Emergency abroad

When travelling abroad, you may be faced with an emergency. Some simple measures and an appropriate attitude will help you deal with the situation and limit its negative effects.

There are certain steps you can take to reduce hazards:

Take precautions

Before you leave

Precautions to take before you go:

During your stay

Precautions to take while abroad:

  • Keep your passport on you, along with a list of the persons to be contacted in an emergency. The list must be drawn up in order of priority, since it may be used by someone other than you.
  • Take an emergency kit with you.
  • Pay close attention to your itinerary during organized trips so that you always know where you are if a problem arises.
  • Keep a minimum amount of cash with you to deal with emergencies, especially if you are far from a major centre.
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In the event of an emergency or disaster abroad, exercise good judgment

If you are faced with an emergency, here are a few simple rules to follow in order to be less vulnerable:

  • In the first moments of a disaster, save your resources and your strength—help could take longer to reach you than you think.
  • Accept help from local resources, such as:
    • Local crisis management organizations (civil protection units, for example)
    • Humanitarian organizations present at the time of the disaster, for example, the Red Cross or Red Crescent
    • Religious organizations
    • Community centres, hospitals or healthcare centres
    • Institutions such as hotels, which are also good meeting places
    • The local people
  • Do not presume that your status as a foreign national gives you priority over the local people in need of aid.
  • Join forces with compatriots or other persons in the same situation and set up a network to avoid being isolated, especially in remote areas of the country. Women should try to connect with other women to counter the risk of assault, which is greater in difficult situations.
  • In a situation of political crisis, a formal demeanour is often the best attitude to adopt.
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Be proactive

Take the initiative, don't let events control you. Here are the steps to take:

  • Let your family and, if you are abroad for work, your employer, know that you are safe as soon as possible, via (if possible) text message, email, or social media messaging, which don’t overload telecommunications networks as much as voice calls.
  • Make your presence known to Canada's representatives in the country and tell them about your situation and needs.
  • If possible, call the Emergency​ Watch and Response Centre​.
  • Stay abreast of the situation through:
    • The local media, which are good sources of information on the situation in your area
    • The international media, which disseminate information on the international community's assessment of the situation, international aid, the efforts of the Canadian government and its position in the event of political turmoil
  • Consider the secondary risks associated with the initial disaster (water contamination, landslides, violence, etc.).
  • Analyze the situation and try to anticipate developments. Do not wait until the last minute to act. Take into account, among other things:
    • The level of political stability of the country in question and its openness to the outside world
    • The state of infrastructures
    • Ease of access to essential resources and services
  • Be prepared to report the situation upon your return by:
    • Keeping vouchers for your insurer
    • Taking pictures of the damage sustained
    • Having legal attestations drawn up, where applicable

If natural disaster or severe civil unrest occur, the government of Canada might implement measures to help Canadian nationals to evacuate to a safer place. Stay in touch with the Canadian authorities in order to know the evacuation procedures.

Know what to do after a disaster

Consult the After a disaster section to learn instructions and recommendations for getting back to normal in a safe manner.

Other useful links

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