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7 Things NOT to Do in a Natural Disaster

by Jo F

Post image for 7 Things NOT to Do in a Natural Disaster

Tsunamis, earthquakes, exploding volcanoes, hurricanes, it can sometimes feel like Mother Nature is throwing us one natural disaster after another. I was recently in Hawaii when we received a warning that a tsunami was expected to hit the islands after an earthquake off the coast of Canada.

This prompted a full-scale evacuation. Fortunately, the tsunami did not have the force that had been anticipated, but as those who have experienced Hurricane Sandy or other severe natural disasters will know, that isn’t always the case.

If you find yourself in the midst of a natural disaster, your own actions can play a huge part in your safety. Here are 7 things NOT to do:

1) Panic

The ocean didn’t injure anybody during the predicted Hawaiian tsunami, but there were fatal car accidents as people panicked to get to higher ground.

Of course it is difficult to keep an air of calm when doom is impending, but it is vital to ensure your safety. Although time will be of the essence, that doesn’t mean you should disband all precautions.

If you find yourself starting to freak out, ask someone to help you, whether it is with packing, driving or any other activity.


Whatever you do, try not to panic. Photo
by nandadevieast.

2) Ignoring official advice

Officials advised us to pack essentials and drive to the evacuation center when the tsunami warning was given. However, driving to the grocery store and the gas station to engage in panic buying is what many people did.

With only a matter of hours to get to safety, there simply wasn’t time for activities beyond those advised, and people who ignored the advice caused road blocks, putting themselves and others in danger.

If the authorities think your most vital activity is refueling your car or stocking your fridge, they will tell you. Otherwise, do as they say.


Don’t ignore the official advice: if there is no time for shopping, there is no time for shopping. Photo
by 8zil.

3) Not making a plan that ensures your safety

If you’re on vacation when a disaster warning strikes, there is a good chance you won’t have access to a car or the facilities you might at home. Even if you are at home, you may need to make arrangements for your safety.

Sharing cars with those who had rentals ensured we all got to the evacuation center. Before you set about any other activity, like packing, make sure you have a plan in place for ensuring your safety.


Make sure you have a plan in place. Photo
by planetc1.

4) Packing non-essentials

I watched in surprise as a girl tried to pack all three of her suitcases complete with travel alarm clock, slippers, bikinis and beach towel. It was a time-consuming task and if someone hadn’t have stopped her, I’m sure she’d still be packing now.

Essential means exactly that—water, food, flashlight, warm clothes, medicine, all-weather shoes, blankets, smartphone and other items that will help if you find yourself without power and running water for days.

In other words, if you’d take the item camping, pack it. If you’d take it to the beach or a bar, leave it.


Pack essentials and essentials only. Photo
by Ian Wilson.

5) Going incommunicado

My friends and family knew that I was in Hawaii, but they didn’t know the name of the island, the town nor my accommodations. After all of the packing had been done and I waited for my ride, I sent a quick email to my brother to let him know what was happening and exactly where I was.

That way I knew that my family would be able to follow the international news, gauge my safety and have the right information on hand if they needed to contact the Hawaiian authorities in the worst case scenario.


Don’t go incommunicado. Let someone know where you are. Photo
by dok1.

6) Not bringing something to pass the time

After clawing together the recommended essentials, it turned out that there was some time to gather a few extra items, and that is what ended up saving us during the long wait for the warning to pass.

Packing my laptop and power cable meant that we were able to follow the local news; others packed playing cards or a book.

Instead of letting our nerves fray as we waited for news, we were able to keep ourselves up to date on the situation and occupy our minds with something else during the meantime.

7) Ignoring on-going official advice

After several hours waiting and realizing that the tsunami impact was nothing near what we had expected, people started to get restless. Hard plastic chairs and glaring strip lights of the evacuation center made people crave their beds.

However, the warning hadn’t been lifted, and for good reason. The high tide meant that the risk of the tsunami extended beyond the anticipated time of impact.

Once again the officials knew what was best, and you should follow their advice until the danger has passed.

Have you experienced a natural disaster? What did you do to keep safe? Did you make any mistakes that made the situation more dangerous? Let me know in the comments below.

If you liked this article, you might also like: Don’t Make These 7 Mistakes Traveling in Dangerous Areas.

Main photo: Want to increase your chances of surviving a disaster? Here’s what not to do by Lew57.

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