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As travellers, we seek out destinations with stunning landscapes and diverse climates - usually something completely different from our native country. However, amidst the beauty and diversity lies the potential for natural disasters that can threaten life. These risks are heightened if you're unfamiliar with the area and local weather conditions.

From earthquakes to hurricanes, volcanoes and tropical cyclones, being prepared and informed is essential to navigate these extreme experiences while travelling.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore practical strategies for staying safe during various natural disasters, including earthquakes, tropical cyclones, flooding, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. While we don't want to frighten you, knowing what to do in these situations is important.

How to stay safe during an earthquake

Earthquakes are a seismic phenomenon that can strike with little warning. They cause widespread damage to infrastructure and pose significant risks to travellers and residents alike.

Earthquakes are more common than you think; millions occur every year. But most are too deep or too small to cause much damage.

Here are the main safety tips to remember if an earthquake does strike:

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Drop, cover and hold on

  • During earthquakes, most people are injured by falling buildings, debris, and objects. So find appropriate shelter, stay indoors if possible, and stay away from tall structures.
  • Remember the mantra "Drop, Cover, and Hold On." Drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on until the shaking stops. Avoid external doorways and windows, as they pose additional hazards from things like broken glass.
  • If you're driving when an earthquake strikes, pull over as soon as possible. Avoid bridges, steep slopes, and powerlines. Stay in your car until the shaking stops.

Evacuate if necessary

  • If you're in a high-rise building or near unstable structures, evacuate to a safe location as soon as possible. Follow designated evacuation routes and avoid using elevators during an earthquake.
  • Fires are among the most common hazards after earthquakes, given the possible damage to power and gas lines. So, if you smell gas or see smoke, leave your building and call the emergency services.
  • For travellers in coastal areas, stay wary of tsunamis. Earthquakes can trigger tsunamis (which we'll cover in more detail next), so try to get to higher ground when it's safe to do so.

Prepare an emergency kit

  • Before travelling to earthquake-prone areas, pack an emergency kit with essential supplies, including water, non-perishable food, first aid supplies, and a torch (most of this will be included in your motorhome hire).
  • Having these items on hand can be invaluable in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake – helping you stay safe and connected. A spare battery pack is handy for keeping devices charged so you can access safety updates and evacuation orders.

Stay vigilant

  • Aftershocks can happen hours, days, weeks or even months after the main earthquake – sometimes stronger than the original. They can also cause more damage, as buildings and infrastructure are already weakened. So don't try to move too soon.
  • If trapped by debris, try to cover your mouth to protect yourself from dust. Don't move too much (you could dislodge something and create more dust). If you can, alert people to your location – either with your mobile phone or by bashing against a hard object to make a noise.

Despite not lying on a tectonic plate boundary, Australia does experience earthquakes due to plate tectonic forces exerting stress on the rocks within the Australian crust. Australia's earthquakes are caused by the sudden release of this stress when rocks deep underground break and move along a fault line. On average there are about 100 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or more recorded in Australia each year.

In a life-threatening situation during or after an earthquake call Triple Zero (000). For assistance from your State Emergency Service call 132 500

For more information and to sign up to earthquake alerts, visit the National Earthquakes Alerts Centre (NEAC)

Coastal British Columbia experiences the largest and most frequent Canadian earthquakes including offshore events that may cause tsunamis. The St. Lawrence and Ottawa River valleys of southern Quebec and southeastern Ontario are also at risk of dangerous earthquake shaking. Large earthquakes occur across Canada’s three northern territories. Atlantic Canada is also exposed to earthquakes and has experienced tsunamis. Earthquakes in the United States that occur near Canada in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, or the Atlantic Northeast may also cause shaking in Canada. Indigenous Peoples across Canada have passed down earthquake knowledge through oral tradition for thousands of years.

On average, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) locates more than 5,000 earthquakes each year in Canada, of which about 50 are felt, although damage is rare.

In a life-threatening situation during or after an earthquake call 911.

For more information, visit the Canadian Government's Get Prepared website.

New Zealand lies on the boundary of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, so earthquakes happen every day across both North and South islands. Most are too weak, too deep, or too far offshore to be noticed.

In a life-threatening situation during or after an earthquake call 111.

For more information, visit the New Zealand Government's Get Ready website.

Earthquakes in Southern Africa are very unusual though not unheard of. Africa lies on a relatively stable tectonic plate; there have been just seven quakes of magnitude 5 or above in the last 50 years. In fact, a professor from the University of Pretoria's Natural Hazard Centre believes that 95% of all earthquakes that occur in South Africa are caused by mining activity.


Earthquakes are not uncommon in the USA, but their frequency and intensity vary greatly depending on location. America's west coast states (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska) are more prone to quakes as they sit on the Pacific Ring of Fire - an active seismic zone that stretches from New Zealand in a horseshoe shape around the coasts of Japan, and Northern, Central and Southern America. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) monitors, tracks and warns of seismic activity across the US and the rest of the world.

In a life-threatening situation during or after an earthquake call 911.

For more information, visit the National Earthquake Information Center.

Staying safe during flooding and tsunamis

Flooding and tsunamis can result from various triggers, including heavy rainfall, storm surges and earthquakes. Risks are often higher in coastal or river-side locations, but this isn't always the case.

Flooding is an increasing problem in our warming world, so it's important to be prepared no matter where you are.

Here are key actions to stay safe:

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Monitor water levels

  • Stay informed about flood warnings issued by local authorities. Follow appropriate social media accounts or news channels for the latest updates. If you choose to use a local SIM card in your phone while you're abroad, you may be able to receive emergency alerts via Emergency Alert Systems. These systems are used in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. They work in the same way as the UK Emergency Alerts System, warning of potential threats and suggesting action.
  • If flooding is imminent, be prepared to evacuate to higher ground.
  • Floods and tsunamis can strike with little warning. In the case of a tsunami, you might hear a roar (like a large train) or see the ocean rising or draining away suddenly.
  • If you're in a coastal area and receive a tsunami warning, move to higher ground immediately. If this isn't possible, try to find a sturdy concrete building and shelter on an upper level. Stay in rooms on the opposite side of the building to the approaching wave.
  • Tsunamis vary massively in their strength and impact. But they can easily surge over 15 kilometres inland. Areas less than five metres above sea level within a kilometre of the sea are in greatest danger.

Follow evacuation routes

  • During a flood or tsunami evacuation, follow designated evacuation routes and heed instructions from emergency responders.
  • Avoid low-lying areas, bridges and riverbanks, as these areas are especially dangerous during flooding.
  • Surviving tropical cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and storms
  • Tropical cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and storms are extremely powerful weather phenomena that can wreak havoc on coastal and inland regions.
  • If one of these weather fronts approaches, you'll need to make decisions fast. This is especially important if you're in a vulnerable location, like a weak building or outdoors.

Australia's western and northwestern coasts are most at risk of tsunamis. Most tsunamis that affect Australia originate deep beneath the Indian Ocean, along the Sunda Trench. This has resulted in international agreements to establish a tsunami warning system in place along the Indian Ocean coast.

The Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia jointly operate the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC), one of the world’s most advanced tsunami warning services. In the event of a tsunami threat, look out for this warning system:

  • Tsunami Watch: You need to prepare for the possible arrival of a tsunami.
  • Marine Warning: You need to move to a safer place now.
  • Land Warning: You need to leave for a safer place, or prepare to take shelter.
  • Tsunami All Clear: The tsunami has passed, but there may still be hazards.

For more information on this system, visit the Department for Fire & Emergency Services website.

For up-to-date information, warnings and advice, visit the Emergency WA website.

Tsunami occurrences in Canada are rare. Since 1903 there have been just 11 tidal surges with little loss of life. Canada follows a dedicated tsunami warning system:

  • Watch: Stay tuned for more information. Be prepared to act.
  • Advisory: Stay out of water and away from beaches and waterways.
  • Warning: Move to high ground.

For more information, visit Canada's Government website.

All of New Zealand's coastline is at risk of tidal surges. If you are near a shore and experience any of the following, take action. Do not wait for official warnings.

  • Feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand or a long earthquake that lasts more than a minute
  • See a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • Hear loud or unusual noises from the sea

New Zealand uses a detection system called DART - Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis. These deep-sea instruments keep track of sea level changes and warn of potential tidal surges, giving you ample warning to evacuate.

For more information, visit the Get Ready website.

Just three major tidal surges have affected South Africa in the last 50 years. So, while tsunamis are uncommon, they aren't unheard of. 


America's west coast, Hawaii and Alaska are at most risk of tsunamis, as seismic activity is more likely to occur around the Pacific Rim than in the Atlantic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains the US Tsunami Warning System. It is similar to Canada's warning system:

  • Watch - Be Prepared: A distant earthquake has occurred. A tsunami is possible. Stay tuned for more information. Be prepared to take action if necessary.
  • Advisory - Take Action: A tsunami with potential for strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or very near the water is expected or occurring. There may be flooding of beach and harbour areas. Stay out of the water and away from beaches and waterways. Follow instructions from local officials.
  • Warning - Take Action: Danger! A tsunami that may cause widespread flooding is expected or occurring. Dangerous coastal flooding and powerful currents are possible and may continue for several hours or days after initial arrival. Follow instructions from local officials. Evacuation is recommended. Move to high ground or inland (away from the water).

For more information, visit the NOAA website.

Staying safe in tropical cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and storms

Tropical cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and storms are extremely powerful weather phenomena that can wreak havoc on coastal and inland regions.

If one of these weather fronts approaches, you'll need to make decisions fast. This is especially important if you're in a vulnerable location, like a weak building or outdoors.

Most major storms in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US are named for greater public awareness. Its easier to publicise and follow a storm if its got a name, think Hurricane Katrina (USA, 2005) and Hurricane Sandy (USA, 2012).

Here's what to do before, during and after a storm:

Monitor weather forecasts

  • Stay informed about weather conditions and heed warnings issued by local authorities. You might be unable to access information when the storm hits, so stay up-to-date by listening to the radio or following official social media accounts.
  • Act on official advice, paying attention to evacuation routes and designated shelters. The exact path of cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes can be difficult to predict.
  • Different countries have different warning and rating systems, but in general, you'll get either a "watch" (meaning hurricane conditions are possible in your area) or a "warning" (more serious, meaning hurricane conditions are expected in your area). Warnings are typically given 24-48 hours in advance, giving people enough time to prepare.

Seek shelter

  • If you're in an area prone to tropical cyclones or tornadoes, seek shelter in a sturdy building or designated storm shelter. Avoid mobile homes, vehicles, large bodies of water and temporary structures, as they offer little protection from strong winds and flying debris.
  • Even if it looks like the storm has passed, extreme gusts of wind or lightning can still pose risks. So stay vigilant until you're sure it's safe.

Secure your surroundings

  • Before a storm hits, secure loose objects (such as picnic chairs and tables) that could become projectiles in high winds.
  • Turn off your gas supply (if you have one) to reduce the risk of fire with damaged pipes. Charge your mobile phone in case power supplies fail, and ensure you have enough food and drinking water.
  • During the storm, stay indoors and away from windows and doors. If you're in your motorhome, leave and seek shelter in a substantial building with interior rooms or a basement if possible. Avoid using electrical appliances or plumbing fixtures.

Tropical cyclones are frequent in Australia. The tropical cyclone season officially runs from November to April. It is rare for cyclones to affect Australia outside of this period. A cyclone can bring high windspeed, heavy rainfall and storm surge. They are unpredictable though their formation can generally be forecast 1-7 days ahead. However, it is very challenging to accurately forecast the track or intensity. 

They are more likely to occur in Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Each state or territory has its own emergency response contact.

For more information, visit the Bureau of Meteorology website.

Canada's hurricane season runs from June to November. On average, Canada experiences about six hurricanes each year but forecasting their frequency is difficult. In the last 70 years, there have been just two major hurricanes of category 3 and above.

For more information, visit the Get Prepared website.

The Pacific cyclone season runs from November to April although cyclones rarely hit New Zealand. Instead, the country is more frequently subject to storms as it lies in the ‘Roaring Forties’ - an area where mild air temperatures from the north meet cooler air from the south. 

Storms can cause strong winds, rain, thunder, lightning, hail, heavy snow and rough seas. The NZ MetService issues strong wind warnings when they forecast wind speeds of more than 87 kilometres per hour over land.

The NZ Get Ready website recommends you do the following in the event of a storm:

  • Stay inside (in a sturdy building)
  • Close windows and put tape across them to prevent them from shattering
  • Stay away from doors and windows
  • Open a window on the side of the building away from the wind — this will lessen pressure on the roof
  • Stay away from metal and electrical fixtures
  • After a storm, avoid dangling and broken power lines

For more information, visit the NZ Get Ready website.

Tropical cyclones happen only very occasionally in Southern Africa. Often only the remnants of them can be felt on land as they rarely make landfall, so you can expect gusty winds and rain. That said, we can't completely rule out tropical cyclones in the region.


The US is very susceptible to hurricanes and, on average, experiences anywhere from 12-21 named storms, of which up to 11 can become hurricanes. Some states are more at risk of hurricanes than others, with the top five states being Florida, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina. The hurricane season runs from the beginning of June through the end of November. In fact, the US has never been hit by a hurricane outside those months. The western states are far less likely to experience direct hits, often suffering from the remnants instead.

For more information, visit the National Hurricane Centre website.

Responding to volcanic eruptions

Volcanoes offer a true glimpse into the extreme forces of nature, unleashing ash clouds, gas lava flows and pyroclastic flows. They're as awe-inspiring as they are dangerous. If you're travelling to a volcanic region, staying informed is the best way to keep safe.

You must act immediately if you discover an eruption is imminent or has already begun.

Here's what to do:

Stay informed

  • Monitor volcanic activity and advisories issued by local authorities. Tune into the radio or TV or monitor reporting websites. You can also contact your motorhome hire depot or our team for further information about what to do next.
  • Local tour guides, hotel managers or emergency services can advise on information sources and local warning signals (like sirens). If you need clarification, the Global Disaster Alerting and Coordination Service (GDACS) provides real-time international reports.

Avoid restricted areas

  • Stay away from restricted zones and areas near the volcano's crater during an eruption. Volcanic ash, gases, and lava flows pose immediate dangers to anyone in their path.
  • If driving, it's important to act quickly – but don't speed or drive dangerously.
  • If a lahar, lava or pyroclastic flow is heading your way, drive across the direction of flow if possible. If this isn't feasible, drive directly away. Keep windows up and air conditioning off to avoid bringing in outside air.

Protect yourself from ashfall

  • If you're in an area affected by volcanic ashfall, seek shelter indoors and turn off any fans or air conditioning units. Keep windows and doors closed.
  • In some areas, masks or respirators may be given out. You should wear one to protect yourself. Even a simple piece of fabric tied around your face (covering your nose and mouth) will help. Sturdy boots and long-sleeved tops and bottoms will also provide some protection.
  • If sheltering in place, only leave once authorities confirm it's safe to do so.

There is currently no active volcanic activity in continental Australia. But that doesn't mean Australia isn't susceptible to impacts from volcanoes, especially ash fall from the neighbouring volcanic countries of New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the southern Philippines. 

For more information, visit the Australian Climate Service website.

There are no currently active volcanoes in Canada but there are a number of potentially active volcanoes and geologically active areas, mostly in Yukon, meaning an eruption cannot be ruled out. That said, volcanic eruptions are very rarely unexpected. 

Canada is most at risk from volcanic ash plumes being blown over from the US and Iceland. 

For more information, visit the Government of Canada's website.

Due to New Zealand's geological position within the Pacific Ring of Fire, the country is home to several active volcanoes, all located on the North Island.

The NZ Get Ready website recommends taking the following actions before a volcanic eruption:

  • You may need to use certified disposable dust masks (rated P2 or N95) and goggles
  • Wrap electronic devices in plastic wrap or sheeting to protect against volcanic ash
  • If you become stuck in your vehicle during an eruption, make sure you have sufficient emergency supplies (often provided by motorhome hire providers)

During ashfall, you should avoid driving, or stop your vehicle if you are currently driving. Turn off in-vehicle air conditioning or heating, close the vents and keep windows and doors shut. If you have to leave your vehicle, wear protective clothing including sturdy footwear, clothes that cover your arms and legs, a protective face mask (or a cloth if you don't have a fitted mask), gloves and goggles. 

If you typically wear contact lenses, you should wear glasses instead. Wait for the all clear from authorities before leaving the building or your vehicle.

For more information, visit the NZ Get Ready website.

There are no active volcanoes in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Northern parts of Zambia are at higher risk of volcanic activity. 


The US is home to 169 volcanoes that are considered active. Most of these are located in Alaska, where eruptions occur nearly every year.

In summary

Natural disasters are unavoidable in our planet's dynamic environment, but with careful planning and preparation, travellers can minimise risks and stay safe abroad.

You can navigate these challenges with confidence and resilience by staying informed, following safety guidelines and responding effectively. Remember, your safety is paramount. So always be cautious and heed warnings from local authorities.

Looking for more safety advice when travelling abroad? Explore our guides to navigating extreme heat, bushfires and civil disturbances.