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Super-Storm Sandy has now dissipated, but leaves behind disrupted lives. Most travelers were not trapped or severely inconvenienced by this storm due to early warnings. Other disasters, either natural or political, have often caught travelers by surprise. How can the woman traveler mitigate the effects of sudden disaster? The key is to prepare ahead of time and carry a few emergency items. Here are my suggestions:

Prepare ahead of time

Go camping. No, I’m not kidding. Camping trips prepare you for cold, wet, and miserable. They teach you how to “make do” with what you have. Camping trips teach you resilience and independence. You’ll learn to recognise trouble. You’ll learn how to stay dry and stay warm. These are critical skills for a disaster. Believe me, you don’t want to learn this stuff for the first time when there is no room for mistakes.

Take a wilderness emergency medicine course. Information that is in your head weighs nothing and is always available. A Wilderness First Aid course will cost you one weekend every two years and the payback is great. You’ll learn how to assess patients, check for potential spinal injuries, manage wounds, manage fractures/dislocations, and manage hypothermia/heat illness. The focus is on long-term care Vs the “scoop and run” focus of regular first aid courses. I can strongly recommend the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute. Disclaimer – I’ve taken several of their courses. Embarrassingly, I’ve used most of the instruction on myself, including how to set broken bones. It works!

Store important information in the cloud. You may have been robbed and beaten, but the information needed for your credit cards and passport is still available to you via any internet connection. Most important information only needs to be stored once. Find a secure site and upload:

  • Passport information
  • Contact information
  • Credit Card/ATM Card information – account numbers and phone numbers
  • Health Insurance information
  • Travel information – Tripit and other apps store the information in the cloud as well as your smart phone

Store information on your smart phone. A wide variety of apps are available:

  • Maps
  • Compass
  • Toolkit apps that have a flashlight, level, ruler, and compass. All are useful in a disaster.
  • Secure data storage apps such as GoodReader store the same information that you will have stored in the cloud.
  • Reading apps like kindle to store books such as Medicine for Mountaineering.

During Travel

Pack light. The less you have to carry, the less you have to worry about. It is easier to evacuate and move around. You won’t tire as quickly if you pack light.

Carry a pack – Disasters create plenty of obstacles, and you’ll want to wear your luggage. Wear your travel pack on your back and keep your hands free for other things. Make sure you carry a substitute light weight day pack if you use wheeled luggage. Your arms will quickly wear out carrying your wheelie around.

Make sure your electronics are USB powered. While solar power can charge all items with batteries, USB items are easier to charge. USB items also work with automobile power ports. In short, USB gives you more charging options.

Carry key survival items

  • Good walking shoes
  • Raincoat
  • Small headlamp – mine has a special USB rechargeable battery, but also takes lithium and alkaline batteries.
  • Collapsible water bottle
  • Two passport sized pictures of yourself – needed for emergency replacement of identification.
  • Garbage bag and candle for a Palmer Furnace/warming tent. Take a garbage bag, poke a hole in the middle for your head, and pull it over yourself. Sit down and place a lighted candle under the bag. Instant heat! Stuff garbage bags full of dry leaves for “sleeping bags” . Wear them over your head as an emergency rain coat.
  • Pocket Medical Kit – contains 2 quart size zip locks, some gauze, duct tape, a few large safety pins, and some blister packs of analgesics. With the wilderness course above, you can do wonders with it.
  • A couple of protein bars
  • Eye mask and earplugs
  • Dental floss and a sewing needle. You probably have these items in your bag. Dental floss is a heavy duty thread and great for repairs.
  • Paracord or other high strength cordage – Make sure you aren’t using the inexpensive cord that doesn’t have the strength of the real thing.
  • Cash – If the electricity is out you won’t have access to your electronic money. Carry at least $50 of cash on you, hidden in a secret place. Small bills work better than larger ones – there is no guarantee that others have the cash on hand to break a larger bill.

We can’t prevent disaster from happening, but we can mitigate the effects. Prepare ahead of time so you won’t become a statistic. Do you have any suggestions for travelers?