Your travel checklist needs a disaster plan. Here’s how to make one.


Be prepared for evacuations

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Michael Rogers, a security director at travel security firm International SOS, said in an email that specific preparation depends on where a traveler is and what threats they face. But in general, he said they should always be aware that the situation can get worse quickly — or that evacuations could be delayed if moving is not safe.

“You need to prepare to be flexible, and ready to move at short notice,” he said.

  • It’s crucial to keep your phone charged. Use devices sparingly if power goes out.
  • Maintain quick access to passports, visas, licenses and other documents.
  • In the case of a wildfire, be prepared for road closures, suspended airport operations or power and cellphone outages. Rogers said travelers need to leave the affected area immediately and follow evacuation orders. If it’s impossible to leave, he said to call 911 or a similar number abroad, wear an N95 mask if available and try to take protective measures in place.
  • For flash floods, evacuees need to get to higher ground right away and should not try to walk or drive through flooding, Rogers said.

Is it safe to go to Europe? What to know about summer wildfires.

Buckner said travelers should only set out on a trip if they can answer key questions, including how they would be treated or evacuated if they get sick or injured and what they would do if they found themselves stranded, hacked or kidnapped. He said people need to read the fine print of their insurance policies to make sure they know when they can expect help or coverage.

He recommended firms like his that provide medical and security evacuation; in Maui, he said, the company has helped 167 clients evacuate by bringing in boats, charter planes and helping relocate people from homes, hotels or condos.

Haven Overman, a travel agent with Aloha Hawaiian Vacations, advises all her clients to be alert. Visitors who aren’t working with a travel agency especially have to “take matters into their own hands,” she said. “You’re going to have to follow the news for that area, follow what’s going on with the weather.”

She also recommended travelers familiarize themselves with the emergency alert systems. A tourist visiting Hawaii, for example, should know alert sirens are used to give tsunami warnings. She said travelers would do well to talk to hotel workers, too.

“Ask about evacuation routes. … Don’t wait until everyone’s panicked,” she said. “If you do need to evacuate, where is the evacuation route? Where are the shelters? … Try to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Travel adviser Heather Christopher, owner of HC Travel Firm, said visitors need to pay attention when they’re told to leave.

“Get out. Be respectful,” she said. “If you want to be a good traveler, then you need to be respectful of the people who live and work there. That’s their daily life. You get to go home safe and sound. At the end of the day, their lives are ruined.”

Ann Castagna Morin, founder of Massachusetts-based travel agency Your Dream Vacation, recommends all her clients enroll in the U.S. government’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows travelers to register their itinerary and addresses. In case of a disaster, local embassies know to alert and look for you.

“It also can help family members reach you if there is an emergency back home,” she said. “Always leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or relative.”

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