medicine kit on sidewalk

How to Prepare for an Emergency When Abroad

Last updated on January 31st, 2020 at 12:31 pm

When people think of moving abroad they often consider the positive aspects of their new opportunity. But very rarely do people consider what to do in case of an emergency, beyond designating a next of kin. But, in addition to anticipating your foodie fantasies, it is vital to be prepared in case the unthinkable happens.

Like what, you may ask? Some countries experience weather events like tsunamis or wildfires that may result in damage to housing or power outages. Other countries go through civil conflicts that may expose you to injury or limit access to emergency services. You may also find that you receive a major, life-changing medical diagnosis during your time abroad.

Prior to your big move it is important to keep the following things in mind: how to get out if evacuation becomes necessary, how to get help and how to prepare a survival kit with essential items you may need.

Getting Out

Are you on an island? If so, that may make evacuation in the case of an emergency difficult. Be sure to learn how frequent flights and ships leave the island. You may want to keep a decent amount of cash in local currency in a safe or other place if ATMs and card readers become unusable. Make sure everyone in your household (including any hired staff) is familiar with your evacuation plan and run quarterly drills.

Getting Help

There are several things you can do to ensure you get help when you need it most:

Designate an emergency contact at your home base. This could be a family member, a close friend, or former neighbor in your country of origin that local authorities or neighbors can contact in the event of an emergency.

Select a neighbor or coworker as your local emergency contact. Make sure this person is aware of any special needs (medical conditions, accessibility needs and so on) you have and ask them if it is okay if you share their contact information with your emergency contact in your country of origin.

Know all local emergency numbers. In Canada and the United States, dialing 9-1-1 from your landline or most cell phones connects you with all local emergency services. Other countries may have different codes or complete phone numbers to call in an emergency. Also, there may be specific numbers for fire, medical and police services. It is important to have each of these numbers in your cell phone but also posted where they can be easily seen by anyone in the household, like on the refrigerator or a bulletin board.


No matter where you live, you should have a survival kit. In that survival kit, you should include:

First aid kit

Medication list (including generic names and dosages)

Supply of prescriptions for three to six months (mail order options make this possible)

Over-the-counter medications that may not be locally available or may cost you more if you use them regularly

A cooler with reusable ice packs for medications that must be kept at a certain temperature

Back up pair of prescription eyeglasses

Enough water for at least seven days per person

Your living will or advanced directive

No one wants to focus on the negative when embarking on a new journey. But it is important to remember that wherever you live, life happens. You should never think, that’s never going to happen to me. As you plan for this next chapter in your life, prepare for the worst but expect the best!

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