed without incident.  The captain had mentioned to us and the passengers that we were going to park away from the airport and that there would be fire trucks and emergency vehicles to check out the airplane just to be on the safe side. 

A minute later, the captain said ‘evacuate, evacuate ‘ on the left side of the airplane. Oh no, that was MY side, I paused for a moment,  and then my training kicked in.  I started my shout out commands and opened my emergency door. I was mesmerized as the slide deployed. It jumped up and out towards the ground. All of a sudden, I was shouting to the passengers to come to my emergency exit and to go down the slide. I also asked them to leave all their luggage behind as it can damage the slide. It was pretty surreal.  My passengers were not rushing to the exit or anything but were casually coming over. Probably because they didn’t really know what the emergency was. Actually,  we didn’t even really know what the emergency was either.  Later, we found out that the fire department saw a fire in our right engine and that’s why we were evacuating. 

We continued evacuating the aircraft while simultaneously grabbing the passengers bags and throwing them in the galley.  One woman froze in fear at the top of the slide. We had to get her to slide down. Finally she did. 

Eventually,  everyone was off, we checked the cabin, grabbed a piece of emergency equipment (I took the megaphone) and we slid down to safety. For those of us wearing the uniform skirt, we found out that going down the fast slide allowed our skirts to pull up to our shoulders. Awkward! Fortunately, there were cute fire fighters at the bottom of the slide to catch us. 

After it was all over, we got debriefed and found out that aside from one woman who twisted her ankle going down the slide, everyone was okay. We got a couple of days off and went on with our careers.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice. I am hoping that holds true since I already experienced an evacuation early on in my career that I will have no more ‘excitement’ in the years to come.   Fingers crossed. 

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