When the unexpected happens at home, it is unsettling. When it happens in a foreign country, it can be confusing and frightening. International assignees and business travelers have seen an increasing need for emergency preparedness in recent years.
Hazards range from natural disasters to political instability to random acts of public violence.
While it is impossible to anticipate every emergency, there are some tips that can make dealing with the unexpected easier:
• Register with your country’s consulate immediately upon arrival in a foreign country. This allows the staff to act as a point of contact; to inform and assist you if an internal crisis in the country poses a threat to foreign residents; and to provide support in individual emergency situations like arrest.
• Make sure you have adequate health care insurance. This may include additional accidental death and injury coverage, and/or coverage for emergency airlift evacuation. Check into private organizations, which can provide specialized assistance via phone, email or text advice, referrals, and full-scale international evacuations.
• Keep local emergency numbers posted near any home phone and saved as mobile contacts. Determine in advance whether emergency operators speak any languages other than their own.
• Learn some emergency-related words in the host language. You may need to quickly relay an urgent message to someone who does not speak your language. If you are communicating by phone rather than in person – where you could rely on body language and gestures – knowing the right words is even more important. Obvious words are “fire,” “accident,” “injury,” “help,” “police,” “doctor,” and the like.
• Be alert to local scams and common crimes like pickpocketing. Educate yourself on areas to avoid. Keep valuables, money, and important documents in safe places.
• Create a family emergency plan so that everyone knows where to meet if your home/neighborhood should become unsafe. Establish a procedure every family member can follow, even if cell service becomes unavailable.
Preparation can’t keep the unexpected from happening, but it can make the immediate aftermath easier and often can mitigate the danger.
Written by Ellen Harris, Product Manager, Content Group, GMS