Going on vacation is supposed to be a relaxing experience, especially when you’re on a trip to paradise, but occasionally nature gets in the way, and natural disasters can happen anytime and anywhere. While it isn’t the most pleasant thought to have as you prepare to hit the road, it is always good to be prepared in case the unexpected happens.

A few general guidelines to follow regardless of where you go:

  • Always be prepared and bring backup copies of your passport and travel documents.
  • Look into travel insurance prior to visiting places that have known disaster risks, such as the Caribbean during hurricane season. Travel insurance plans offer different types of coverage, including medical/health expenses, lost passports, and missed flights. Make sure the travel insurance policy covers natural disasters.
  • Bring copies of medical prescriptions and records, in case an emergency occurs in another country and you need medical help or hospitalization.

Keep on reading to learn how to protect yourself from specific natural disasters on vacation—from hurricanes and tornadoes to floods and beyond.

Stay Safe On Your Vacation In Case Of These Natural Disasters

1. Earthquake

An earthquake occurs due to the sudden breaking within the earth’s upper crust, which can often break the surface and cause the ground to vibrate—often with devastating results. Many times an earthquake can happen without any warning.

Crawl under a table and keep your face and head covered with your arms, avoiding windows or being near large items of furniture that could fall on you, like a bookshelf. If you are stuck inside a building, wait until the shaking is over then leave immediately. Aftershocks can often cause a building to fall. If you’re outside, avoid buildings and utility wires.

2. Tornado

More common in the Midwestern states, tornadoes are rotating columns of air that are so strong they can even uproot trees, cars, large animals like horses and cows, and have even been known to take off roofs from homes. Wind speeds range anywhere from 50 to 300 mph, spreading damage as far out as 50 miles on some occasions.

To monitor the tornado alerts, tune in to a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio station. When a tornado hits, seek shelter in a basement or go to an emergency shelter. If unavailable, remain on the lowest floor of your home. If you happen to be in a car, get out of the vehicle and look for indoor shelter. If stuck outside, look for a ditch or depressed area in the ground, lie flat, and cover your head with your hands.

3. Hurricane

A hurricane is a type of natural disaster that falls under the same category as tropical storms, typhoons, and cyclones—they all refer to a closed circulation system in the atmosphere that consists of strong winds and low pressure. Hurricanes tend to occur in places near the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean. These days, meteorologists can predict when storms will occur, so that should give you some time to make an emergency plan or evacuate.

Don’t try to evacuate during the storm. Stay away from windows that could blow in, and if there is a basement you can access, seek shelter there. If a basement is unavailable, go for a room on the lowest floor that doesn’t have windows, like a closet. Bring essential supplies such as food, water, flashlight, radio, and batteries with you. Lie on the floor under a sturdy object such as a table, or stay covered under blankets. If you happen to be outside during the storm, find refuge in a nearby building.

4. Blizzard

If you’re vacationing in the mountains or a super cold climate during the winter season, there are chances of a winter storm occurring. Hazards include slippery roads, power outages, low temperatures that could be life-threatening, and blocked roads.

Make sure to tune into local media to keep track of the storm’s progress. Gather supplies and keep them on hand in case disaster hits. Seek refuge in a safe place like a shelter, hospital, fire department, or simply a nearby sturdy building if you are caught unprepared outside. If you are stuck in your vehicle, pull to the side of the road, turn on your hazard lights, and remain inside to keep warm until the storm passes or help shows up.

5. Flood

Floors occur due to water rising quickly as a result of heavy rain over a short period of time. If strong enough, some floors can even uproot trees, damage homes, and sweep away everything from cars to bridges.

Move to higher ground as soon as a flash-flood warning is issued. Flash floods happen extremely fast. Avoid powerlines that have fallen and moving water, which can cause one to fall and even carry a person or vehicle away. Do not attempt to drive or walk through the rising water—a large percentage of flood deaths occur in vehicles. If you happen to be in a vehicle, drive to higher ground, or abandon the vehicle for higher ground if the road is blocked.

6. Tsunami

Tsunamis, which are huge ocean waves, occur as a result of an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or some other sudden ad severe occurrence. Tsunamis have been known to destroy miles of shoreline and buildings, and happen along the coast in places like Hawaii and Japan.

If you catch wind of a tsunami warning, try to get as far away from the coast as possible and head inland to higher, dryer land. If you happen to be stuck near the ocean when an earthquake occurs, drop to the ground and cover yourself, then relocate to higher ground once the shaking stops.

7. Wildfire

Wildfires happen most frequently in the west and are responsible for the burning of several million acres of woodland annually, causing extensive damage to property and land. Wildfires also tend to spread quickly, quickly catching nearby trees and homes on fire.

Monitor local fire reports and be prepared to evacuate right away. Close windows and doors to decrease exposure to smoke, keeping a safe distance from outside walls. If you are in a car and see a fire approaching, roll up your windows, close all vents to prevent smoke from getting in, and drive slowly.

8. Volcanic Eruption

Volcanoes are created when magma from the upper mantle of the earth reaches the surface, forming a pool filled with molten rock. When pressure builds, a volcano erupts, which can cause everything from flash floods and tsunamis to falling ash and rock falls. Lava flows reach intense heat levels and are fire hazards, destroying everything they come across.

If you happen to be around when a volcano erupts, immediately evacuate the area to avoid hot gases, lava flow, flying debris, and other risk factors. Watch out for mudflows, avoid low-lying areas like river valleys, and seek refuge in a designated public shelter if you feel unsafe in your location.

This article was written by Kamala Kirk.