In case of emergency Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

No matter how hard you try to perfectly plan your trip, somethingmight go wrong. Your plane couldget delayed, you could lose your luggageor something worse could happen, suchas an emergency landing or hotel fire. Being prepared for any type of emergency can make all the difference in howyou handle it and the eventual outcome.

“People in emergency situations whoget out first are usually the ones whohave a plan of attack,” says KathleenFrance, director of international reservations and services at Professional Travel Inc. “Those who are struggling to figureout what they’re doing are the ones whomay not have as great a success.”

Smart Business spoke with Franceabout what to do in a travel emergencyand how a travel management companycan help you if an emergency situationarises.

What should travelers remember when anemergency happens?

If you’re on a plane, where’s your passport or driver’s license or some kind ofidentification? You want one credit card,and passport or driver’s license on you,in a pocket someplace. If you have yourcell phone available, put it on yourselfsomewhere. Look around — how far areyou from the exits? Breathe; don’t panic.Keep a cool head, and think about howfar away you are — should you go forward or backward? Pay attention towhat’s going on. If you are sitting in theexit row, look at the pamphlet to see howto open up the door. Is the exit behindyou closer than the exit in front of you? Ifthe exit in front of you is blocked, do youhave an alternative? It’s being aware ofyour surroundings.

If you’re in a situation in a hotel, howfar are you from the exit? How manyfloors up are you? Walk down to the exitone time to know where it is, where itcomes out, and that the doors open andclose. Travel with a flashlight. Knowwhere your clothes are when you go to leave a hotel in the middle of the night.Always leave something out that you canput on.

Know where your insurance is and whoyour provider is. If it’s a medical emergency and you’re overseas, does yourcorporation provide you with medicalevacuation insurance? Does your insurance cover you when you’re injured orsick overseas? Does your car insurancecover you when you’re driving overseas?Know the emergency numbers.

Always make sure your travel arrangerhas up-to-date personal information. Inan emergency when they are trying to geta hold of you, that information is critical.

How can a managed travel program help inan emergency?

Find a good travel management company that is available to assist you 24-7. Notonly are travel management companiesopen during their normal business hours,but also have a good support systemafter hours. This extended service gives you connectivity to your agency andsomebody who’s familiar with your corporation and interests.

When an emergency happens, have aplan in place, whether it is your corporate or personal plan. It’s taking a minuteand making sure you have all the information you need in case somethingshould occur, no matter where you are inthe world. If my flight is delayed, whatam I going to do? Where am I going togo? Who am I going to call? It’s all aboutbeing aware of your surroundings.

A good travel management company isgoing to walk through all those steps ifyou have any questions before you leave,as well as while you’re en route. Doesyour cell phone work out of the U.S.?Does your phone work in that country?Does your Internet work in that country?Are you going to rely on the hotel to provide you with Internet capability, or areyou going to rely on your own phonecard and computer? If you don’t have theproper information, whom do you call?

What is the benefit of preparing for emergencies upfront?

Having a sense of, ‘I’m OK, I’ll be OK,no matter what happens, I’ll get throughthis. I have a plan and know what’s goingon.’ With a plan, you can resolve anykind of situation. Do you have to haveplan A and B? More than likely, yes. So ifplan A isn’t working, you go to plan B.Without a plan, you’re going to spendmore time trying to figure things out andmaybe waste precious minutes, ratherthan getting something accomplishedright away. The benefit is success, andsuccess in an emergency is always great,even if it’s small. If you’ve lost everythingand have nothing except what you haveon you, you’re OK. You’re alive and ableto function.

KATHLEEN FRANCE is the director of international reservations and services for Professional Travel. Reach her at (440) 734-8800x4015 or kathleenf@protrav.com.