I cut and pasted Cruisingcm's comments - very good info worth repeating!
I wanted to expand on my initial response because this is a really important aspect of safe cruising...
There are quite a few elderly and disabled passengers on board today's cruise ships, ourselves being among them. A grave fear of ours is being trampled over by panicked individuals during real emergencies. Incidence of inconsiderate behavior happen on every cruise since hubby's stroke. People cut him off, grab things right out of his hand, and close elevator doors just as he reaches it. The level of selfishness and impatience is astounding to us considering people are on vacation and still act like self-absorbed jerks. We try to make the best of it and leave the jack-a**e* to their own undoing. (Karma always catches up with ya.)
Our concern extends to true emergency situations, where self-preservation does strange things to people's response process. As a clinical professional, I witnessed some astounding lapses in logical thought and impaired decision-making when people are highly stressed by emergencies, illness and injury. Even the kindest people with the best intent of being decent human beings crumble in emergency situations.
The people who are most capable of handling these life-or-death situations (by staying calm, mindful, and following their training) are those who have experience with day-to-day life and death challenges - LEOs, fire-fighters, doctors, nurses, EMTs, and the like. There is an uncanny ability to suppress the emotional response and tend to the situation at hand. It takes tremendous knowledge, skill, and training. I do not have a 100% confidence in well-meaning, well-trained crew members because (thankfully) I do not believe many of them have had to face real life emergency situations with sufficient frequency... but that does not mean I do not respect their positions as safety personnel onboard the ship.
No one going on vacation wants to deal with the real possibility (however remote) that there could be an at-sea incident. I bet few on the Costa Concordia gave a second thought to the lifeboat drill. Some may have even moved their life-vests under their bed to free up more closet space. There were reports that no instructions were given by the crew. I don't know whether those reports were true or not. I do know that the panicked mind does not hear things above the din of people trying to find their friends and relatives, screaming, running around, and pushing people out of their way.
So where does that leave us?
It goes back to a few basic things that you can do to be prepared and/or to get through an actual emergency situation with the best chance of coming out of it alive and intact...
- PAY ATTENTION AT THE LIFEBOAT DRILL!!!! Yes, it is an exciting time because you are about to embark on your vacation... but slow down and pay attention, please. Do not be the jerk who yammers on and on during the drill (or the jerk who lets the other jerk continue to yammer) or the one who feverishly emails messages on their smart phone(now that is an oxymoron if I ever heard one).
- PAY ATTENTION TO SAFETY CREW INSTRUCTIONS!
- Read the emergency exit information on the back of your cabin door before the lifeboat drill is even called. Have you noticed the confusion just trying to find one's proper emergency station? Well, that is amplified 1000x during an actual emergency.
- Be mindful of elders and handicapped fellow cruisers because their lives are just as valuable as your own. Believe me, if you trample over a less physically abled person in your rush to save yourself, you will have to live with that for the rest of your pathetic life.
- Have an emergency plan known by all the people in your travel party (e.g., meet at your designated lifeboat station rather than going back to your cabin)
- Be prepared to say goodbye to all of your possessions not on your person once an emergency is called. The only thing anyone should return to a stateroom for is medication and/or medical equipment - period... and you may not even have the time or ability to do that depending on the situation.
- As fun as cruises are - and we all love them - don't get so stinking drunk that you become a liability to your family, friends, crew, and anyone else in your general vicinity. We must all maintain a level of accountability in every facet of our lives, yes - even while on vacation.
Our reality is that we visit guest services to make sure of the emergency evacuation process for handicapped passengers (usually because we can't hear over the yammering jerks who refuse to shut up during the lifeboat drill). Then, we decide on our strategy should we be separated when an emergency is called. Generally, this boils down to sharing our plan for each day so we have a general idea of where we will be when we are not together. Also, we keep absolute essentials in ziplock bags inside a tote or backpack in the same location on every cruise (close to our fridge where some medications are kept). That makes for easy retrieval.
Cruising is wonderful and we intend to continue enjoying many more voyages... safely and mindful of our responsibilities as accountable passengers.