Spring is an active vacation time, especially for families and students. Disasters can strike anywhere and anytime, even when you are traveling. When you are not home or in a familiar area, managing these situations can be challenging. That is why it is important before you travel to be aware of the possibilities that could occur where you are visiting and to develop a plan on how to deal with an emergency situation away from home.
In any disaster situation, communication is a vital tool not only for you to get the help you may need, but also to ensure that family, friends and associates know that everyone is safe. Before you take a trip, make sure you have a system to contact home, work or other important associates if there is an emergency while you are away.
- Set up a call center.
- Designate a family member or friend located somewhere else, such as in another state, as a point of contact to act as an information source for all parties.
- Specify “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) on your cell phone contact list.
- Put an emergency contact person in your cell phone contact list under “ICE”.
- If you are incapacitated, emergency workers can reach your emergency contact.
- Use email and social media networks (e.g., Facebook or Twitter).
- Use your cell phone conservatively; don’t waste battery life on unimportant distractions.
- Make sure you have your cell phone charger.
- If you are traveling with others, it is a good idea to have two separate agreed upon meeting places, such as inside and outside your hotel.
- Keep a hard copy of all important phone numbers.
When traveling to unfamiliar locations, it is important that you acclimate yourself to the surroundings in advance. Make it a point to know the area you are visiting and determine if it is prone to any disasters. Most people assume that they will not encounter any problems instead of taking just a little time to prepare.
- Is the area you are traveling to vulnerable to certain kinds of disasters, e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, or tornadoes?
- Are there local emergency response procedures for that location?
- Does the town have an emergency management and response system? How is it accessed?
- What resources are available to you in that area, e.g., FEMA, Red Cross, Civil Preparedness?
- If staying at a hotel or facility, is there a specific emergency response plan in place, such as an evacuation or sheltering?
From natural disasters to political unrest, emergencies occur around the world. Knowing what to expect in advance when traveling outside the country is very important to your safety. Different countries may have different procedures for handling foreign citizens in an emergency situation. In addition to following the procedures for Communications and Investigating Vulnerabilities, also consider the following preparedness tips when traveling abroad:
- Know the location and contact information for the U.S. consulate or embassy near your travel destination.
- Register with the U.S. Department of State to let them know where and when you will be traveling abroad.
- Make sure you have a communication system set in place.
- Contacting home might be more difficult from outside the country.
- Create copies of all your important documents.
- Establish a way of receiving important updates from local authorities.
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