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These Tips Can Help Travelers Abroad Stay Safe in an Emergency

Jenelle Eli

Director of International Communications, American Red Cross

More Americans are traveling to different countries than ever before. Here are some important tips to stay safe.

Americans are traveling abroad in record numbers. Last year alone, more than 21 million United States passports were issued — the highest number in history. The uncertainty of travel can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. The American Red Cross offers simple preparedness tips to stay safe, so you can focus instead on the beauty and adventure that await!

Know your emergency numbers

911 works in the United States but not everywhere. Here is a reference list of emergency contact numbers in many countries. Memorize and pre-set them in your cell phone. That way, you will know how to reach the ambulance, fire department, or police department if needed.

Study up on local natural disasters

You may know what to do in case of an earthquake, but how about a tornado? Knowing how to react to a tsunami, volcanic eruption, or other unfamiliar disaster can save your life. Take a few minutes to identify the dangers at your destination and what to do, so you can sleep easy.

Download the Red Cross’s first aid app 

It puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your pocket. Get the app before you leave the United States, otherwise you will be directed to mobile apps in the local language. 

Add insect repellent to your packing list

Especially if you are traveling to places with mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, malaria, or dengue, insect repellent can be life-saving.

Register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  

Sign up online so the United States embassy can find you in the event of an emergency and email you pertinent updates in case of crises.

Pay attention to emergency exits and evacuation routes

It’s always smart to know your escape plan — whether you’re at home or abroad. If you ever need a way out, you will be grateful you took a few minutes to seek out emergency exits and evacuation routes ahead of time.

Have a reunification plan

Crises often mean that friends and family get separated. Make a plan with your travel partners about how you will reunite in case of emergency.

Print a copy of your passport, important phone numbers, and travel information

Paper backups ensure that you won’t need to depend on your cell phone or computer during a disaster.

Get your shots

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control offer a list of vaccinations recommended for international travel to specific destinations. Some foreign countries even require vaccinations before entering. Be sure to plan ahead so you get your shots in time.

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