What You Should Do If Your Vacation Destination Is Affected by a Natural Disaster
Nobody wants to think about natural disasters when planning a vacation … and all too often, people don’t. You’ve chosen to travel when the weather’s best, when the skies are clear and blue — what could possibly go wrong?
If you’re lucky, not much. But here’s the thing about Mother Nature: she doesn’t discriminate. Every day, we’re hearing more and more about hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and devastating natural disasters. With this in mind, even if you hope for the best on your vacation, it’s always safer to prepare for the worst — because the last thing you want is to be stranded in a new place, unprepared to take on an unexpected natural calamity. Here are some tips on what you should do if your vacation destination is affected by a natural disaster:
Your planning needs to begin even before the vacation does. Purchasing travel insurance is an absolute must. Depending on the kind of coverage you buy, insurance can cover medical treatment, injuries, damaged or lost personal documents and more. It’s prudent to purchase optional or add-on coverage if you know you’re traveling to a country that faces a higher risk of natural disasters.
Before you leave for your vacation, you should have a crisis plan in place. Making longer-term, intelligent financial planning a regular practice is both responsible and reliable so that you have a safety net to fall back on in case of emergency. This way, in the event of a natural disaster, you’ll always have financial resources you can quickly access to get home.
Planning ahead also often means securing your home base first. Barcom Security’s list of tips on how to protect your home is an excellent introduction to security measures, useful in any circumstance — whether traveling or not. In terms of vacations specifically, Barcom’s tips include refraining from posting vacation plans on social media or public forums, contacting a trusted neighbor/friend to check up on your house while you are gone, and parking your car in the garage with the door shut.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Destination
Though people rarely do, it’s always a good idea to register yourself with the embassy nearest to where you’re traveling. US citizens can also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which will keep you up to date with security and safety alerts relevant to your destination. It also means that you will be contacted in an emergency, and given this is a free service; it is a great precautionary measure to take.
When planning travels, keep in mind that certain destinations are prone to specific types of calamities. For instance, tropical countries with their tranquil beaches and scenic vistas are often most prone to typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, so be sure to acquaint yourself with resources that advise on what to do should any of these occur. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, ensure that you scope out fire exits, first aid kits, and emergency escape routes. Knowing this emergency information could ultimately save your life.
Have Some Trusty, Old Fashioned Tools on Hand
Don’t underestimate the power of going analog. Make sure to carry flashlights, batteries, and a small first-aid kit of your own when you travel. Set up a go-bag with these items that you can turn to in the event of a disaster. Often, natural disasters result in widespread blackouts, and with electricity being a definite liability, having a flashlight on hand can save you a lot of fear and confusion.
Like electricity, another daily essential we often take for granted is clean water. Bottled water might serve you well through your travels, but in the event of an emergency, it might not be accessible to you. With this in mind, it’s wise to travel with a few water purification tablets that kill bacteria and viruses. These tablets are not without their faults, but will get the job done in case calamity hits.
Okay, I’ve Planned Ahead. Now, Disaster’s Struck — What Do I Do?
No matter how much you plan ahead, no one can control the timing of natural disasters. In the event you get caught up in one, you should first and foremost, stay calm. While this is easier said than done, keeping your wits about you is what will help you recall information you need, formulate a plan of action, and get yourself to safety.
As soon as you hear about a disaster, keep a small go-bag packed with your essentials in case you need to evacuate. Remember to carry your passport, other identification, important travel documents, and your wallet. This could be the same go-bag with your other tools, as mentioned above. Even though it might seem like a good option at the moment, don’t weigh yourself down with unnecessary items like clothes and shoes unless explicitly told to do so.
Follow the instructions of local authorities: they are your best bet to get to a safe zone, or to medical assistance. If they tell you to exit a room, hotel or building, do as you’re told — and if evacuation is an option, take it. It is often hard to gauge how long a natural disaster can last, and the aftermath is often as troublesome as the event itself. So if you are able to find safe passage home, take advantage of it.
When vacationing in a group, Jeff Masters, Co-founder and Director of Meteorology at Weather Underground suggests you, “develop an emergency plan. Figure out where will you meet up if separated, what phone numbers you should have, and what supplies you should stockpile.” With so much happening around you, it is reassuring to know your friends and/or family have a common point of contact in mind, and have familiarized themselves with the same emergency procedures while traveling.
The thought of having to face a natural disaster, especially in a foreign country, can be extremely intimidating. However, you shouldn’t let this deter you from your next vacation. Instead, choose to vacation in a safe manner and by planning ahead, staying informed and traveling smart.