What To Do In A Helicopter Crash
This is Hugh Howerton. I’m a lawyer who represents hurt offshore workers. One of the greatest risks of dying for offshore workers is the helicopter ride. Helicopter crashes make up nearly 39% of all offshore rig deaths. But you got to get to work so learn to protect yourself.
If you were lucky enough to get to take a class at helicopter escape school I hope you payed attention. The skills you learned can literally save your life. This information is taken from articles I found on the internet. Don’t just trust me. Do your own research and if possible, take a real two-day class called Dunker Training.
Here are articles I found. Here are the highlights.
HOW TO ESCAPE 101
- Identify your exit path
- Push out the panel
- Grab the exit pathway with one hand while opening the buckle of your seat belt with the other.
- Pull yourself free
IT SHOULD TAKE ABOUT 20 SECONDS AFTER CRASH FOR YOU TO EXIT
If everything goes smooth it should take you about 20 seconds to exit. As soon as the crash happens you NEED TO MOVE. It may be dark, you maybe upside down and scared BUT YOU NEED TO MOVE. The helicopter might be sinking.
WHICH SEAT TO PICK
Pick the seat right next to the emergency exit
WHEN YOU GET IN THE HELICOPTER LOOK FOR EXITS AND EXIT HANDLES
The exit is your way out of the helicopter before you drown. Look for the exit closest too you. Then look for all the exits. Remember the exit closest to you might be jammed in the crash so you need to know how to find all the exits with your eyes closed. Next look for the exit handles. When you take your seat use one of your body parts as a landmark to find the exits and exit handles. It can be your hip or knee. Now, pay attention to the angle of your arm as you move towards the handle from our hip. Is it straight out or at an angle? Can you find the handle or latch with your eyes closed?
PREPARING TO CRASH
It’s going to be scary. Don’t freak out. Two or three seconds of panic can kill, but one or two seconds of thinking can save you. Expect water to go up your nose if you flip upside down.
HOW TO BRACE FOR IMPACT
You have to memorize this drill
- Tighten the straps of your 4-point harness
- Cross your arms to grip a shoulder-belt in each hand
- Leave a pocket between your arms to tuck your head.
- Do Not tuck your legs under the seat. Keep them flat on the floor. In a crash it can break your legs or trap them under the broken seat
A helicopter crash will slam you back and forth so you can hurt your neck, knees, back, feet and arms. But with a good brace you can take a lot of impact
- Keep Your Thumbs Free
When you grab the shoulder harness keep your thumbs pointed up and free. Do not lock them around the shoulder straps. A violent impact will dislocate your thumbs and getting out alive likely requires you to use your thumbs
RIGHT AFTER THE CRASH
At impact there’s an instant of panic. You want to fight for air and grab something. Calm down. Count to 3-4
KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED
A real crash could happen at night, or the cabin could be murky with floating debris, or leaking fuel and hydraulic fluid which can blind you.
Emergency lights are no guarantee of clear vision either: Those, along with a curtain of bubbles from the sinking aircraft, can obscure the exits.
DON’T RELEASE YOUR SEAT BELT TOO EARLY
If you freak out and release your seat belt too early you will float free in the helicopter. This can make you lose track or where your exits are.
It’s best if you keep your eyes closed underwater,” “If they’re open, you just get bad information which can cause you to make the wrong choice
HOW TO GET OUT
Use one hand to locate the frame of the exit window
Use one hand to release the seat belt
Push the door out of the way
Leave hand over hand
Sounds simple right? It’s not. Once the crash happens you need to find out where you are in the wreckage. Your first immediate reference point will be the location of your own butt. Has the crash changed the structure and shape of where you are sitting in relation to the exit door? Can you reach it?
Now you will need to move your reference point from your butt to establish a new reference point. This will be your hand nearest to exit you just found. Grab with this reference hand onto whatever may be there — the door frame, the remaining seat structure next to you, — and do not let go of it with that hand.
This reference hand has now become your pointer hand to survival!
Once you have this reference-hand escape route established, with your free hand, and only your free hand (do not let go of your reference hand), release your seatbelt.
You now have your escape route from this helicopter marked with your reference hand.
Due to fire or possibly in coming rushing water, do you have the time to assist others, or do you need to exit immediately?
If you decide to do so and assist others, still do not let go of your reference hand until you are half-way out of the aircraft.
WHAT IF YOUR CLOSEST EXIT WINDOW IS JAMMED
Unbuckle your seat belt
Cross to the opposite side of the cabin and find an exit
Never let go of all reference points
Move crabwise. Move seat to seat with your feet on the deck if you can.
USE YOUR HELMET TO FIND WHICH WAY IS UP
Your helmet has a foam lining. Their buoyancy will lead you up
GET FREE OF THE HELICOPTER
Once you are free of the wreckage, due to the possibilities of a post-crash explosion, fire, or rolling, you should move clear to your safety zone. This is a safe distance away from the crash site, and there make decisions on what will be needed to be done next.
Stay safe out there!
I hope you never need me.