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What to do if you're a tourist in a natural disaster
But first, everyone should program 202-501-4444 into their phone or keep it in their travel documents. Why? It's the phone number for emergency assistance to Americans in foreign countries, a'la the US Department of State (they'll get you help from your nearest US embassy). Additionally, you should register with the US Department of State when you're going abroad so that they can inform the nearest embassy that you're coming and keep better track of you if there's a crisis. Travel registration is a free service for which your taxes pay, and you can do it online here.
If that sounds a little big-brother-ish to you, consider how much passport stuff you go through anytime you travel abroad. It's okay for your country to know where you are. In fact, it's a very good thing, as they have an obligation to try and protect you on your travels. Also, there's a Privacy Act:
Basically, the Department of State can't tell anyone where you are, even if they know, unless you expressly tell them to. When you register, you can give them an emergency contact who's not traveling with you. Don't you want them to be able to tell your mom (or wife, husband, girlfriend, whoever you list) where you are and that you're okay if all the phone lines and computers are down? You can also allow them to disclose info to the media, your medical representative or your lawyers. Register up. Expats, too. I did.
FEMA lists the following crises as potential disasters:
- Chemical Emergencies
- Dam Failure
- Fire or Wildfire
- Hazardous Material
- Nuclear Power Plant Emergency
- Winter Storm
Additional advice for expats in particular is here.
Filed under: Travel Health