Aviation security has been the subject of scrutiny for some time now but the focus has only been on what the authorities and airlines should and shouldn’t do. As a passenger on board you’re expected to react in a certain manner to help yourself and possibly others in the event of a disaster. Do you know what to do? Do you pay attention to the safety instructions when demonstrated? Have you read the emergency card in the seat pocket in front of you?
The recent video of an emergency landing that went viral has been widely debated. Many condemned the passengers for wasting precious time in pulling out overhead luggage instead of evacuating. Others queried how is it humanly possible to leave your valuables behind.
Talking to airline crew, one discovers that a quick evacuation was the only thing the passengers should have opted for.
In a life threatening situation, you and your travel document are all you need to save
According to the internationally adhered procedure, the plane should be evacuated in 90 seconds from the moment it makes a crash landing.
How is this achieved?
Generally, the crew will be warned by the flight deck to prepare for an emergency landing. Once aware they will:
— Pass out instructions that include how to take the brace position, how to put on the oxygen mask (always yourself first, then help others).
— Ask able-bodied passengers who are travelling alone to help and if they agree then they will be given instructions on what needs to be done.
— Passengers sitting in emergency exits will be quickly briefed once again on what to do (Remember if you are not in a position to help then don’t select the emergency exit seat even if it’s the most comfortable seat in the cabin).
— Ask you to remove your high heeled shoes or any other sharp objects on your person when using the emergency slide. (This is done so you don’t rupture the slide which will deflate it. The slide becomes a raft in an emergency landing on water).
— Tell you to leave all belongings behind (this is extremely critical because in your attempt to either hold on to your belongings or grab them when exiting you could hurt yourself or others. You also delay, even if by a few seconds, the evacuation of yourself and those queued behind you).
Pro Tip: Airline staff suggests counting the rows forward or backwards to the nearest emergency exit. They advise doing so because in case of a blackout and the malfunctioning of the floor lights you most likely lose your sense of direction and will stumble.
So what do you do about your valuables?
The most valuable item during travel has to be the travel document. However, in an emergency situation both the airline and the authorities will facilitate you in replacing this document. Nonetheless that would either be a temporary travel permit or a new passport but with the loss of your previous one you generally lose your travel records.
Keep the following on your person throughout your journey:
— identity card
— credit card / or cash
— medicine pill box (in the event you are on regular medication).
How do you achieve this?
— Wear clothing during travel that has pockets.
— Get a travel pouch that is strapped to you or easily hung around your neck.
Pro Tip: Inner pockets of clothing that can be zipped are the safest. Front top pockets or rear pant pockets can result in loss of valuables when you are jostled in an emergency or even simply drop out when bending over.
Several benefits to having your travel documents on you at all times:
— Easy identification in case of any emergency situation
— Less likelihood of loss of documents
— On the rare occasion that it does happen you can prevent theft (Passengers have been known to lose travel documents while passing through security check points because it has slipped out of the bag or been left behind during screening. Also in the overhead rack of the plane it could easily be dislodged if loosely kept when bags are being rearranged).
For Pakistani nationals who lose their passport whilst travelling abroad here’s what you need to understand:
— You will be provided a temporary travel document that will only permit travel back to Pakistan. If you are resident in a third country even if you have that ID you may not be permitted re-entry.
— You could be provided a new passport but this could take anywhere from a week to 10 days depending on availability at the diplomatic mission.
Documentary evidence to prove the following:
— Your nationality. Valid CNIC, NICOP is required. This could be a copy or even just the number if you recall.
— Your legal status in that country:
When you arrived (actual date, approximately if it has been a long period, immigration entry stamp).
Means of transport (airline boarding passes, train tickets, car rental agreement, etc).
What permission you had to enter (visa, residence permit, etc)
— Where and how you lost the passport:
Local police report is mandatory in case of losses especially where it is not related to an emergency with an airline or train (in those events the transportation authority generally would assist).
How to ensure you have records of all documentation:
— Keep an online copy (cloud storage) of your passport ID pages, visa, CNIC/NICOP, tickets, hotels bookings, any other travel related documents, such as entry and exit stamps put on the passport (when you arrive take a picture of your passport with the stamp and email it to yourself immediately. If you have data roaming use that or Wi-Fi that’s easily available at a majority of international airports).
Once you’ve travelled back to Pakistan on your temporary document you can expect to be taken to secondary processing by immigration authorities. They will once again ascertain your nationality and verify that the documents you have travelled on have been legally issued.
Thereafter you will need to go to the passport office and apply for a fresh document.
Pro Tip: Keep multiple copies of every temporary document issued. You’ll be required to submit them at some point to the airline, immigration authorities, and passport office. More importantly, in case of future visa applications you’ll be asked to provide justification for loss of passport.
If you had valid visas on the lost passport inform the relevant issuing embassy or consulate of the loss. This will ensure that in case of misuse of the visa/passport they can block the document.
The writer is a safety and security advisor
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 21st, 2016