Disasters aren’t limited to things that can go wrong inside your home. It’s important to also know how to handle a disaster situation while traveling. Legendary blues guitarist Johnny Rivers once said, “Even Woodstock turned out to be a disaster. Everybody was stuck in the mud and people got sick.” From stormy weather to a computer malfunction, what are the best ways to come through a disaster unscathed while traveling?
Be Prepared Before Disaster Strikes
A few years ago I was required to make a trip to New York City as part of a job I was doing at that time. Thinking it would be a good chance for my wife to also visit the city, I upgraded from a hotel room to a suite. But as time grew closer, I found myself contemplating what if. What if we were separated while walking through the crowds of Times Square? Or worse, what if we became split up on the subway? And with the memory of past disasters in the corner of my mind, what if our trip coincided with a terrorist attack?
I wrote out a list of things that could happen and then sat down to address them with my wife. Here are some things that we discussed and the ways we chose to deal with them should they happen.
1. Terror attacks
Stay calm and take in your surroundings. Remember information like street names or buildings. If indoors, note emergency exits and the location of fire extinguishers. If emergency workers are on the scene, follow their advice – and report anything suspicious to them at once.
2. Transit safety
We live in Edmonton, one of Canada’s larger cities. However, New York City boasts a population over seven times bigger with more than 8 million residents. Even without including tourists, that’s a lot of people who use public transportation! Here is some advice from a friend who often travels through large American cities.
- Be aware of emergency exits and instructions.
- Report unattended bags or other containers.
- If there is an emergency, stay calm and follow instructions from the emergency workers.
- Also, in the event of an emergency, send a single text message to multiple people instead of trying to make a call, which could interfere with other emergency equipment.
- Most importantly, stay together. But if one person does become lost, look for a transit authority worker.
In the event of a hotel evacuation, which happens more often than one might expect, grab only the basic necessities such as wallet or purse, car keys, and laptop computer. If you’ve traveled by car, an auto survival kit can provide peace of mind if you find yourself required to spend any length of time in your vehicle.
4. City-wide Sirens
Some cities, like San Francisco, have an outdoor warning system designed to alert area residents and visitors about impending threats. Sixty-five sirens located throughout the city and outlying areas send alert tones in case of a disaster. If you’re in a city where this happens, stop whatever you’re doing, don’t panic, and tune into a local television or radio station for other information. Avoid using telephones or calling 911 unless it’s for a life-threatening emergency, as it only jams signals.
In addition to creating plans to handle what happens if one person gets lost and what we should do if our car breaks down, we all added my Uncle’s phone numbers into our phones. His home was far enough from anything that might happen while we were in New York. If all else failed, if one of us became lost we could call him. He would then contact the other person, letting us know where to meet up.
Creating a “Go Box” for the Car
While we weren’t using it on this trip, if we’d been driving our “Go Box” would have come in handy. Created the previous year for a vacation that involved a lot of driving, our “Go Box” stays in the trunk of our car and includes a standard auto survival kit purchased at a local department store or at Itpaystobeprepared.com, 2 gallons of bottled water, granola bars, wind-up flashlight, wind-up radio, 2 blankets, first aid kit, whistle, hand sanitizer, matches, and a manual can opener. Ours also includes a small plastic container of dog treats in case our dog is traveling with us. While this might seem like a lot of effort, if you’re ever stranded and waiting for roadside assistance to arrive, you will appreciate having the extra supplies on hand.
The chances are slim that your family will suffer a disaster while traveling. Depending on where you’re going and how long you’re staying, you might check into domestic travel insurance. If traveling overseas, also keep paper copies of your photo ID and passport somewhere away from the originals. The important thing is to meet with your family and decide what’s important to you. What might seem extreme to one family might be imperative for another family to enjoy a relaxing vacation, regardless of their destination point.