As someone who makes several trips a year, I’ve never thought twice about or been concerned by the fact that I can’t swim. That is, until now. Two incidents over the past few weeks have me thinking that I need to learn.
First, was the report of the Australian visitor to Victoria Falls who swam to safety after her bungee cord snapped. Then reports surfaced last week that some passengers on the Costa Concordia had to swim to shore when the ship ran aground off Giglio Island.
It wasn’t difficult to imagine myself in both situations — I had contemplated taking a similar jump when I visited Victoria Falls a few years ago and have been twice aboard ship — but it was difficult to imagine how I’d fare.
Except for the very minimal (travel insurance, and copies of my documents and itinerary that I leave with a family member), and the need to learn to swim, I don’t have an emergency preparedness travel plan. These two events underscore, at least for me, the importance of having one. Do you have an emergency plan?
The Emergency Preparedness Travel Plan
- Buy travel insurance: For a fraction of the price of your ticket, travel insurance can cover trip cancellation, baggage insurance, health insurance – including medical evacuation, and coverage in the case of injury or death.
- Leave copies of passport, visas, credit cards, itinerary – including the telephone number/s of airline/s and hotel/s, and if there is one, the name of your travel agent, with a friend or family member. Someone should know where you’re going to be and should you lose your documents, you can expedite their re-issuance.
- Check in with someone – a family member or friend – by email, phone or text message at regular intervals.
- If you are a U.S. citizen, register your travel itinerary using the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service for Americans who are traveling to or living in foreign countries that allows the U.S. Department of State to provide assistance in case of an emergency. ** Also available as an app from Apple. If you’re a citizen of another country, have the number of the nearest consulate, embassy or honorary representative handy.
- Pack a travel first aid kit with needle and thread, antihistamine, antacids, aspirins, pain killers, condoms, water purification tablets, band-aids, Neosporin, etc.
- Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage so that if you arrive at your destination before your checked luggage does, you’ll have clean clothes to wear.
- Whether you’re on a plane or a ship, pay attention to safety instructions. Know where to locate your personal flotation device and life vests. On a ship, note where lifeboats are located.
- Whether you’re on a plane, a ship or in a hotel, take note of the entrances, and the location of exits nearest your seat, cabin or room. In a hotel, check whether your window opens to the street, the sea or the ground in the event you have to use it as a means of egress.
- Have in mind a plan of escape should you have to evacuate.
- If you have to leave quickly, forget the ‘stuff.’ Get to safety then worry about your stuff later. We’ve all heard the tragic story of the Costa Concordia’s violinist who went back to retrieve his instrument.
- If you’re traveling with others, designate a meeting spot, be it a coffee shop or a park and make sure everyone knows how to find it.
Disaster can strike in an instant. Being prepared, especially when we’re in unfamiliar territory, can help us stay remain calm and focused and that can certainly save lives.
What’s in your Emergency Preparedness Travel Plan?