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Travel Safety in a Crisis: Past incidents of bombing and random attacks raise questions about travel during times of unrest. Since my teenaged years, I have found myself at times arriving in foreign cities in the midst of political upheavals, low-grade civil wars and epidemics. I have weathered 2 commercial jet emergency landings, one in brace position waiting fearfully for a crash which fortunately didn’t occur.
However, staying at home in familiar surroundings doesn’t guarantee against day-to-day dangers, accidents or illnesses. Survivors of man-made or natural calamities are often those who quickly recognize the danger confronting them and come up with a realistic plan. Whether at home or on travel, there are always issues we can’t anticipate but planning ahead can go a long way to a more favorable outcome.
Travel Safety in a Crisis: 5 ways to be prepared:
1.Whether I am in a hometown movie theater or boarding a jet, I do always note where the exits. The closest to me may be in front and behind. In a real emergency, the electricity may go out. As a result, you will be left to find your way in the dark. If you have a cellphone, even without a flashlight app, the home screen may throw off enough light to help you find your way. In addition, in an airplane or building evacuation in darkness, absent a fire, touching the wall or seats as you go by can serve as a guide. In an emergency in a crowded sports stadium or concert hall, a stampede can occur so remaining steady and not falling is key.
2. When you arrive in a new foreign destination, consider who would be your best local contact in an emergency. Remember to carry the telephone number and email addresses for your trip insurer or someone at your hotel. Plan a daily check-in, if possible, with a family member or friend back home. This is really important as some crises require funds being wired directly to you. You may need such extra funds in an emergency to get home.
3. Don’t rely solely on your smartphone, landline or Wi-Fi. In my 8 days stranded abroad following 9/11/2001, I found that telephone circuits back home were busy non-stop, and it was virtually impossible for me to reach anyone in the US. Another avenue to connect with your family/home country, if it is safe, is to make your way to your embassy or consulate. They likely have back-up means to communicate internationally and in a crisis generally keep lists of their nationals who have been injured or have sought assistance. But before you head in that direction, consider whether your embassy is itself a likely target of demonstrations or violence and therefore not your best option.
4. It can be hard to know whether it is better to stay put or try to make your way to a different destination. Absent a direct attack on your location, waiting for rescue might make more sense, especially if you can access the Internet and see how widespread the local problem is.
5. Surface transportation, such as subways, may be closed down or not safe during an attack or natural calamity. Whether or not there is a crisis, in unfamiliar locations, be sure to know where you started out and how to get back there. Snapping a photo of key buildings or landmarks as you stroll a new city is the best way to create your own roadmap.
Travel Safety in a Crisis: Final Thoughts:
Every era has dangers that can feel overwhelming. It can be realistic to be concerned, but don’t let that leave you permanently sidelined!