Cabin safety bulletin 26 Brace and evacuation commands

What is the purpose of this bulletin?

The purpose of this bulletin is to emphasise how important the practical application of procedures are. This is particularly crucial during initial and recurrent training regarding brace and evacuation commands in line with the evacuation type.

This bulletin follows on from Cabin Safety Bulletin number 25.

A cabin safety bulletin is an advisory document that supports cabin safety by providing recommendations and education. Recommendations in this bulletin are not mandatory.

Who does this bulletin apply to?

This bulletin applies to all charter and regular public transport (RPT) operators of Australian registered aircraft.

Effective period

Effective date: November 2021

Removal from circulation: November 2022


Brace and evacuation commands

Operators have in the past allowed cabin crew to improvise commands (like fitting life jackets) so there is freedom to adapt commands to an unfolding evacuation situation. The problem with this approach is that it is widely recognised in the literature on learning and skill acquisition, that over-training can often be required to ensure competence in infrequent events (Buckley & Caple, 2000). This means that where a skill is rarely used at work, like emergency evacuations, a high level of practice is required to ensure retention over time. This is due to individuals lacking opportunities to demonstrate that skill or behaviour in their daily operational role. Improvisation may be allowed but should be supported by thorough training in commands and procedures to use as a fall-back mechanism.

Brace commands

The brace position is determined to be the most effective protective position for passengers to adopt to reduce the chance of injury during impact. For example, to minimise flailing of the body during an impact and secondary impacts.

In planned emergencies, bracing should be undertaken when the command is announced from flight crew for example, ‘brace, brace’.

In unanticipated emergencies, it is possible that no command will be heard from the flight deck. Cabin crew should always be prepared to deliver passenger commands for example, ‘heads down, stay down’. All brace positions should be maintained until the aircraft has come to a final stop.

The most appropriate brace position may vary according to seat orientation, seat belt installation (for example, shoulder harness, airbag) or cabin configuration. Brace commands need to reflect the appropriate brace position. When the need to brace is determined, a command is normally given by flight crew. This command serves a dual purpose: advising the cabin crew that impact is imminent and advising passengers of the need to brace. Cabin crew should supplement this with shouted commands to keep passengers in the brace position during impact and until the aircraft has come to a stop or for as long as it is safety to do so.

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Commands should be delivered loudly, assertively, repeatedly and consistently. They should also be well paced to not cause confusion. Cabin crew must consider their tone of voice (loud and assertive), languages used and the number of other cabin crew shouting commands at the same time.

Cabin crew must consider their tone of voice (loud and assertive), languages used and the number of other cabin crew shouting commands at the same time.

For a person occupying a forward-facing passenger seat fitted with a lap strap seat belt only, a typical brace command is “heads down, stay down”. More generic commands may be used in mixed cabin configurations where seats or brace positions may differ. In such instances, attention should be drawn to the appropriate brace position through a verbal briefing and supplemented by the passenger safety briefing card. Refer below for sample brace commands.

Evacuation commands

After landing, if flight crew decide that an evacuation is not required, they should give a command instructing passengers to remain seated. If an evacuation is necessary, cabin crew commands to initiate the evacuation should tell passengers to take the following actions:

  1. unfasten seat belts
  2. fit lifejacket (in case of unprepared ditching)
  3. check external conditions (self-help exit)
  4. leave all personal belongings behind
  5. move to the nearest available exit.

Once cabin crew open the exits and verify that assisting evacuations are ready for use (for example slide, slide-raft), they should tell passengers to move towards the usable exits. At exits equipped with dual-lane slides, crew should tell passengers to divide into 2 lines at the doorway to evacuate as many passengers as possible in pairs. Where an exit is unusable for any reason, crew should block the exit and give positive commands directing passengers to another usable exit.

In a land evacuation, commands for passengers to leave the aircraft will vary according to the method of escape (for example, using slides versus the aircraft’s wing flaps). Cabin crew should tell passengers to move away from the aircraft. In a ditching, commands for passengers to leave the aircraft will vary according to the type of flotation devices and the method of escape (for example, slide-raft versus life-raft).

In the event of an unanticipated ditching, cabin crew need to give more commands to passengers (for example, to find and retrieve flotation devices, remove high-heeled shoes), as appropriate. Refer below for sample evacuation commands.

Removal of carry-on baggage during an emergency evacuation

Evidence from evacuations has shown that a high number of passengers try to take carry-on baggage with them when evacuating an aircraft—against cabin crew instructions.  Such passenger behaviour can present a significant hindrance to egress, injury to other passengers and damage to slides. Cabin crew commands should include instructions to leave all personal belongings on board, these should be repeated during the evacuation.  

Operators should consider cabin crew responses and possible ramifications in the event passengers attempt to take cabin baggage with them during an emergency evacuation, including:

Action Potential consequences

Forcibly removing carry-on baggage at the doorway

Build-up of items blocking exit routes.

Slowed rate of egress due to confrontation. Injury to cabin crew carrying out the action from hoisting bags over seatbacks away from the exit row.

Physical confrontation with passengers preventing the continuation of evacuation procedures.

Throwing carry-on baggage outside the aircraft

Injury to persons outside the aircraft.

Injury to crew member carrying out the action.

Damage to ground equipment or slide.

Damage to passengers’ personal belongings and claims for cost of bag and contents.

Allowing passenger to take items that they insist on taking

Slowed rate of egress.

Injury to passenger or others using the slide. Injury to persons assisting at the bottom of the slide.

Damage to the slide.

Build-up of debris at the bottom of the slides adding increased risks of injury.

Source: IATA Cabin Operations Safety Best Practices Guide 6th edition 2020

Sample brace and evacuation commands

Action Specific element Sample command

Brace for impact

Forward-facing passenger seat fitted with a lap strap seat belt only

“Heads down, stay down” or “Bend over, heads down”

Evacuation initiation

Not applicable

“Unfasten seat belts”

“Leave everything behind”

Unplanned ditching initiation

Locating and donning life jacket

“Fit life jacket”

While exit is being prepared

Preventing premature use

“Stand back”

“Hold the people back”

Exit opened

Single land slide

“Come this way”


Dual lane slide

“Come this way”

“Form two lines”


Unusable exit

“Blocked exit”

“Go that way”

“Turn around”

“Go back”

(if passengers need to go in the opposite direction in the cabin)

“Go across”

Evacuation on land

Using slide

“Jump and slide”

“Move away” or “Sit and slide” (for slides on the upper deck or with a ramp)

“Move away”


Onto wing with a staffed exit

“Step out”

“Follow the arrows”


Using stairs

“Hold the handrail”

“Go down quickly”


From exit directly to ground (no slide)

“Sit down”

“Jump down”

Unanticipated emergency situation using able-bodied passengers (ABPs) command

Enlist help of ABPs

“You and you help... ”

Use of flotation devices

Using life jacket

“Inflate life jacket”

(as passengers exit aircraft, not before)

Evacuation on water

Into water

“Jump, swim away ”


Onto wing at staffed exit

“Step out’ “Follow the arrows”


Onto slide raft

“Step carefully onto raft”

“Sit to the sides”


Into raft

“Climb into raft”

Source: ICAO Doc 10086 Manual on information and instructions for passenger safety 1st edition [2018]


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