You’re enjoying a nice day on an ocean cruise. You’re relaxed and secure. Too bad that a rogue wave, human error, high winds or mechanical failure just ruined your trip.

Suddenly, a huge spray of water douses your clothes. People are rushing around, shrieking and falling over deck chairs. The floor underneath your feet is lurching. Your ship is sinking.

So, how do you survive?

Long before a potential disaster strike, there are steps you can take in order to be prepared. First up, listen. Before a ship sails very far, the captain or a crew member will give a safety briefing over the speakers. As boring as that may be, it will prepare you, and maybe even save you.

Find where your lifejacket is and practice putting it on. Because it might restrict your movement when it’s on, don’t wear it. Just carry it with you during an emergency and put it on when you’re on the deck.

Always have your important medication with you, in case your ship does sink and you’re on a lifeboat for as long as several weeks. Next, take a walk. Make a mental note of the signage, the stairwells and especially the exits. In case of smoke impeding your sight, you need to have an idea of where everything is during an emergency.

Disaster strikes. Now, do the same thing you did earlier: listen.

The crew is trained for emergencies, so if instructions are being issued, follow them. Try to breathe from your stomach instead of your chest to stay calm. Most importantly, do not panic. According to studies, 70% of people experience lessened reasoning ability when they panic, and you don’t want to be one of them.

If you’re on a lower section of the ship, get up toward the deck. Stay on the ship for as long as you can, as it is your safest bet. Avoid jumping into the water as that’s the most dangerous option.

Do you feel a big lurch? Do you see water where it shouldn’t be?

Listen for your captain to announce “Abandon ship!” and watch for the crew to drop lifeboats into the water. Now for the surprising news. If you are a woman or a child, and you’re expecting polite behavior from your fellow passengers, don’t count on it.

Everyone’s in a panic, and there are no actual maritime laws requiring that women and children get on lifeboats first. When a crew member helps you into a lifeboat, stay calm. Collect rainwater in any containers you have, and do not drink seawater or urine.

People with determined and positive attitudes are the ones who tend to survive. Distract yourself from cold and other discomfort by playing mental games, counting and thinking of others.

If you can, try to help tie your lifeboat to other lifeboats. Ideally, all the lifeboats will be tied together so that everyone is easier to find and rescue.

Your best chance of survival now is to be helpful and friendly to your fellow survivors. Share your water, food and good morale.

It will be difficult and scary, but if you follow these instructions, you have a good chance of surviving a sinking ship. But if you feel safe at sea, then how about in the air?


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