A muster drill that's life-saving and lively
And of course one of the lessons from the Costa Concordia tragedy, which occurred just hours after leaving an embarkation port, was the need to conduct a muster drill before sailing and to compel every passenger’s participation during the drill.
Have you have used your cell phone or tablet during a cruise ship safety demonstration?
During a recent muster drill, a crew member stopped me from using my phone to send a tweet. No pun intended: It was the right call. Passengers are supposed to be paying attention to the safety message.
Except that there were long stretches when nothing happened. No instruction, no videos, nothing but waiting. Some sort of communication seemed to be happening behind the scenes. And granted, sometimes it takes more than a few minutes for everybody to report to their assigned muster stations. But in the meantime, passengers are cooling their heels.
Getting attention for routine safety messages is a problem that has plagued many companies in the business of transportation. On every flight, airline personnel are required to tell passengers something that most of them have already heard. The natural impulse for most listeners is to tune it out. Social media and portable devices (cameras not forgotten) are just the latest means of avoiding a mind-numbing couple of minutes.
The recent fire on Grandeur of the Seas offers a reminder of why it's worth it to pay attention to the safety message. Passengers roused at 2:50 a.m. had at least some idea of what was happening, where to go, what to do.
But still, some thought and effort should go into the presentation of these life-saving exercises. Perhaps some sort of interactivity is called for. Or a quiz at the end. A cruise credit for the passenger that correctly demonstrates they’ve been paying attention.
Cruise lines also owe it to passengers to make the drill as effective as possible. Please keep it moving, to minimize the boredom. Make whatever is said audible, especially announcements on the ship’s public address system.
And try to involve the crew in communicating to small groups of guests. The more personal the safety demonstrations are, the more attention and respect they will command.
And now one long tone signals the end to the muster drill. Back to your phones!