Most locations in the world are susceptible to at least some form of natural disasters, if not the elements in general. By their very nature, natural disasters occur with little to no warning. It is important to research what natural disasters may occur in your destination and the steps you can take to react in the event that you find yourself impacted by or in the midst of one while traveling abroad.
If you are in an area impacted by a natural disaster, follow the directives of local media and authorities. You can obtain additional information with the local US embassy or consulate, or via STEP.
The university’s CISI supplemental international insurance has provisions for natural disaster evacuation. Contact the 24/7 KSU International Phone Line at +1-470-578-6666 for assistance in an emergency abroad.
Earthquake and Tsunami Safety
Earthquakes are far more common than most people realize; in fact, they multiple earthquakes occur every day. Some countries or cities may be more prone to earthquakes due to their proximity to major fault lines. Travelers to the Ring of Fire, a particularly active seismic region surrounding the Pacific Ocean, should be cognizant that large earthquakes are a question of when, not if.
If you are outside during an earthquake, move away from objects that have the potential to fall, such as streetlights, power lines or even buildings. Once you are in the open, lay on the ground, protecting your head and neck by covering them with your hands.
If you find yourself inside a building during an earthquake, take steps to brace yourself and protect your head. Most injuries during an earthquake itself are sustained either by a person falling, or by something falling on an individual. If there is a sturdy table, try to accommodate as much of your body under it as you are able. If available, place a pillow or other protective cushion over your head to protect it from potential debris.
Arches and frames are only a good option if you can extend your reach to stabilize yourself on the frame. Contrary to popular belief, doorways are not a good option, as doors may move or sway, posing a threat to the individual standing inside the doorframe. Be careful going outside during and following an earthquake, as downed limbs or electrical lines pose an additional hazard. If you smell or suspect a gas leak, leave the area immediately; fires pose an additional threat to safety following an earthquake.
Tsunami are large ocean waves that are generated by earthquakes or landslides which occur in the ocean. If you will be traveling to a location on a beach or near a low-lying coastal area, particularly in the Ring of Fire region, be aware that a tsunami can arrive within minutes of a severe earthquake. Even if you do not feel an earthquake, if you are at the beach and notice a dramatic drop in the sea level as water quickly recedes far back into the ocean, leave and seek higher ground.
In the event that a tsunami warning is triggered in your area, be sure to go as high and as far as you can away from the coast – ideally 100 feet above sea level or a location 2 miles inland. Stay away until local authorities advise you it is safe to return. Tsunami can continue as a series of waves for hours; do not assume that the first wave is the last wave.
Like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions may occur with little advanced warning; however, they do often provide warning signs weeks to months in advance. Certain areas are more prone to seismic activity than others, and many volcanoes are known to be either active or dormant. Research your intended destination prior to departure and know the area’s risk for volcanic activity. If the risk is high, identify evacuation routes or shelters and know the appropriate steps to take in the event of a volcano warning or eruption. Even if you are not traveling to a location at direct risk of a volcanic eruption, be advised that eruptions in nearby locations may impact your travel itinerary.
Volcanoes have the capacity to spew ash or lava, contaminating the air, reducing visibility and contaminating water supplies. In a volcano warning, be sure to avoid the areas downstream of the eruption. Charge your electronics and be sure to keep in touch with emergency contacts as able prior to and following the event. If advised to evacuate, heed the directives early.
Road conditions can quickly deteriorate during periods of significant ashfall. Seek updated information on road conditions before driving or entering a vehicle. If you venture outside, carry a facemask and observe other precautions to avoid ash inhalation.
If you must shelter in place, make sure you have access to sufficient supplies of food, potable water and necessary medicines then take steps to seal doors and windows and cover ventilation openings. Inhalation of volcanic ash can cause lung irritation; it is particularly dangerous for those with asthma or environmental sensitivities. Ashfall can also cause irritation to eyes and open wounds.
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are essentially the same weather phenomenon; the difference in language is associated with the region or part of the world in which they occur.
Occur in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific Oceans. The typical active season runs from June to November.
Occur in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. The typical season runs from November to April.
Occur in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. The typical active season runs from April to December.
Travelers should be advised to take precautions for any strong storms which may occur in the destination in which they are traveling. Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons have the potential to intensify, change their trajectory as well as carry additional considerations compared to regular storms such as high winds, storm surges, heavy rainfall, flooding, and even mudslides or tornadoes in some locations.
By their very nature, these storms are unpredictable and therefore travelers potentially in the path of such a storm should monitor the track of the storm and make safety plans according to the advice of local media and authorities. Those in the direct path of a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone should take precautions to remain indoors and heed local emergency advice.
If a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone advisory has been issued for your area, make sure you have easy access to sufficient food, potable water and necessary medications to last you several days in the event of a need to shelter in place. Charge your electronics and be sure to keep in touch with emergency contacts as able prior to and following the event. Even after the storm has passed, damage to infrastructure (roads, electricity, telecommunications) poses an additional risk to individuals, and shortages of food, water or medical supplies may occur in heavily impacted regions. Downed limbs or electrical lines can pose significant hazards. Be careful when venturing outside in an impacted area following a strong storm.
Flooding occurs when a large amount of water over a short or long period of time inundates or saturates the ground, causing water levels to rise significantly above normal levels. This water can come from storms, sustained rainfall, or even thawing snow. Low-lying locations closer to waterways have an increased risk of flooding.
During a flooding event, evacuate the impacted area. If able, relocate to a designated evacuation location or shelter which is at low risk for flooding, i.e. higher ground. If you are unable to exit a building due to high water, attempt a vertical evacuation by moving to the highest location you are able within the building.
Be aware that road conditions may be washed out and mudslides can occur without warning during and following heavy rainfall and flooding. Do not attempt to drive during a flood event and wait until infrastructure and local road conditions have been assessed by local authorities before assuming that it is safe to drive.
- U.S. Department of State – Crisis Abroad: Be Ready
- U.S. Department of State – Natural Disasters
- Kennesaw State University Office of Emergency Management