Six Tips for Facing A Natural Disaster When Living Abroad

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia, a typhoon in the South China Sea, wildfires in California, floods in Japan, a volcanic eruption in Guatemala, and freak dust storms in India are only some of the natural disasters the world has witnessed within this year. Each of these events caused devastating loss of life and property.

Natural disasters can have prolonged effects which cause manifold destruction and loss of human lives. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of people can be trapped in debris or left stranded, cut off from civilization with no access to the vital necessities of life. Disaster survivors sometimes have to go without adequate food, water, power or communications for months. Being caught up in a natural disaster or its aftermath is an unpleasant and avoidable experience. There are some things you can do to avoid being subjected to the worst effects of a disaster and to mitigate the impact in the event you find yourself stuck inside one.

1. Be informed

Some natural phenomena such as earthquakes, tsunamis and viral outbreaks are largely unpredictable. Others, including hurricanes, typhoons, floods, forest fires and landslides are often seasonal and more frequent in certain regions than others. Being aware of the probability of disaster risk in your region can be vital to your survival. Knowing what type of disaster to expect and when its likelihood is highest allows you to prepare.

2. Avoid disaster prone areas

Knowing about risk allows you to avoid it. Keep yourself updated of travel advisory information and avoid movement to regions with a high propensity for extreme weather. As an extra step you can cross verify the information across multiple independent sources.

3. Get insured

If your profession requires you to work in a calamity prone region, avoidance may not be an option. Having disaster insurance with sufficient coverage is a good first step toward protecting yourself from the worst after effects of a calamity. Send money abroad if it’s necessary to buy enough insurance cover. Insurance companies work with huge volumes of data and are great at making realistic assessments of possible impact. The cost of insurance is directly proportional to the probability of a natural disaster, and can give you a good basis for assessment of risk.

4. Stay in the loop

As an expat you must ensure that your embassy is updated with your newest address and emergency contact information. This information can prove critical in a disaster, especially when an evacuation is underway. Your embassy may send you useful travel advisory updates if you are registered. Remember to also keep your embassy updated whenever you travel internationally.

5. Be vigilant

It is often possible to spot signs of an impending natural disaster. For example if you live in an area prone to mud slides or flash floods, heavy rainfall is a significant risk factor. Look out for signs of trouble and prepare accordingly.

6. Prepare

There are several ways to prepare for a possible calamity. Ensure that your first aid kits are within reach and stocked with the medical supplies you are likely to need. Stock-up on food, water and fuel in case a calamity such as a mudslide may cut off your area from road access. Get trained in CPR, emergency first response and first aid. Learn to use emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers, defibrillators and two way radios. Be aware of rescue procedures and responses during a disaster. Take drills seriously. Know the location of the nearest disaster shelter, emergency evacuation point and satellite phone.

It is not always possible to avoid or evade disasters. In the eventuality that you find yourself stuck inside one, it is much preferable to have the composure and training to be an asset to yourself and those around you, rather than a liability. Being prepared and knowing what to do allows you to stay calm and give assistance to those who need it most.

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