If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ve been directed to study the safety briefing card in your seatback pocket. Every passenger plane, commercial or private, has to have safety cards on board. Mo Laborde is a reporter who has been collecting safety cards for almost ten years, and one day she started wondering how the modern safety card came about.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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is most of us are still avoiding plants, but before times when we boarded a flight, we all received the same familiar set of instructions. Rabelais faintly now would be a good time throughout the year. To fifty heart, which is, then you see if you can, flown on a plane you been directed to study plain safety briefing guard everybody. Your blame, commercial or private has to have safety it's on board and if you like, most people probably never bothered to examine it too closely. That is, if you even looked at it at all. I always look at these things as soon as I sat down on a plane I applaud the safeguard today. I'm gonna be talking with producer Mola Board about waste, regards might be worth a closer look. I remain imo so
You say you always blocked this ain't, a goin yeah I mean what can I say I just airplane safety guides. Honestly. I think I love them like that. Little bit too much, I don't just look at them. I collect them. I've been collecting. About ten years ten years. So when you say glowed them when it. What do you mean? Well, whenever I find the plan, I just snag the card, and I put it in my backpack you just take is. Is that allowed? I dare say that is the sort of problem just because technically not allowed, but I just have such a strong kleptomaniac for this one object, today, my collection, I have about three hundred that schools, so why do you have three hundred to two kinds? I think it's that for me, I fell in love with them, because their like safety deemed comic strips like the outfits of the women, are stuck in the nineteen. Sixteen is there are little girls wearing Mary, Jane Shoes and Bobby thoughts
and so the way they look is so fascinating to me, but more than that, like I M, especially fascinated with the way that they depict a plane crash like it's, this all at version of events, where there's no belied, there's no wreckage from the crash nobody's distressed and their their hair doesn't even get messed up like it's. So obviously the opposite of what Actual plane crash would look like absolutely one as these cards, I always think of movies fight club, where Brad Pitt Character is just it's alright marks the way that people look on his guard murder, seawater, landing. Six hundred miles, like faces hindu cow, illusion of safety, later on, but you see Norton and Brad Pitt replaced. the normal safety guards with gardens where everyone is like freaked out
pan again, and I think that the fight club seem get said something about how most of us think the cards are actually necessary. Like some got level, we just assume that if we're in a crash, everyone's gonna die, but then after I began collecting them. I started looking into the history of these cards and where they come from, and basically what I learned is that we have that all wrong safety cards work. Really. I wouldn't both yeah Reading a safety card can save your life, but also it turns out that safety cards have played a central role in are evolving understanding of how to survive a plane crash. We'll tell me more what is it that we owe to those empty guard? Well to answer that? First, we have to go back a ways to a time when safety cards were pretty much plus, in fact they weren't, even really about safety, because
In the early days of passenger airplane travel in the nineteen thirties, there was no. regulation at all about what you go in the cards and in the beginning, airlines had to convince people to get on planes because people were scared to fly so the early cards were all about soothing passengers selling them on the idea that air travel was safe and glamorous, and they were essentially just miniature versions of those travel postcards like little advertisements for the airlines. So here Let me show you a really early car. This one was made- I Imperial Airways in the nineteen thirty's. Oh this one says Imperial Airways, comfort and convenience, and there is little cherubs carrying
a fat fancy man, it's lovely, those that is not the depiction of air travel in any way, shape or form. Now it's a vanity and if you open it up all of the instructions, pretty much are it's all text. Ok, here's some of it is to inflate the bill hold the air bottle which you can feel inside the belt in the left hand and press lever be upwards. With the right hand, That means no really- and sadly, this card is characteristic of the whole first wave of safety, car design throughout the thirties and forty is new and to be fair by the mid sixties- things that improved a bit, you start to see these things called fleet cards which were almost like spiral.
Armed booklets that contain the safety instructions, for multiple plain models in multiple languages, but not off and made it harder to find the correct safety information, because there were so many pages to flip through So how did we get from that to the kinds of cards were familiar today. Well, things really started to change in a late. Nineteen sixty is when airlines started noticing a troubling pattern. When it came to crashes, impact survival was possible, but not escape. Dan Johnson is a psychologist who specializes in airplane safety, any says that in the fifties and sixtys, air travel was growing, increasingly safe, planes crashed less often and when they did crash thanks to design improvements, those ashes were less Badal, all of which should have added up tomorrow survivors, but unfortunately, survivors were not always getting out of here.
our plan time to survive, and I had to say this is the part of the story that maybe throw out everything I had assumed about airplane safety, because it turns out that, if you're in a serious crash it not the impact that kills you whose very few accidents they kill everyone aboard. Instead it what kills. You is what happens next, it's the smoke and fire inside the cabin after the crash, so the keenest surviving is getting out of the plane as fast possible. I guess I never thought about that way before that. The important thing is just exiting the blue yeah, and this is the realisation accident investigators had in the nineteen sixties. They calculated that in your average crash people had about ninety seconds to get out of the plain before it became, quoting quote undisturbed, edible, but again and again they found that passengers warrant making it
mountain in time and run accident. For example, never hundred one passengers aboard for survivors people who are killed were not killed as a result of the impact, but because they couldn't get out through the door so dreadful. Its nightmarish deal and it was a nightmare for the airline industry too, which is why, in nineteen sixty eight Douglas aircraft decided to improve their safety record by hiring Diana along with another guy named bow open. I had never been on unfair point in my life. That's bow like Dan he's, also as a college just specializes in aeroplanes safety, but back when he was first hired a Douglas. He says hidden. The first thing about air travel rise and lie, but I've never been on one of those great big monster. Point, though the first time he entered a proper passenger plain was to give it a safety inspection. My first
inclination was when I entered the back door of the airplane was where are the exits, and I could not see any I could only see the door which I came through my civil. How does a passenger know where to go in the event of an emergency? so he started walking through the airplane and he noticed all the doors were covered with curtains and wireless card was in just four. Four aesthetics oh yeah. They didn't want anybody to know that there was a possibility, have an emergency exits there. And when I talk about safety at all, and then he took a look at their safety cards, so I looked at it and I said this is terrible as if all three languages and no pictures or nothing, it was just read it and weep and ass it. We ve got a problem here. We need to teach passengers how to get.
That aeroplanes, in a hurry so bowing to end, decided to found a company together to improve airline faithfully procedure. Is they called it? The interaction research corporation and their specialty was running tests in mock cabins full of research participants, so Dan and I did tonnes were on. How do we get four hundred and fifty people a border point? Ah everybody off, including the crew in tiny seconds, and they would start by making each test as realistic as possible. They always made sure that there were x, amount of people under the age of six, and so many people over the age of seventy, and they have only been given their passenger briefing that it would be on a regular reporting and then they would just toss a smoke bomb into the thick. The plane, cabin like
Gough emergency emergency evacuate, evacuate release your seatbelt relationship cannot, cannot move movement, get to the exit and then when they got the exit, we'd be fifteen feet above the ground, and they have jump into inflatable slide in the dark, and they ve never done before in trying to get everyone moving as fast as possible. These experiments could actually get dangerous of nodes yeah they gotta lotta hand. We trying to provide much realism as we could without hurting people we still have a lot of people early. A lot of people got hurt, jumping out of the sides, but none the less. We did it for the greater good. Yes, yes, and their tests were an information gold mine. All the participants would be wearing numbered, vests indicating their seat number.
Their age, their gender and bowing down be filming the whole thing to see who went where and who did what I looked at about ten thousand people over ten years, looking at where they sat down at the door. So how long they waited did they follow the behaviour of the passenger in front. So, for example, with that thing down just mentioned, whenever people sat down at the door, before going down the slide. They found that it took an extra half second per person maybe a hundred passengers going out a door, their nets, forty or fifty seconds but if you need to get everyone out and ninety seconds, then fifty seconds is more than you can afford. So I thought the jumping on the spot. I am with structural thing, but that's actually just a time thing yeah. I thought that too, that sitting down would like damage the slide yeah. I know it's all about getting the passengers,
Out as quickly as possible over his fascinating yet, but one of the most important thing is bound and learned was that one of the best ways to get out of the airplane on time was surprised to read the safety card. There are important they really are important when they had people read the safety cards and when those cards had the relevant information, the evacuation times improved dramatically So they began applying what they learned in the experiments to the design of the cards and that we should How can we improve these and then will you said? No words just pictures and then bowing down would test the car it out on the public and few people could understand the illustration they say we got a second here. Mr we ve got something here, we'd like for you to take a look at and tell us what you think
we have to have ninety percent understandability or we're not going to sell this car, and the result was cards that look a lot like the cards easy today. That used pictures to tell the entire story how to exit the plain and these doomed in on specific important actions like how to open a door and there are also things that you might not consciously notice but which apparently really help like using red for all the exit related arrows and pretty much having no text on the card, except for the word exit clue we thought about that. But exit is the only word. They just contained all these visual strategies that knowledge, the reader towards comprehension and as a final little design flourish instead of like getting swallowed up by the sea back pocket, their car is actually fit. So the title would just pick peek out and
entice the passenger to open up and when they look now all I could see was just in case intriguing just in case just in case one. the ABC Ngos with Harry Reasoner. Walter yesterday the average is caught up with some forty seven to impose on charter applies for them. Brown alighted at entering our board in the canary islands. The tenor Eve crash in March of nineteen. Seventy seven The moment where Bowen Dance cards really were put to the test, because it involves two large planes, it still the single deadliest aviation accident in history. Why? It happened, is kind of up for debate, but basically a seven forty seven belonging to KLM Airline and airline carrier collided on take off with a seven hundred seven. Forty seven There was still on the runway and the cap.
In toward the roof off of the PAN Am plan. and on the pale and plain and everyone died not easily could have been the case with the pan am plain to It got very hot inside the PAN Am plan because of the fuel shoe taking down from the tail plain into the cabin, so at a certain point, the conditions and the cat. Then became unsolvable sixty seven people that survive and it turned out that Dan and Bow design the safety card for the PAN Am seven. Forty seven, meaning bear card was the one on board the playing with the survivors. One of these that I talk to you if it wasn't, for they say to car. He and his wife would not have gotten out of the plane. That's amazing.
Yeah. Apparently this one couple Paul and Foy heck somewhat famously escaped the crash while clutching a safety card in their hands, and I actually have a copy of that she card. Just let me take this issue is some forty seven just in case, typewriter and open it up and It's really like the modern card yearly has opened the door jumping on the sly. The lay out of the plane in its is a quantum leap. forward over the last few Shelby earlier that we're all text in India Pictures, but really just just impenetrable near it seems one that would save ox exactly, and they really thought the fact that there were survivors in Tenerife as kind of a vindication of their work and after ten or even Bowen Dan actually tell if five before Congress about the need for better airline safety procedures, and it's around that time that the all visual safety cards became the standard throughout
industry, so did they learn anything else from the trust you attend briefly, whether things that they discover that think they could have done better, even yeah. That's a great question, given that some of the survivors said this. Eighty cards definitely help them: why weren't there even more survivors- and they film back there are really two big hurdles preventing people from for being the information in the safety cards. The first is that when the crash happened, a lot of people just froze some of these survivors gave us some information on we're, going down an ideal way to get two an exit, and there were people sitting there with her mouth open, they didn't know what to do. They do not move, they didn't do anything they just sat there and type investigators at Plenary found that some of the victims were still buckle.
In their seats, but they were so sharply. They couldn't even on Buckler support yeah. It is pretty creepy, but is also apparently common in plain glasses, it's called tonic and mobility and psychologists think that this is like a primitive defence. Mecca because one way to get a predator to leave, you alone is just play dead, and it turns out that this explains the thing that from the beginning, I have found the most perplexing about the safety carts. Why, in the world at the safety card, is everything so orderly sort of panic, less I think that there is a fear of being an airplane accident and anything that we do, that might increase. That fear would probably increase the
chronic and mobility. The placid faces the perfectly cloth here. The very thing that fight club is making fun of it turns out that that is not like a shallow corporate marketing decision dances. The bloodless design is at least partially about keeping passengers from panicking. Even poor and maybe even freezing up. So you mentioned that there are two big girls. One is that the people frees up before using information the cars, what what's the second big hurdle when it comes to safety carts? The second heard all is something that we talked about at the very beginning of the story, which is that nobody he reads them Nova. He read the car design. Do it turns out that the little just in case teaser doesn't really worked out? Well, you're gonna get a lot of people. I said I. I'm not going to do it. I dont want to read this. I don't want to look at it. I dont
do anything at all about a period want to get to Dallas, and I don't give a shit about anything else, gimme that their attitude Dan told me that, even today, only three or four percent of passengers, ever pick up the safety card. Is this? Why they now do Eighty videos mean not not rely entirely on the card. The videos help up to a point, but even the briefing videos have their limits like they work really well with first time fires, but they still fall flat just like cards when it comes to frequent flyers, suited the cords, Edith videos and also thing like the flag demonstrations, but I wonder if there is any other way to reach the most resistant passengers like had they try other things to inject the necessary information into people's brains. So there are some other methods that airline companies have tried to get passengers and
and they haven't gone, not well. Bo told me about this. One carrier, Eastern Airlines, that tried an experiment, tat everybody to commend to the facility fifteen minutes early, and then they had to go to his room and they got the passenger safety breathing in the room. Then they went out of business both as the cards demonstrations, the videos they all help, get more information across to more people, but in the end the information will always hit this wall of resistance among passengers. We try to teach him. We try to encourage them. We do all those things, but people's attitudes, Dick and you can't change that. You cannot change there, so you have to look at it and say how many people can. I trust
to do what they are told to do? Probably thirty percent thirty percent. But what do you do you have to play the odd? That's all there is to it so really when it comes down to it. If, if I really wanted to revive a crash or some kind of problem on an airplane, the files that really rests with me. I have to watch the video. I have to read the car, but this is my responsibility, just take the final step, oh my god, I'm just cringing like feel like at the risk of turning this whole story into Yes, they really is the truth that we all have to actively participate. Taking our own safety seriously, and I still I love the cards. I just you know a little bit differently now before doing all this reporting to me, they were just like physical laminated artifacts of people tending to have control in a crisis.
They were enduring you because they were so feudal because they did matter. Yes, that's like, main reason that I took them from life. But now- and I know of no sound like I'm gonna- do she's saying this, but the next time I board a plane, I'm gonna pull the safety information card and I'm going to read. It know where the exits are, how to open the door and then, when I'm finished, I'm going to put it back in the seat back pocket and hope that the next person reads it to We come back we'll talk to some of the people who actually draw saved cards for living and find out why you really want them to do a job. After this squares ways lets you create your own website in just a few clicks, which means you can showcase your work, promote your business or connect with people virtually, and you can make it yourself.
I made my own site, roman Mars, dot com was square space and it has a twitter which it and I just liked click a little box and all my twitter feed like shows up at the bottom of the page, and it's really helpful at keeping people who go to my website up to date. On my news and right now, when uses only about the book, I just talk about the buck if on that, but it's what we're doing right now, knowing that people can go to the site and automatically seed dynamic, a new content is one less hassle. I have to worry about. Swears ways is full of convenient tools. Just like that, you check amount Square, Spaced, Comstock, invest for free trial and when you re launch, use the offer invisible to save ten percent of your first purchase of a website or domain your miles go further with the capital, on venture card. The travel card that lets you earn unlimited double miles for more than just air. Travel
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So now. I know that there is something that we couldn't fit in the peace and any talk to other people. Besides bowing down, oh yeah, when I was searching the story. One of the things I learned is, Odin Dan had all these great innovations, but you know neither of them are artists like they don't draw the cards, so I got really curious about who it is that does the drawing like what actually goes. creating one of these things, so I called a Brok Fisher and Larry Bruns When you tell people what you do when most people say when I go on, is that a real job or that pay the bills I get quite a bit. Most people don't say anything. So the first guy you heard is Brok and the second guys Larry together they comprise air safety, are international and adorable E. They are a grandfather, grandson, safety card design dual face. Lambeau me, and apparently
major airline companies have their own in house design teams but smaller airlines turned to companies like Brok and Larry's to make their safety cards and they also do a lot of private jets and helicopters, which means that they have a lot of fancy clients, some of which they could tell me on the record and some of which they couldn't. Ok, I can tell you I did Taylor Swift, Falcon Jack. I don't know it's the same one she has now, but I did want to perish was yes, I confess I was starstruck. I was very impressed, but even more impressive is that Larry is the guy who did all the drawings, Bowen Dance. First, visual cards back in the sixties turns out he's bows brother in law who, supposedly of family family lives
totally gets, which means that Larry help develop the classic safety cord. Look the retro clothes in the crisp clean lines and, of course no words, words. Embryonic are just kill me and unfortunately, there are out there and for the past few years he's been teaching his grandson Brok, all the secrets of safety car dealers. Oh, so, ok. We have to hear some secrets of safeguard illustration of what are they and we work well, was in designing a safeguard that maybe I am not noticing well, the big goal is that grasping the information presented in the card should feel effortless. So it's trying to make sure that it's a little story and the whole story makes sense without something going well. Oh wait a minute in that little story is the story of how you get off the plane and it starts with making sure you understand where you are in the cabin? That's one that I got up,
gets me when I'm on an airliner is, if I'm not yet the card- and I look up, do I see the same thing? then they need to make sure that each scene in the narrative has only like a few key details that stand out things like it's. An aircraft are handled is bright red. We need to show it bright red, not a generic, grey or block. It needs to be read because it s the only thing you remember: deletion, oh you're, looking for So the premises if I'm panicking. I just have this glowing red handle in my mind's eye from the card, and they can read, handle Red handle and then, when I see it, a success in the next up, exactly eight yes, but even conveying. That is a lot of work, because all the details you see in the card half do exactly match what actually in aircraft so that the pastors don't get can used, so Marian Brok told me that they need images or samples of all of the objects in each carriers. Version of each different plain like you would be shocked and how many
print types of Dore handles. There are all the same Steve as there are their origin. How many times of inflatable safety valve Marion Brok say they ve drawn about a hundred and fifty types of life. S and rafts I'd marry. farther for that's totally true. There has to be exact the right or it doesnt really do a straw, yeah and the same thing goes for all the different actions that the passengers are expected to perform because they need to accurately convey what each of those actions look like, but also feel like. When we draw people we have them, carry weight, like we add muscle, shape inside the lines we kind of like show them bending end the criminals in the shirt. So it looks like he's heaving this raft, so we create the illusion mass and way really quickly, and that means that they ve also ended up with a vast library of customize character poses, though, in the end, we found we have I know we've never done that. This there's gotta be a thousand different characters,
and nine hundred and eighty five of them are me. Yet this is the final safety Guard secret. Many of the characters you see in their cards, regardless of what they look like on the page. Really there just Barrack think they're just based on photos of him in a nice parents lacks unaddressed heart People are she like wise after that? Those start to look and be like this is the same guy in every situation on this card, so good. This is my favorite fun fact, because when Brock's body type won't do they just recruit, anybody like their cousin, their spouse, their friend to come, put on business casual or like a flight attendant outfit and post. The cards, we for some reason recruit wages from restaurants and we used to go to when we were in Bellingham. We asked if want to make an extra hundred bucks and they used to say ass. Would you really It has come to my house and pretended
card model, and they actually asked me if I wanted to be a safety. Heard model. Oh, my god, did you say? Yes? Yes, I was like course is super knees and super cool they haven't had an order come in where they need basically a woman to do a very specific action. Yet when they do I'll be there, bent so much my thanks. So much Thank you, Roman. Ninety. Nine percent invisible was produced this week by mow the boar edited by Jo Rosenberg, mixed by Bryson Bonds, music by Genral, Delaney, home is this in your browser? Kirkwall study is the digital director presenting its crisper Johnson Emmett Fitzgerald Crisper, Ruby, Vivian, lay Katy, mingle, Ivy been DAWN Sophia. Oscar and me Roman, Mars,
special thanks today to Johan Pill, who we spoke to for the story about the history of technical design, but whose voice we didn't get to include some of the inn. Gizmo and I looked at our action. from an incredible bookkeeper. Together with co author Eric Ericsson, it's called the I am for impact contains images of safety cards from different period all over the world is absolutely gorgeous work and is just so much fun. The through. You want to check it out we'll have a link on our website nine. I appear that work we are products of Ale W. Ninety one point: seven in San Francisco in produced on radio row which lives at the far corner of North America, but is centered in beautiful, downtown, Oakland, California,
we're a founding member of Radio Tokyo from Pierre Ex affairs. The independent collective of the most innovative listener supported one hundred percent artist, own podcast in the world vine them all at Radio Tokyo, not FM. You can t me out roman Mars and show at nine IP or grant Instagram and read it to you. Can now order. Are for book than ninety nine percent invisible city at night. Mph outward flash book. We have links to perch that anywhere you get your books, including signed additions and the audio book, and if you dig in a book and enjoyed it really but somewhere it's a huge help to us when you review it in lots of different places for all your other nine ip. I need look no further than I IP? I dot org that's it.
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Transcript generated on 2020-11-17.