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Visiting Unfamiliar Places: Tips and Apps to Keep in Mind in an Emergency

Visiting new places can be exciting, but safety should be a priority, especially if you’re not a local. We can’t always shield ourselves and loved ones from the world, but we can be prepared.

With summer travels already being planned both domestically and internationally, Ted Florence, creator of Avenza’s PDF Maps app, who works with several recreational companies to make sure their customers aren’t lost in unfamiliar territory, shares a few tips when traveling to new areas:

  1. Designate a Meeting Spot: Whether you’re traveling alone or with a group, always designate a meeting spot and make others aware this is where to go in case of emergency. In an emergency, cell phone networks could get jammed, and many in an affected area will not be able to get in touch with concerned friends and family. Being somewhat familiar with the area you’ll be visiting is key to being prepared.
  2. Create an ICE ID on your Phone: Emergency personnel often look to a patient’s phone to find more information should a patient be unable to call for help themselves. An ICE, or ‘In Case of Emergency’ number should be included on your phone’s contact list along with medical insurance if possible. Apps like ICE or Emergency Contact can also be downloaded.
  3. Mapping your Route: In the city, we take it for granted that a Google-type app with turn-by turn directions will get us anywhere. The fact is, if cell service shuts down or you’re in a foreign country where cell reception isn’t available, you might be left to your own devices --literally. Apps such as Avenza’s PDF Maps app allows a traveler to download a map ahead of time from various map publishers. Once it’s on your device, it works offline working with your phone’s GPS to locate current positioning and relaying information such as coordinates and distance with no need for cell reception. Perfect in emergency situations or when you’re in the wilderness.
  4. 9-1-1 is Not Universal: If you’re traveling internationally, most know that 9-1-1 is not a universal number and an emergency number may vary from place to place. It’s always best to spend a few minutes researching the emergency numbers for a foreign country you’ll be visiting. Or, search the app store for the many apps that include the medical, police and fire emergency numbers for various countries around the world.
  5. “Charged” for Travel: Whether you’re traveling abroad or taking a weekend camping trip in the mountains, make sure your mobile device is fully-charged. Having an extra phone battery, or better yet, a solar charger is helpful when there isn’t an outlet to recharge. The extra boost might sound like an unneeded expense, but it’s a worthwhile investment in an emergency.