Here are our thoughts on Travel Safety in a Crisis. I have successfully navigated a low-grade civil war in Africa and dodged cholera and swine flu epidemics. I also experienced two emergency landings on commercial jets (luckily, no one was injured), The key to such challenges? Be prepared and aware of your surroundings in case of an emergency while traveling. Just doing some initial research before traveling abroad can help to know what issues exist at your destination.
In light of past tragic attacks in London, Paris and elsewhere, it is important to have thought out the best approaches in case of an emergency. This is true at home or especially abroad in an unfamiliar area. Certain natural disasters like an earthquake can also occur. A hotel fire in the middle of the night can also leave tourists in a quandary as to next steps. In airports and other regulated venues, there is not much members of the public can do. It is important to be aware as the DC Metro signs say “See something, say something”. However, in daily activities on travel, beyond mere luck, certain basic steps can be helpful where people gather.
Thoughts on Travel Safety in a Crisis: 5 Basic Safety Considerations:
Thoughts on Travel Safety in a Crisis: Tip One:
1.Whether you are taking a seat in a plane, a theatre, sports stadium or checking into a hotel, always check where the emergency exits are.
In a sporting event or concert with thousands in attendance, in an emergency watch out for a stampede that can add to the danger.
Thoughts on Travel Safety in a Crisis: Tip Two:
2. After identifying the closest exit, be sure you know how to get there. In case of a fire, visibility may be limited making it important to be able to find your way out in the dark.
In the concert in Paris, many survivors recognized that their best escape was through the stage. Unfortunately, some of them after dashing up to the stage, headed in the opposite direction from the exit.
Thoughts on Travel Safety in a Crisis: Tip Three:
3. In an unfolding situation, it may not be possible to know if the greater danger is in leaving where you are or by waiting in place for rescue. There is no easy answer. Consider whether the building is under attack or on fire. If not, staying inside until you know what the problem is makes sense. If you are able to get a signal, social media may have an alert early on that helps whether or not the situation is well understood initially.
Thoughts on Travel Safety in a Crisis: Tip Four:
4. It is important to have a general idea of where you are and how to get back to your starting point beyond relying solely upon a GPS or map. An easy solution? As you head out each day, take a look at the route on return. Try snapping photos in your phone of key streets or sights providing a personal roadmap back. (Remember to turn around from time to time as you start out since everything looks different in reverse for return!)
Thoughts on Travel Safety in a Crisis: Tip Five:
5. Once you have made it to relative safety, a key concern is how to contact friends and family.
In a real emergency, cell phones may not work, and as I found abroad at 9/11, landline circuits can be busy constantly making it impossible to get through. Texting and emailing or broader Internet access may or may not be an option .
Another avenue, if it is safe, is to make your way to your embassy or consulate. They likely have back-up means to communicate with your home country and in a crisis generally keep lists of their nationals who have been injured or need assistance.
If the problem is more limited in nature, if you have taken out trip insurance, you may be able to contact them locally for assistance and recommendations although the travel insurance may not provide coverage.
I was a solo traveler stranded abroad for 8 days on 9/11, I know it can be hard to know what to do. However, it would be a real mistake to give up traveling when the world and its diverse cultures have so much to offer and many accidents/injuries occur at home as well. Please check out our thoughts on Travel Safety in a Crisis, and send us your own.