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Plan Ahead Before Your Trip
How to Prepare for an Emergency While Traveling
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Millions of Americans travel during the summer months, but crises don’t take vacations. If you plan to take a family vacation or work-related trip, it’s best to be prepared for a disaster or other emergency.
Lauren Sauer, CEPAR’s director of operations, has a few tips.
Before Your Trip
There is plenty you can do before your flight takes off.
“When you are packing, take the time to think about what you would do in an emergency,” Sauer says.
Here are her recommendations:
- If you are traveling internationally, register with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which allows U.S. citizens to enroll with the nearest American embassy or consulate, receive safety and security information, and help the embassy, family and friends contact them in case of an emergency. You can also review the department’s travel advisories.
- Ensure that emergency alert notifications are activated on your cellphone. To opt-in to receive alerts, some phones have an Emergency Alerts icon that allows you to select which alerts to receive.
- Make copies of important documents, such as your passport or driver’s license and your insurance cards. Place copies in safe and secure locations at home and one with you.
- Designate an emergency contact person at home, and give him or her your itinerary and copies of important documents, such as your passport.
- Along with programming them in your cellphone, write down or print out important phone numbers, such as the one for the nearest U.S. embassy, in case your phone gets lost.
- Pack extra medication (and copies of prescriptions) as well as a bit of food. Once you arrive at your location, ensure you have enough water to last a few days.
- Bring emergency cash in case ATMs or credit card systems to go down.
- Carry a first-aid kit with you. Some are as small as a wallet.
If an Emergency Happens
- Follow the instructions of local authorities. “Depending on the crisis, local emergency officials can tell you if you need to evacuate or should shelter in place, or they can provide other important direction,” Sauer says.
- Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Keep in mind that this will not alert emergency responders — if you need medical attention or police assistance, contact the local authorities directly if you can.
- Stay informed. Watch or listen to local news reports, or visit reputable websites or social media outlets, such as those of the U.S. State Department or the local American embassy.
- Contact family members and other loved ones at home immediately to let them know you are safe. Asking an embassy or consulate to forward a message is one way to do so.
“Hopefully, your trip will go off without any issues, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution,” Sauer says. “A little preparation can go a long way.”
For more details about how you can prepare, check out Sauer’s interview with Popular Science.
Going Abroad? Remember to Register
When Traveling Abroad, Helplines Provide Guidance During Emergencies and Other Instances