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How to Survive a Sinking Ship

Updated on April 14, 2012

When you envision yourself on a sinking ship do you see yourself in a lifeboat or scrambling about the ship looking for your lifeboat? Everyone wants to be the person who is thankful they are dry and sitting in a lifeboat. How do you get to the lifeboat? What are the essential steps you must take when each moment can determine your fate? This is a list of things that may help save your life by saving you some time in those crucial moments when panic runs rampant throughout the ship.

A whole book on helpful tips to survive a sinking ship.


1. It May Be More Than a Shudder

Passengers on both the Titanic and Costa Concordia reportedly felt a movement described as being as gentle as a soft shudder or as violent as a jolt. Pay attention to these telltale signs that the ship has struck an object. Immediately after these trembling vibrations, officials on board remain calm and explain that the shaking was caused by the engine. If your gut instinct is tell you: "This was caused by more than the engine." You may be right. Try not to start a panic by becoming hysterical but casually make sure you know where the members of your party or family are and that you have anything important you may need from your room. Be on alert for the officials on board to announce evacuations. Again, be casual about this. They may be telling the truth, but you can never be too sure.

2. Dress Warmly

At this point an evacuation has either just been ordered or has yet to be ordered, in either case, make sure you are dressed warmly. Dress in layers. You never know how cold it is outside until you have to jump feet first into freezing cold water. Even near shore the water gets pretty cold at night. Also, this is the time to get any valuables or important documents from your room. This is the only time you have to get anything and everything you might need from your room. However, do not get so caught up in gathering your essentials that you forget to dress warmly. You do not want to be one of the unlucky people who has to swim for their life, but, if you are, at least you will have some insulation from the impending cold water.

3. Do Not Go Back to Your Room

There have been some reports of passengers returning to their room after an evacuation has been ordered. This is the worst thing you can do. You should have immediately returned to your room once you realized the ship may be in actual danger. After the evacuation is ordered do not return to your room. You risk being caught in a mob of people who are either also returning to their room or those who are trying to get to the nearest lifeboat. Furthermore, the elevators may not be working by this time and the electricity in general is in danger of being turned off permanently. The corridors in ships are fairly hard to navigate; imagine trying to get through them in the dark. Yes, your passport may be in your room with Grandma's $5,000 pearls or your money or medication but what ever is in your room can be replaced, your life cannot.

4. Wear Your Life Jacket

This one is pretty standard. Once the life jackets are brought out and everyone is ordered into one, make sure you are wearing yours and it is on nice and tight. You never know when you may have to plunge into the ocean. A life jacket can help if you find yourself wading in open water or along the coast. It may not help with the cold temperatures but it will buy you some time to get to land or find a nearby boat.

5. Get to A Lifeboat

Hopefully, you have already had your evacuation drill and know where your lifeboat is located. Hopefully, your ship at least has an evacuation drill. In this case, your life boat should be located closer to your room than other lifeboats. Make your way as fast as you can to your designated lifeboat. This does not mean to push and shove your way through a busy corridor to get to your lifeboat. It means being orderly, keeping your cool and getting to your destination as soon as possible. Do not stop to get a drink, a bite to eat, or shoot the breeze with that guy or gal you just met. Maintain your manners, help someone out if you can, but get to your lifeboat at all cost.

The odds that you will ever be on a sinking ship are extremely low. You are more likely to be attacked by a shark or struck by lightening than to be stranded on a sinking ship frantically trying to board a lifeboat. If you ever do happen to be on a sinking ship, these steps may ultimately help save your life. The sinking of the Titanic showed the world that even the largest passenger liner in the world can sink. The Costa Concordia showed the world that even in our day and age when cellphones speak, cars can almost drive themselves, and mail is delivered to your inbox rather than your mailbox, a passenger liner carrying thousands of people can still sink, or partially sink. Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst is your safest bet.


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