Three people are confirmed dead after a cruise ship carrying more than 4,000 people ran aground off Italy
How could this have happened? As the experts are saying, a disaster like this shouldn’t happen in the 21st century where cruise ships are built to the highest safety standards.
My husband and I have a particular interest in this story since cruising was a big part of our lives. You see, I met my husband in 1997 while working on board a luxury cruise ship. Our combined ship experience totals 19 years so we know full well about emergency procedures on board a cruise ship. While working on board the Silversea Cruises, US Coast Guard inspections were routinely made and as crew members we participated in “boat drill” every week.
Each crew member had safety responsibilities and had to know all evacuation procedures including what to do in case of the “abandon ship” announcement.
Seeing these images of terrified passengers and a severely damaged ship on TV left us in disbelief. It got us thinking. Now that we are parents and have already taken our children on a couple of cruises what would we have done in this situation?
News reports suggest that there was chaos and panic among the passengers and that crew did their best to direct them to the lifeboats. Did the three dead drown from being trapped in the belly of the ship below the waterline? Did they die of hypothermia from jumping overboard? Were they trampled to death in the corridors? Could these deaths have been prevented?
I think, that we call can agree that cruising is a very safe form of travel, especially if you compare it to traveling by car, train and plane. When’s the last cruise disaster that you can remember? As a former crew member (and now parent) I believe in the importance of being prepared.
Here are my recommendations for being ready in case of an emergency whist on a cruise.
- On Embarkation Day be sure to attend the Life Boat Drill and familiarize yourself with your muster station location.
- If you are traveling with small children ask your Cabin Stewart to give you children sized life jackets and stow them in your cabin.
- If you hear an announcement over the PA system calling an “Assessment Party” to proceed to an area on the ship that means that there is a situation that needs further investigating. This is a team of people, from various departments who are responsible to decide the next step. It could be a fire, water damage or anything that is triggered by an alarm. Remain calm but be on alert that there may be more announcements that could involve the rest of the ship.
- Personally, at this point I would gather my family together (just image the panic if you couldn’t find a loved one in the event of an emergency), collect the essentials (passports and medication) and dress warmly. You never know, you may have to jump in the ocean, in which case wearing warm clothes helps delay the onset of hypothermia.
- Remain calm and LISTEN to all announcements.
- If the situation is serious enough that the Captain announces “Abandon ship” you will hear 7 short blasts followed by 1 long blast of the ships whistle. This is the time that you grab your life jackets and head to your muster station. From there the crew will instruct and guide you onto your lifeboat.
- Never jump in the water unless you absolutely have to. If you have no choice make sure your life jacket is securely fastened and hug your jacket by crossing your arms in front. One hand should grasp the collar of the life jacket and the other hand should cover your mouth and nose. This will help prevent the life jacket from hitting your chin on impact.
- Once the lifeboat has been lowered and is safely in the water, away from the ship it will only be a matter of time before help will reach you. If you are in the middle of the ocean crew members should hand out anti-sea sickness medication to prevent you from vomiting = dehydration. This is why it’s important to grab your medication if you can. You don’t know how long you’ll be on the lifeboat before being rescued.
I’m very sad to learn of the news on board the Costa Concordia and my heart goes out to the families of those who perished.
I still truly believe the cruising is one of the best holiday choices and this tragedy certainly has not altered my decision whether or not I should cruise again.
So go ahead. Book that cruise and feel confident that you are well prepared for your next holiday. What better place to be than to unpack once and wake up to a new scene every morning?
The image of Costa Concordia is from the BBC website