Great question Eric,
As I hope you’re aware Flight Attendants (FAs) are FAR more than just airplane waitresses or bar tenders. They are an integral and essential part of the crew and the safety of the passengers is there primary responsibility.
Let’s start with the PreFlight. Obviously procedures vary from airline to airline and also can vary considerably depending on the operation (domestic or international). Time permitting we will usually go to the FAs area and brief the entire crew. The brief will include flight time, weather enroute and at the destination, areas of known turbulence, any inoperable equipment that might affect them and basically anything else that might concern them or the passengers. If that’s not possible at a minimum the Capt will brief the Lead FA and then they will brief the others.
As for inflight absolutely. We will ALWAYS keep our flight attendants aware of any irregularities. Again they are part of the crew. Another thing to keep in mind is often those irregularities are occurring on the other side of our locked cockpit door. If there’s a security or health issues with a passenger the FAs will know before the pilots do. Additionally we may ask the flight attendants to take a look out a window if perhaps there’s an unusual vibration etc. The FAs are the pilot’s eyes and ears in the cabin. In the unlikely event of an actual emergency the FAs are responsible for preparing the passengers for the landing and possible evacuation. The pilots need to brief the FAs on the nature of the emergency, estimated time to landing, if an evacuation is anticipated and any pertinent details related to that evacuation (ie, if we have a left engine fire you’re not going to let passengers evacuate anywhere near that engine).
While the pilots usually get the “glory” for safely landing a broken airplane it’s usually the FAs who manage to get the passengers off the plane safely. Just ask Sully