How to Cope with a Natural Disaster When Traveling

Some longtime Californians probably shrugged off this morning’s 4.4 earthquake in Los Angeles but not everyone did (see the video below) and that may have included out-of-state tourists. Fortunately, the temblor wasn’t very big, but it raises the question: Do you know what to do if a natural disaster hits when you’re traveling?

FareCompare has a selection of tips from the Red Cross (see more here) plus suggestions from those who’ve experienced some of Mother Nature’s worst.

LISTEN: Luckily, travel expert Rick Seaney can laugh about his disaster experiences. Kind of.

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It used to be conventional wisdom to stand in a doorway during an earthquake but the Red Cross points out that a doorway is no stronger than any other part of a structure. Instead, seek cover to avoid injury from falling debris: Get under a hotel or restaurant table (or desk or even a coffee table). If you’re in bed, stay there but pull a pillow over your head, then hang on. If outside, keep away from windows and power lines.


If anything good can be said about a hurricane, it’s that unlike earthquakes, you do get some warning. Pay attentions to local media warnings (and whatever the hotel staff advises), and be prepared to obey evacuation orders. If you have a rental car, make sure it’s gassed up and ready to go.


The safest place, per the Red Cross, is an “underground shelter, basement or safe room” or a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building. Many hotels and airports in tornado-prone areas have designated shelters for tornados – find them before you need them.

Use Common Sense

The chance of a natural disaster marring a vacation trip anywhere in the U.S. is infinitesimally small (despite what other countries may warn). Your best defense is your own common sense of about everyday preparedness (like keeping cell phones charged). Stay alert, and do as the locals do – even if it means looking a little silly like the cautious news anchors seen in the video below.

VIDEO: Anchors at KTLA in Los Angeles on March 17, 2014, when a 4.4 earthquake hit.


Published: March 17, 2014