Emergency Essentials – Lessons From the Titanic: Make Your Own Choices
What can we learn about emergency essentials from ocean liners? If we look at the Titanic disaster, I think we can learn plenty and be better prepared.
The subject of emergency essentials and emergency planning in general came to mind last night while watching a documentary about the Titanic. There are multiple lessons that jump out at me when considering this tragedy, and I thought today I’d share one. I want to talk a little about the number of life boats that the Titanic carried on its maiden voyage.
It may seem to be an odd topic, but I think you’ll see how it all makes sense…there are lessons for us as individuals in the story about the lifeboats.
The number of traditional lifeboats aboard the huge ship at that time was 16, and they could carry perhaps 60 people each. With more than 2,200 people aboard the ship, and four additional emergency boats available to use as lifeboats, that meant each of the small boats on the Titanic would have had to carry 110 people — about twice the capacity of each boat — if everyone were to have a place to sit and float around on the water while waiting for rescue. In other words, when the Titanic left its dock, it was for certain that half of the people would perish in the event the ship sank, just based on the number of lifeboats that could be used in an emergency…even if each one was filled to capacity.
But it couldn’t sink, remember, it was “unsinkable.” More on that at another time.
So, how did this tragic mistake happen? Certainly at the time there were rules and regulations and standards that required a sufficient number of lifeboats. Indeed there were, and they were based on the size of the ship…its tonnage. The Titanic fell into a category of the largest ships of the day which were required to carry 16 lifeboats, but the Titanic and its sister ships (the Olympic and Britannic) were so much larger than any other — by far the largest of their day — that the number of lifeboats was entirely inadequate. The requirements didn’t change as the size of the ships changed. To have adequate coverage, the Titanic would have had to employ roughly 34 lifeboats on board, more than twice the number that they carried.
If you’re traveling on an ocean liner, one of the emergency essentials would be a lifeboat, another would be a life jacket. At least that’s my view, and perhaps it’s your view as well. More than 1,500 people drowned in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912 because the determination of what was necessary for survival was left in the hands of the “authorities” and not the individual passengers. I’m not suggesting that any of the passengers could have made any changes in the requirements regarding emergency resources carried aboard that luxury liner, but the lesson still stands out clearly in my mind that when it comes to emergency essentials, we’re all better off when we make individual choices instead of relying solely on someone else’s advice or standards.
And, if it turns out that we’re not better off with our own decisions, at least we’ll have largely determined our own fate. We’ll have no one to blame but ourselves if we haven’t thought through the emergency scenario and sorted out what kind of resources we’ll need.
So, when it comes to emergency essentials, just remember it’s your emergency, so it ought to be at least partly your choice as to what resources you’ll have on hand. Most of the time we have a choice, but I realize at other times we don’t. When we do, it’s up to us to think clearly, make good decisions, and choose wisely. It’s in our best interest to do so. To expect others to have our best interest in mind is to expect what rarely will be the case. After all, if others are busy looking out for your best interest, and the interest of others, they certainly won’t have the time, energy or resources to look out for their own interests, and that’s seems to me to be contrary to human nature and the concept of self-preservation.
Clair Schwan makes his own determination with respect to emergency essentials, because he wants to do it right, and he knows that it’s in no one’s best interest to do it for him.