In the last decade we have seen disasters strike on many occasions. Adventurers were affected when mudslides took out the train to Machu Picchu. Beach lovers were tragically swept away in the Boxing Day tsunami. Home-seekers were stranded when volcanic ash from Iceland hindered flights.
Here in Australia, savage bushfires have torn through holiday hotspots and caused hundreds of families to be evacuated. In all of these cases, many holidaymakers have found themselves without power, transportation, communication tools or even rescuers. So what would you do if this happened to you?
First things first, don’t let these incidences put you off your travel plans. The majority of holidays are full of adventure, relaxation and great bonding experiences. Even so, you should be prepared when travelling.
How to prepare
1. Tell others
If you are travelling within Australia, let family and friends know where you are going. If you’re heading overseas, it’s important to register your travel plans with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This makes it much easier for people to locate you and helps the DFAT to liaise with local officials.
2. Get insurance
Travel insurance is an essential part of any holiday, especially when travelling overseas where medical costs can be astronomical. Insurance is often required for medical evacuations, as the government cannot pay for overseas evacuation. Leaving evacuation costs to your family can result in a financial burden they may struggle to acquire or recover from.
3. Do your research
Before selecting a destination, consider any risks associated with the country and prepare to manage sickness or injury. Are they prone to earthquakes, floods, fires or other natural disasters? Have a back up plan and advise family of these second plans too. Find out if any travel companions require medication and know where to find it in case of an emergency.
4. Pack well
Pack a bag that you can quickly grab should you need to evacuate. This could include a flashlight, water purification tablets and first aid supplies.
What to do when you’re there
1. Stay informed
DFAT regularly updates advice and information on storms, and can notify you of some major natural disasters that may be approaching. Check the website regularly and take the appropriate steps to avoid a problem.
Talk to locals on arrival and find out if there are any dangerous spots best left avoided. Also ask where the best place is to go in case of disaster and learn the local emergency service number.
2. Make plans with companions
Make a plan with your travel companions to meet somewhere should you get separated. Without phones or email, finding your loved ones can be difficult and having prior arrangements can help in reconnecting.
3. Follow the direction of authorities
If caught in a bushfire, the Rural Fire Service’s advice should be followed at all times. Where there is flooding, never try to cross waters, particularly if they are seen to be moving. Often the current is much stronger than it may appear on the surface.
Contact your consulate to find out what steps you should take and understand that the capacities of emergency services are often stretched. Be patient and try to stay calm and start implementing your back up plans.
If you require consular assistance while you are overseas, phone +612 6261 3305.