Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Transport Canada - Aviation Safety Letter Spotlight on Bilingual Briefings at Window Emergency Exits - ISSUE 4/2009

Spotlight on Bilingual Briefings at Window Emergency Exits - ISSUE 4/2009

by Suzanne Acton-Gervais, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Cabin Safety Standards, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Preparation for departure is a very hectic time, with many pre-flight checks and tasks to complete. Flight attendants are available during boarding to help stow luggage, answer questions, brief and assist passengers who require special attention, and the list goes on. Behind that crisp uniform and smile, as they perform customer service duties, flight attendants are mainly focused on safety. It really can be physically and mentally challenging. Flight attendants are trained professionals—occupational athletes who are extremely observant. They have a real concern for passenger safety and an ability to pay attention to detail while multi-tasking.

During all of this pre-flight activity, flight attendants are observing passengers for safety and security reasons, including who is sitting in the window emergency exit rows. These passengers are considered able-bodied passengers (ABP). In an emergency, the flight attendant could call on them for help.

Emergency exit briefings
One of the many pre-flight tasks is to brief the passengers seated in the window emergency exit rows. Flight attendants perform this same routine task prior to every flight. But even though it is a routine, flight attendants are listening to, observing, and assessing the passenger while giving instructions. From this they gauge the passenger’s reactions and answer any questions they may have.

Time is critical during an emergency, and passengers seated adjacent to window exits play a very important role in assisting flight attendants during an evacuation. All passengers need to act according to the crew’s verbal commands during the evacuation process. The reaction of passengers seated in a window emergency exit row is even more crucial. The crew commands will vary depending on many factors, such as the nature and location of the emergency, potential fire, and other dangers outside or inside the aircraft. Therefore, it is vital that passengers seated in the window emergency exit rows understand how and when to open specific exits and, perhaps more importantly, when not to open them.

Air operators usually develop procedures for a flight attendant to conduct this window emergency exit briefing orally. The benefit of this one-on-one interaction during the window briefing is that the flight attendant can assess if the passenger has really understood what is expected of them should the need for an evacuation occur. They can also determine if the passenger should indeed occupy this restricted seating.

A flight attendant briefs the passenger seated at an emergency exit row.

Flight attendants will relocate a passenger before departure if they feel that the individual briefing information has not been clearly understood by the passenger, or if the passenger volunteers that they are not comfortable with, or capable of, operating the emergency exit. In both cases, the relocation is due to non-compliance with the regulatory requirements of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

The challenge of language barriers
But what happens when a flight attendant and passenger do not speak the same language? In 2005, after receiving complaints from members of the travelling public, representatives of the Commissioner of Official Languages requested that window emergency exit briefings be made available in the passenger’s preferred official language, either English or French.

Section 26 of the Official Languages Act (OLA) of Canada states that every federal institution that regulates persons or organizations with respect to…the health, safety or security of members of the public has the duty to ensure, through its regulation…wherever it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances, that members of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from those persons or organizations…in both official languages.

Since Transport Canada develops policies and regulations that promote the safety and security of the travelling public, while at the same time respecting the linguistic rights of Canadians, it conducted a review to assess the safety implications. After the review, it was suggested that the window emergency exit briefing be available in both official languages and a recommendation was made to amend the CARs.

Looking ahead…
The proposed changes to the CARs will include a requirement for the window emergency exit briefing to be available in the passenger’s preferred official language. The proposal will be presented at the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) meeting in the fall of 2009.

Some passenger relocations seem to be occurring due to the lack of an available briefing in the preferred official language of the person seated in the window emergency exit row. To help mitigate this, air operators should develop procedures to ensure passengers seated in the window emergency exit rows receive the necessary information in their preferred official language.

Transport Canada provides advisory material outlining the abilities that a passenger should meet to be seated in an emergency exit row. You can find this information in the Commercial and Business Aviation Advisory Circular (CBAAC) 0181R—Passenger Seating Requirements. Transport Canada also provides advisory material in Advisory Circular (AC) 705-001—Bilingual Briefings at Window Emergency Exits.


This article was published by Transport Canada in TP 185E -. Reprinted with permission

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