Haiti - Advice for staying safe in an earthquake

Haiti sits within a geologically active area of the Caribbean, not far from the boundary of the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates.

Following the devastation of the Haiti earthquake, we have compiled safety tips if you find yourself in an area affected by an earthquake.

Safety tips if you are in an affected area

If you are injured or Sick?
If you are injured or become ill please seek medical aid and contact your 24-hour Medical Assistance Service. The traveller should recognize that any functioning hospitals and clinics will be busy caring for people who have been injured and/or who are sick.

If you are in a region with no operating medical facilities please contact your Medical Assistance Service Immediately.

WorldNomads policy holders can find these details on their Certificates of Insurance or see phone numbers at the bottom of this article.

The risk of injury is high. Persons who anticipate the need to travel to disaster area should wear sturdy footwear to protect their feet from injury. Tetanus is a potential health threat for cuts and grazes. Any wound, cut, or animal bites should be immediately cleansed with soap and clean water. Seek rapid medical review should you become injured.

Wash your Hands
Wash your hands often using soap and water to help prevent the spread of disease. Waterless alcohol-based hand rubs may be used when soap and/or water are not available and hands are not visibly soiled.

What can I eat or drink?
Natural disasters can disrupt water supplies and sewage systems. If bottled water is not available, water should be boiled or disinfected. For more information refer to the CDC website

Food should be carefully chosen to reduce the risk of getting gastrointestinal illness. Avoid salads, uncooked vegetables and milk products, such as cheese. Ensure your food is freshly cooked and has not been sitting around. Food that have been cooked, are still hot and fruit that has been washed in clean water and then peeled by the traveler personally are safer to eat.

What if I get Diarrhea?
Gastroenteritis outbreaks can occur following a disaster. Diarrhea may be accompanied by a high fever or passing blood in the diarrhea. Replacing lost fluids by drinking clean water is important or the use of oral rehydration solutions. It is also worth packing antibiotics before you depart for Haiti as medications can be scarce or non existent. 

Bites can be prevented through combined use of insect repellent and barrier methods such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when. Insect Repellent containing DEET should be used at all times.
Ensure you have been immunized for Tetanus in the past 5 years.


Travelers should be careful to avoid downed power lines. Battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns, or torches, should be used to avoid accidental fires or burns. Keep your personal belongings especially your passport and money on your person or in a safe place close to you.

Environmental Hazards

Be aware of what is happening around you. Following a disaster there will likely be rapidly moving water. Lung infections may occur after inhalation of sea water. Disasters resulting in massive structural damage can also result in exposure to chemical or biologic contaminants (I.E. asbestos).

Environmental things to remember
Both hot and cold extremes in temperature can pose a danger. Heat-related illness, such as heat stroke, can even be fatal. Remember to wear your sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat to protect you from the sun. Evenings can become chilly in Haiti, so have a pullover or waterproof jacket available. Keep you fluid intake up with clean water during the day. Try to keep a dry change of clothing handy to change into. This will help in keeping you warm and preventing heat loss.

What is happening to me and who do I call?

It is important to remember that the situation you are in can be extremely stressful.

Keeping an item of comfort nearby, such as a family photo, favorite music, or religious material, can often offer comfort in such situations.

Call home and your country's Consulate or Embassy to let them know where you are, if you are alright and if you need any assistance.

Call your travel insurance company emergency assistance hotline should you need immediate attention (see phone numbers below for WorldNomad's policy holders)

When you get out of there or get back home

If you become unwell within 6 weeks of returning with fever, rash, respiratory illness or any other unusual symptoms seek medical attention and tell them that you were recently in a Disaster affected region.

Advice for World Nomads Policy Holders

Should you have any concerns or fears, please contact us on the following emergency assistance numbers.

Please have your name, location and phone number ready when you call (and policy number if available)

Click here for a list of 24 hour emergency assistance hotline numbers.

Very Important Note for volunteers:

Please only engage in direct travel to Haiti as part of an established charity or organization who can demonstrate that they have proper logistical and security support. Many good hearted people want to rush in and ‘do something' in the event of a natural disaster such as the earthquake that has hit Haiti. Although these are very admirable instincts this is often the wrong thing to do. In the immediate hours and days following a catastrophe aid agencies, governments and international organizations enact pre-arranged disaster plans involving very experienced and specialized staff with full logistical support. Getting together with a group of friends or just jetting to an area like this on your own can create even more problems on the ground for them and it is potentially highly dangerous for you.

What you can do if you are not a part of one of these organizations

Many agencies have already established disaster relief funds and requests for essential supplies. Although there is a desire in most of us to get hands-on and help, the money collected by these funds will provide important support in the longer term as the people of Haiti affected by this earthquake slowly rebuild their families, homes and businesses.

Read more from WorldNomads.com to help keep you travelling safely. WorldNomads.com - an essential part of every adventurous traveller's journey.

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