As any traveler knows, you can’t always avoid travel disasters. The recent headlines on flooding in Bangkok and Northern Ireland highlight the importance of keeping up on current events occuring at your travel destination.
If you arrive at your travel destination and a flood occurs, what is the best way to stay safe?
What to do in a flood
The following rules are true whether you encounter a flood at home or on your travels.
- Move to higher ground. There’s a saying in New Orleans: “Never book a hotel room below the third floor.” Your first goal in a flood is to move to higher ground and then stay put. It’s hard enough for rescue teams to help everyone in immediate danger, so don’t add to the chaos.
- Turn around. Cars can be swept away by as little as 18 to 24 inches of moving water; trucks and SUVs by 24 to 32 inches, so turn around if you encounter moving water. A mere six inches of water can disable many vehicles and leave you stranded.
- Don’t walk through flowing water. It doesn’t take much depth to knock a person off their feet and flood currents can be deceptive.
- Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Electrical current travels through water and downed power lines are a significant hazard in a flood.
- Watch for small animals and snakes. Small creatures that are flooded out of their homes will be agitated (making them more susceptible to attacking you) and they may seek shelter where you are.
- Stay alert for gas leaks and carbon monoxide exhaust. Generators and other gas-powered machines may be used after a flood for a number of reasons. Carbon monoxide has no smell. Ensure that the air you are breathing is as safe as possible (open a window) and don’t light a match if you smell gas.
If you do come in contact with floodwater, be aware that it’s not the cleanest water and wash yourself thoroughly with soap and clean water as soon as possible. That goes for your clothes and shoes as well. Clean everything that gets wet because flood water can contain sewage, chemicals, and other dangerous particles.
How travel insurance can help
Some travel insurance plans include coverage to help travelers who encounter flooding, including trip cancellation if the flood occurs before your departure. Trip interruption coverage can help travelers cover unexpected travel costs relative to abandoning the trip and returning home. Travel assistance services representatives can help stranded travelers navigate the confusion too.
It’s important to carefully review your travel insurance policy and ensure that flooding is listed as a covered reason to cancel. In many cases, cancellations are only covered if your destination is rendered uninhabitable by the flood, which means you can’t cancel your trip simply because you don’t like the media reports. In that case, you will need cancel for any reason coverage to get a full to partial return on your travel investment.
Check out these related topics
- As if a flood wasn’t disastrous enough, the long-lasting effects on tourism sometimes inspire unique tourism campaigns.
- If your home floods before or during your travel, some travel insurance plans will reimburse your travel costs.
- To understand your government’s role in an emergency, see How the State Department helps U.S. Travelers in a Crisis.