My family and I try to schedule a dive trip in a tropical location every year. But, because I have children in school, we’re often forced to travel during hurricane season for the Caribbean and Atlantic. Do you have guidelines for planning dive vacations in high-risk areas?
This hurricane season serves as a painful reminder: Natural disasters do, and will continue to, occur. As divers, we enjoy visiting destinations that are likely to be affected by a serious storm at least once in our lifetime. Whether your destination is known for its hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes, understand the reality of dealing with disasters away from home before you travel, and learn when it’s best to avoid a trip entirely.
Avoid natural disasters at all costs
Individuals continue to travel to areas immediately before and after natural disasters, year after year.
Hurricanes and tropical storms are not adventures, and no matter how excited you are to go on your liveaboard or experience a new country, if your destination is in the path of a serious storm you must heed the warnings. Reschedule or relocate your trip, and you’ll be helping to lessen the local demand of first responders.
Prepare for potential cancellations
Cost is a driving factor for many who travel into the potential path of a storm for vacation. It might be too costly, or too complicated, to reschedule a trip that has been planned for weeks or months. Trip insurance provides coverage for financial loss in the case of a natural disaster or another event, such as illness or family emergency, that would make a trip impossible, and removes any financial incentive to make unsafe decisions.
If you are trapped in an area affected by a natural disaster, many types of travel insurance include provisions for rescue or evacuation. Last fall’s storms saw many travelers stuck at airports that were either significantly overbooked or unable to operate; some travel-insurance plans include provisions for alternative evacuations in the event of an emergency.
Strive to be self-sufficient
Although your destination may have significant infrastructure and emergency protocols dedicated to disaster preparedness, any major weather event can render communications systems, water supplies and electrical systems useless for days or weeks. In less-developed areas, these system failures can last for months or years. Priority attention should be given to children, the elderly and the ill in these situations — not stressed-out tourists. If you do find yourself facing a natural disaster at home or abroad, focus on what you’ll need in the immediate future and work to make yourself self-sufficient. Stock up on basic supplies, such as water, nonperishable food, flashlights and batteries, and make sure you have access to appropriate shelter.
Know Before You Go
After a storm, do a little due diligence before you cancel your plans.
1) Check local authorities for travel and security recommendations.
2) Contact your dive operator to ask about conditions, and whether they’re ready to get back on the water.
3) Contact your hotel to confirm that they are open for business and your reservations are still available.
4) Confirm that the airport you planned to travel to is still operational, and your transportation to and from the airport is functioning normally.
If you find yourself in an emergency situation, call the DAN International Emergency Hotline at 1-919-684-9111.
For more information on disaster preparedness or DAN membership, visit dan.org.