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Do you know what to do in a plane crash?

Advancements in technology, tight regulations and aggressive training of crewmembers all are key components to air travel safety.Even as accident rates on planes continue to decline, however, many people don’t know how to handle an in-flight emergency.While they happen, “crashes and fatalities are rare,” Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, told TODAY.com.Once onboard,

Advancements in technology, tight regulations and aggressive training of crewmembers all are key components to air travel safety.

Even as accident rates on planes continue to decline, however, many people don’t know how to handle an in-flight emergency.

While they happen, “crashes and fatalities are rare,” Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, told TODAY.com.

Once onboard, it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself, Harteveldt said.

In the case of US Airways Flight 1549, better known as the "Miracle on the Hudson," disaster was averted due to Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger's skillful water landing. However, it appears passengers were not equipped to deal with the emergency. "When the captain said 'brace for impact,' they did not know what that meant," Cynthia Corbett, a human research specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told NBC News' Tom Costello.

In the event of an emergency, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use seatbacks and floor lighting to find the nearest exit;
  • Move quickly;
  • If using an emergency chute, slide on your rear and don't lean back, and get out of the way once on the ground.

If you must evacuate the plane, leave your personal belongings behind. "The briefcase, the books, clothes -- none of that is important," said Mac McLean, an FAA safety researcher.

And be prepared. "Read the briefing card -- people need to really pay attention to it," McLean said.

Harteveldt agrees: “When the safety announcements [are made] or safety video is being played, put down the reading, stop talking … and pay attention because that information can save your life.”

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Joe Myxter has been running msnbc.com's Travel section since 2006. Follow him on Twitter.