Safe Travels: Wherever You Go, Be Prepared!

Posted Mon, 08/01/2022 - 23:17
By Leah Odeneal, Office of Response and Restoration Disaster Preparedness Program
A person on a beach with binoculars.
Image credit: NOAA.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” This quote by Saint Augustine is often written in calligraphic font across a photo of a gorgeous landscape. It’s all the motivation one may need to start shopping for flights and daydreaming of lazy afternoons on a sun-soaked beach. Travel can be exhilarating, relaxing, rewarding, even life-changing.

Popular travel destinations are popular for a reason. People want to experience beautiful places, but often those places are vulnerable to hazards that travelers are not familiar with. Those who live in Florida may be experienced in preparing for hurricanes, but may be unprepared for a wildfire interrupting their vacation in Colorado. 

As travelers, we need to know our surroundings and be aware of potential risks. Those risks can include reducing our vulnerability to crime, taking necessary precautions to avoid illness, and knowing what hazards are more common in the areas we visit. As you prepare for your next vacation, or even your next work trip, take a little time to familiarize yourself with your destination and think through what steps you might take should a disaster occur.

A person writing in a notebook "travel plan."
Image credit: CDC.

Take 10

Planning travel can be overwhelming. The good news is you don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy to be a more prepared traveler. Set aside 10 short minutes to take just a few steps to ensure you and your family know what to do if the unexpected does happen.

A screenshot of notifications on a phone.

Screenshot of local alerts on the FEMA app. Image credit: FEMA.

FEMA’s National Risk Index Map is a quick and simple way to learn more about the risks in your own community as well as to any domestic community you’re traveling to. Once you have more information on the risks in that area, has information on personal preparedness broken down by types of disasters including earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, and human-caused disasters such as bioterrorism and attacks in public places. You can also talk with any family and friends who live in the area or region you’re traveling to. They can provide personal recommendations with the value of a local’s perspective. 

Another great resource from FEMA is their app. With the free FEMA app, you can set up important alerts for your local community as well as other locations. You can select up to five locations nationwide to receive alerts. Once you select your locations, FEMA will send real-time push notifications to your phone to alert you of any hazards in the area including flooding, severe weather, extreme heat & cold, earthquakes and more. The app can also help you find a nearby shelter if you need to find a safe place on short notice.

Universal Preparedness Tips

Some preparedness tips are universal for all disasters, making planning just a bit easier on all of us. In all cases, we need those bare necessities: water, food, shelter, medications, currency, means of communication, etc. However, we all have our own unique needs that only we know. Take some time to plan for your specific needs, the needs of those traveling with you, and the needs of any loved ones or pets who are staying home while you’re away.

Footprints on a beach.
Image credit: Creative Commons.

Think through any resources or supplies you need on a daily basis. Do you have any food allergies that might make it more difficult to access safe foods? Do you travel with a service animal? If so, what supplies do they need? You should also take care to ensure your identification and travel documents are secure. Granted, it’s not too fun to think about a disaster striking while you’re on your getaway. Still, it’s far better to think through these scenarios prior to traveling than to be scrambling for solutions in the midst of an event.

Leave Something Good Behind

Lastly, we should all apply the “take only memories, leave only footprints” approach to travel. While tourism may help boost the economy of these communities, it can also increase vulnerability for those who live there year round. Be an intentional traveler who is informed about the local community and is considerate of their environment. By being prepared, you increase your own resilience and put less stress on local responders.