If you’ve ever experienced an emergency at home or on vacation, you know emergency preparedness can save your life and the lives of others.
You never know when it will happen…
Just 2 weeks ago 10 of us were in Cabo to celebrate our friend Mary’s 40th birthday. We ate great food, had wonderful beverages, laughed, swam and enjoyed each other’s company. We knew Matthew and Marvin had rescheduled their flights to return Monday to enjoy another day in paradise instead of returning on Sunday with the rest of us. We didn’t think much of it (I was actually jealous they were able to stay another day) until we finally heard about the impending storm.
We started to hear rumblings about the a possible hurricane after we were at dinner Saturday night. Nothing that put up a huge red flag as the locals told us in a very nonchalant fashion, as if it was just another tropical storm. So Sunday morning we had breakfast, packed up our things and watched a bit about it on the news (the first time we had turned on a TV in 5 days). The first group of ladies (my group) were departing at 11:35am and the second group where scheduled to leave at 1:40pm. Once we were checked in we soon realized there were frantic people trying to get on the next plane, no matter where it was headed. Families with thier souvenir sombreros pleading to get on a flight. A girl sitting with us at the airport was scheduled to leave at 3:00pm and her flight was cancelled. She was stressed by the thought of not knowing what to do. I still think about what in the world she did being all by herself. That is when it struck us… This is a big deal!!!
Just hours after I boarded a plane hurricane Odile slammed into the city and our friends, Matthew and Marvin, were riding out the storm a bit North of Cabo. I cannot express to you the helplessness I felt as we flew out and the next morning after seeing the aftermath of the category 3 storm. I can honestly say that I had a serious case of survivors guilt for being home safe while my friends were still in Cabo, helpless and without communication.
They said Sunday night was the scariest nights of their lives and the next 5 days did not get much better. They saw the worst and glimpses of good that kept their faith in humanity. No electricity, no communication with the outside world, a language barrier, looting, muggings and no food and water. The adjectives they used were, “Scary and desperate”. While sleeping on the sidewalk of a Walmart (they had heard it was a place to meet for help) they were fortunate enough to have some local women bring them cups of water, tortillas and beans. If it wasn’t for the kindness of those women they wouldn’t have had food. — Finally, Thursday afternoon a Mexican humanitarian flight got them to Mexico City where they were able to purchase tickets to get home. I had goosebumps when we finally heard the news they were safe.
We were so clueless and so unprepared for any type of disaster. We had swimsuits, sunglasses and outfits prepared but no plan for an emergency. Not even a small one.
A disaster occurring when you’re home can be very stressful, but one in foreign place is particularly so if you don’t know how to stay safe. So, the next time I travel I’m planning on doing more research, do a little more planning and some strategic packing towards keeping my family safe throughout my vacation. Here are a few steps you can take whether you are stateside or on vacation in a a far away place.
Emergency Preparedness and Vacations
When you arrive at your destination, identifysafelocations to go to when severe weather approaches and find out how weather warnings are communicated in the area (are there outdoor warning sirens, does your hotel or resort have a public address system). Also, locate a hospital near where you’re staying.
Also, here are a few tips to follow
Before you leave
- Pack a travel-size emergency supply kit with water, snacks, a first-aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, extra batteries and an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers.
- Pack extra supplies of critical items, such as prescription medications and baby formula, in case your return is delayed by a disaster.
- Let family and friends know your itinerary and how to reach you.
- Develop a communications plan and make everyone in your traveling group aware of the plan. Make sure everyone has the cell phone numbers of the others in your group. Designate an out-of-area person to contact in case your group is separated during an emergency and unable to place local calls.
- If traveling internationally, register with the U.S. Department of State through a free online service at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows travelers to enter information about upcoming trips abroad so that the Department of State can better assist them in an emergency.
During your trip
- If traveling by car, check the forecast for your entire route before and during your trip. Weather conditions can change drastically, especially if thunderstorms are expected.
- Become familiar with the names of the counties you are traveling through because hazardous weather warnings are issued by county.
- If you are in a vehicle when a tornado warning has been issued or you see a tornado approaching, seek shelter in a sturdy building until the storm passes. If you’re unable to reach a sturdy building, pull over and find a low area, such as a ditch, and take cover there.
- Familiarize yourself with emergency plans in your hotel or place you are staying as soon as you arrive.
Here is a picture of us during our blissful celebration of a friends birthday…
and a picture that the boys sent after the storm was over and just before their phones died…
Next time all of us will be more prepared. I guess my mom was right (once again) when she said, “It is better to be over prepared than under prepared.”
Sleep well and stay safe,