A guest article by Ellen Harris, International Product Director, Living Abroad LLC
Even the savviest travelers can encounter emergency situations while living abroad. Preparation is key.
In the event of a crisis, a prearranged plan provides direction and alleviates panic. The plan may entail removal to a safe in-country location or evacuation from the country where you are living abroad, with or without belongings. Consider carrying additional evacuation coverage on your insurance.
You should have a household plan and make all family members aware of it.
Start from the inside out. With your home’s floor plan in mind, discuss the best means of swift departure. Draw up a map if it helps younger children understand what to do. Make arrangements for care of any pets in case you can’t take them with you. Discuss this possibility with your children. Establish a meeting place outside the home in case someone gets separated.
Keep important travel documents together in a safe place. This saves time when minutes count, and can be of vital importance if you need to leave your host country during a crisis. This is especially key for Americans living abroad.
The second phase of a family emergency plan is to arrange a place to meet if no one is at home during an emergency. For example, if civil war action breaks out on a weekday morning, parents may be at work and children at school. Contact each other by phone, if possible, and have a predetermined spot where all will meet. Note that cell phones are invaluable, but if service is down, prior planning is critical. From there, follow the established plan for getting to a safe place or out of the country. Contact family members at home as soon as it is feasible to let them know you are safe.
Relying on friends
Give someone you trust the contact information for family members. This will help outside people locate you if necessary.
If you feel comfortable doing so, give someone a key to your home. If you cannot return to your home but need some belongings or have left a pet behind, your contact person can assist.
Help from your embassy or consulate
Local information and assistance
Many embassies or consulates request that you register with them upon your arrival. This is helpful in the event of an emergency evacuation, to reissue a lost or stolen passport, or if someone at home is trying to reach you. Registering is also good idea in case of a natural disaster, civil unrest, or if you plan to travel to a remote or isolated area.
Your embassy or consulate can also keep you updated on the latest security information in the country.
If you find yourself in a financial emergency and out of funds, the consulate also can help you obtain funds wired from your home country.
Legal and medical recommendations
If you become involved in a legal problem, your consulate cannot represent you legally, but can provide you with a list of local attorneys who speak your native language. If you get sick, they can also recommend local physicians or a medical facility.
The consular officers can advise you of your rights under local laws; they can assist you if you are treated unfairly or held under inhumane conditions. If detained, you have the right to talk to your consulate or embassy. Keep requesting this communication, even if it is denied you at first.
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