How To Survive a Natural Disaster When Traveling

Emergency vehicles search for victims of earthquake

Hurricane Sandy blasted her way through the east coast of the U.S. this week, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. Coastal areas have been devastated, and millions are without the oft taken for granted convenience of electricity. Many have died, and many more are in danger. It’s not a pretty sight, nor is it something I take lightly. In fact, as an Eagle Scout, “Be Prepared” has been ingrained into my psyche, and as a traveler or outdoorsperson who will likely have fewer resources at your disposal, it should be your mantra as well.

You never know when natural disasters will strike, and they certainly don’t take into account your travel plans. What should you do if you find yourself traveling in an area where dangerous conditions have taken you by surprise?

Be Prepared

  • Have a plan – Follow the old news reporter’s adage: Who, What, Where, Why, When. Before you head out for your journey, take a bit of time to write down an emergency plan that includes important phone numbers, meetup locations, members in your party, and some survival tips. Hand copies out to everyone in your party, and leave one or two with people back at home.
  • Have a bugout bag at the readyBugout bags are ideal for this kind of emergency survival situation, so when you’re traveling, having most or all of a survival kit’s contents with you will help you stay safe and alive.
  • The Basics: food, clothing, shelter, communication – Kind of speaks for itself, but you’ll want to have all of these items with you, preferably in your bugout bag. Remember that food and water may be contaminated and need treatment before consuming. Gas, electricity, and other amenities will be scarce or non-existant. Battery operated two-way radios can be helpful, as well as a wind up or solar powered radio.
  • Entertainment – You may be stuck somewhere for a long period of time, so having some kind of entertainment with you – books, pad & pencil, small musical instruments – can save you from going stir crazy.
Hurricane Sandy destroys Rockaway Beach, NY

Photo by Nicole S. on Facebook.

Make Wise Decisions

  • Don’t be a hero – Of course, if someone’s in trouble, help them. But don’t put yourself into unnecessarily dangerous situations. Your survival is most important at this point. You’re no good to anyone if you’re hurt or dead. Think smart, act smart.
  • Know where you are – When you arrive at a place, take some time to get to know the area. Find possible egress routes, imminent hazards, and choke points. The benefit to this is you also get to see a place in a bit more detail than the usual oblivious tourist.
  • Plot your course – In an emergency situation, it’s easy for panic to set in. If you’re smart, you’ll already have a map and probably a traditional analog compass with you. More importantly, you need to sit down and think about where you are, and where you should go. Not where you want to go. This will go a long way to making good decisions when the s&*t hits the fan.

There are so many things that can go wrong when you travel that it’s not even worth going in depth here. Avalanches, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, fires…the list goes on and on. What will really make you able to survive a natural catastrophe is your ability to keep calm, think through your situation, evaluate your equipment and skills, and plan ahead.

*Top photo courtesy Official U.S. Navy Imagery from Flickr.

Chris Cavallari

About Chris Cavallari

Chris is a longtime digital content producer based in Maine. Since 1999, he has been an early adopter and active participant in blogging, podcasting, and social media, and has been guiding small and mid-sized businesses in leveraging video, social media, and digital publishing to the fullest. With an avid love of travel and the outdoors, Chris started in 2009 to give him a platform to showcase his outdoors and travel adventures, and to help educate others in doing the same.