Whether it’s global warming or just sheer bad luck, news of travellers caught in a natural disaster or freak accidents while on holiday are not entirely uncommon.
Recent reports of hazards in popular tourist destinations – Mount Agung volcano eruption in Bali and Osaka’s magnitude 6.1 earthquake – show that mishaps can strike at any time and anywhere.
No one can predict an accident, but what can travellers do in times of trouble?
Try to remain calm
First thing’s first – stay calm. Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang says it’s important to not panic or freeze.
“Find ways to ensure safety or minimise injury as help may only come much later. Call for an ambulance if your travelling companion is gravely ill or injured. Call for Fire and Rescue if someone is trapped in a damaged vehicle or collapsed building.
“Leave the scene in case of a fire, flood or civil commotion,” he offers.
Interestingly, one should also take to social media.
“Post your situation on social media like Facebook or WhatsApp. In short, alert friends or your emergency contact of the situation. In today’s environment, the most effective way is to keep broadcasting your situation periodically,” Tan says.
The next thing you should do is to reach out to the local police, embassy or tourism ministry.
“Those on group tours would have already been taken care of by the tour leader, local tour guide and company staff. Those who booked their own travel arrangements could try to seek help from local service providers,” he says, adding that travel agents usually provide important contacts and safety tips prior to any trip.
Assistance varies according to the help needed. Severely sick or injured travellers are given adequate care immediately before being brought home at the earliest opportunity, including repatriation of bodies.
Map your exit at your accommodation
On the accommodation front, travellers should take note of the property’s room map upon check-in. Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) president P.K. Leong advises guests to build a mental image of the escape routes and fire exits.
“For any emergency, the golden rule is to move hotel guests away from the source of danger,” he says, adding that authorities will be immediately contacted for rescue and medical help.
According to Leong, hotels will make sure that the fire alarm system is operational at all times. Apart from that, staff will ensure that staircases are not blocked and all exits are open.
In cases of fire, immediate evacuation is necessary. For riots, hotels usually keep guests in and provide food to last out the emergency. During floods, guests will be moved to higher floors and provided food until the water subsides or until evacuation.
“Generally, hotels are bound by Fire and Rescue Department regulations to provide fire fighting equipment. But there are no regulations yet on earthquakes, floods or riots,” Leong says.