Natural Disaster Series: Hurricanes and Typhoons

As Australians, we’re familiar with cyclones but what do you know about hurricanes and typhoons?

Depending on where you’re planning to travel, your trip could be seriously affected by extreme wet weather.

Continuing with our Natural Disaster Survival series, let’s take a look at what you need to know and do if you have the misfortune of getting caught in extreme wet weather conditions.

What’s the difference?

Some of you may be asking – what is the difference between a hurricane, a cyclone and a typhoon.

Well, not much!   These are essentially all the same weather phenomenon but they have different names depending on where they occur in the world.   Hurricanes are formed over the North Atlantic, North Pacific and central North Pacific Oceans.  The term typhoon is used when this type of weather event is formed over the North-west Pacific.  Tropical cyclone is used when the weather event forms over the Indian or South Pacific Oceans.

A tropical cyclone is a generic term used to describe the activity of the event i.e. an organised, rotating cloud system.  These systems develop over tropical or subtropical waters, with some being non-threatening and others developing into serious weather events.  For a wet weather system to be referred to as a hurricane or typhoon, the wind speed must exceed 74 miles (119km) per hour.

How to be prepared

In our Earthquake Survival guide, we touched on the necessity of preparing for a natural disaster prior to your trip.  Many countries are prone to certain major weather events.  For example, Indonesia experiences a high volume of earthquakes due to the amount of seismic activity in that region.  Asia gets hit by typhoons more than any other continent (Five Asian countries make the Top 10 list in this category).

Being prepared for such an event, however unlikely, could keep you and your family alive.  Let’s review the types of things you can do to stay prepared and be ready for the worst.

  1. Understand the risks of the places you are visiting. By understanding this, you can focus your attention to the real threats you are most likely to encounter.  Once you know the risks, implement an evacuation plan for everyone you are travelling with.  If stuck in a storm, or being threatened with a hurricane, you will not have time to youTube ‘how to’ videos or read an evacuation manual from cover to cover.  Knowing what to do will make your actions efficient and help you remain calm under pressure.
  2. We often hear accounts of people being stuck in their home or accommodation for extended periods of time. Ensure you have a stockpile of tinned and packaged foods and bottled water which will last without expiring.
  3. Look at how you can keep warm in as little as one or two rooms. You may need to maintain a fire or, if you still have electricity, may be able to keep a small heater running.  If not, blankets can be used to wrap up in during the nights.  Never underestimate the value of sharing body heat, especially with the little ones.
  4. Know where the first aid box is or store multiple throughout your accommodation just in case. We cannot stress enough how important this step can be.  During a natural disaster, serious injuries can occur, whether it be from flying debris, broken glass or falling furniture.  Being able to offer medical assistance can save lives.
  5. Keep a torch handy. Should all power be lost, a flashlight can help you relocate without falling over or getting injured by unforeseen dangers such as broken pavements, exposed pipes and debris.
  6. Know your numbers – Save local numbers for authorities such as police, medical assistance providers, fire services etc. In the event of an emergency, you can advise the appropriate people where you are and what help you need.
  7. If you need to block windows, what are you going to use? Scope out your accommodation and have a clear idea of what you can use and how. Safeguarding your location is a very important step, especially during a cyclone, hurricane or typhoon.  We have all seen the devastation of a serious storm, so you will need to protect yourself from it as best as you can.
  8. Register your trip with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs via the smartraveller website. The government will then know you may be affected by the disaster and provide assistance if required.

What to do during a catastrophe

Stay calm!  Panicking will only worsen the situation.  If you have children, ensure they are safe and provide medical assistance if necessary.  Keeping a clear mind will help you make smart decisions which could ultimately keep you alive.

Listen for government warnings and follow them where you can.  If you are stuck, contact local authorities to initiate a rescue mission.

Be ready to act.  If you have prepared yourself for a natural disaster, you will be much quicker at analysing the situation and responding appropriately.

What happens when it’s over?

If you have access to information and instructions, listen out on what to do and where local evacuation centres may be located.

If you are trapped, make noise.  Draw as much attention as you can to yourself, so you can be found quickly.

If you are fit and able, help with rescue missions.  Major catastrophic events can be too much for local authorities to handle by themselves.  Whilst we commend their efforts, every little helps.  Even fetching water for rescuers and those trapped can offer huge amounts of comfort and support.

Remember, your life is more important than anything else.  Get yourself to safety first and then contact the necessary entities to discuss any potential issues you may have.  This includes airlines, accommodation providers, your travel insurer and family members.



Categories: Natural Disaster Series, Travel Advice, Travel Insurance

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