We hear words like emergencies and natural disasters all the time, whether it’s an emergency alert on your phone, a natural disaster news story on TV, or a tweet coming across your Twitter feed. We know these situations are urgent, we understand that natural disasters can be fatal but if you were caught in a natural disaster, would you know what to do? How about if a natural disaster disrupts your scheduled or current trip? Here’s what you need to know about handling natural disasters while traveling and how trip insurance can help.
What is a Natural Disaster?
According to the Department of Homeland Security, a natural disaster includes: “all types of severe weather, which have the potential to pose a significant threat to human health and safety, property, critical infrastructure, and homeland security.” These events can include, but aren’t limited to, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, and snowstorms.
How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster Emergency
The best thing travelers can do is prepare for a natural disaster before it even happens. Here are a few things you can do to help lessen the impact of a weather-related catastrophe:
- Follow alerts and travel advisories. Keep up with travel advisories and alerts for your destination city and country so you know what to expect. If there are any risks or potential dangers you can prepare before you even leave.
- Plan and pack carefully. If you’re traveling to a destination prone to natural disasters or during a time where weather-related events are more likely to disrupt your trips, pack the necessary items like a first aid kit, or an emergency go-bag.
- Strategize for worst-case scenarios. While you’re much more likely to have your trip canceled by a natural disaster than actually get caught in one while traveling, it can still happen. The bulk of your trip planning can and should center around building your dream itinerary, but you should devote some planning to strategizing for weather-related catastrophes. This includes making sure there’s an emergency plan in place and that every traveler in your party knows what they need to do should the worst happen.
- Buy trip insurance with Cancel For Any Reason. This coverage can give you more flexibility and protect your financial investment. While basic trip insurance may cover expenses if you inclement weather cancels your flight or cuts your trip short, only Cancel For Any Reason or Interruption for Any Reason coverage gives you the ability to cancel or cut your trips short for any reason and still recoup prepaid financial losses. There are stipulations that apply so you always want to read your policy documents.
Other Ways Trip Insurance Helps During a Natural Disaster
Aside from Cancel for Any Reason, another benefit of trip insurance is that, depending on the plan, it may cover emergency medical evacuation and repatriation costs. Even though it’s not pleasant to think about, if you’re caught in a natural disaster these benefits can lessen the financial impact of a bad situation. Emergency medical evacuation is a procedure that involves airlifting an injured or ill person from a hard-to-access area and transporting them to the nearest medical facility for care. For the uninsured traveler the evacuation alone could cost upwards of $100,000. With trip insurance, the procedure would likely be covered. The repatriation benefit available with some trip insurance plans can help cover costs if you need to be returned to your home country for care.
Trip Insurance & Natural Disasters: Real-World Scenarios
As mentioned earlier, some stipulations apply when it comes to trip insurance coverage of natural disasters. So, how do you know what’s covered and what’s not? The most efficient way to do this is to read the trip insurance policy documents before you make a purchase. But since policy language can be confusing, it’s a good idea to reach out to licensed trip insurance experts, like the team at VisitorsCoverage for help breaking it all down into simple, more accessible language. To give you a general idea of what trip insurance may and may not cover, we’ve got a few stories for you.
Earl and the Earthquake
Earl is planning on visiting San Francisco for the first time. Before leaving his home in Minnesota, he buys trip insurance. Three days before he’s scheduled to depart, an earthquake hits San Francisco, grounding all flights for the next week. Since Earl’s flight is canceled, he is now out for the costs of prepaid nonrefundable expenses like flight tickets and hotel deposits. His lost expenses total $1000.
Will Earl be reimbursed? Yes, most likely. The good news for Earl is that since he had purchased the trip insurance well before the earthquake was perceived as an imminent threat, his policy should reimburse him. However, he must file a claim, thoroughly documenting these losses with receipts and any other important notes. The claim will then go through a review process. If it’s deemed credible, the reimbursement will be approved.
Harold and the Hurricane
Harold is vacationing in Miami during hurricane season. Since he doesn’t expect anything but fun and sun, he neglected to get trip insurance. However, two days into his trip, he gets a notice that Hurricane Ian is headed for Miami. He thinks quickly, gets online and purchases a trip insurance policy. When the storm hits, his hotel is badly damaged, he needs medical attention and his return flight home has been canceled. He’s looking at a total of $7,000 in fees.
Is Harold Covered? Unfortunately, no. Trip insurance will cover unexpected natural disasters, but the key word is ‘unexpected’. Harold didn’t even think about trip insurance until he found out Hurricane Ian was headed his way. Trip insurance won’t cover the policyholder for any impact a hurricane or tropical storm has once the storm has been named. Had Harold planned ahead, spent as little as $100 to buy a policy, he could have avoided all those fees.
Beth and the Blizzard
Before Beth leaves for her big ski trip in Colorado, she purchases trip insurance. On her second day of skiing, Beth gets stuck in a blizzard. She’s stranded in the snow and sub-zero temperatures for hours. When emergency crews find her she is badly in need of medical attention. They escort her to the nearest hospital where she is treated, kept overnight for observation and discharged. Although Beth makes a full recovery, her medical bills total $20,000.
Is Beth Covered? Yes, most likely. Trip Insurance includes Accident & Sickness coverage. Depending on the plan policy, this benefit can cover unexpected costs related to urgently needed medical care up to $500,000. Beth would need to file a claim that would include medical receipts and doctor’s notices, and any other pertinent information. The insurer will review the claim and make a judgment. If the claim is deemed credible, it will be approved.
In recent years, natural disasters have become more frequent. Hurricanes, earthquakes and snowstorms have been responsible for upending trips. But there are steps you can take to lessen the impact of these catastrophic events. For more information on what trip insurance can do for you, head on over to VisitorsCoverage.