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Monday, December 29, 2014

A Somber Reminder: Emergency Preparedness

After a weekend of holiday celebrations, the world watched in horror as yet another tragedy struck the airways. On December 28, 2014, AirAsia Indonesian Flight QZ8501, in route to Singapore, went missing. There were 162 people on board, a majority of whom were Indonesian. The flight lost communication with air traffic control at 6:24 local time over the Java Sea. No distress call was ever made by the crew. Bad weather had been reported in the area, and the pilot had asked for permission to climb to a higher flying altitude to avoid very dense storm clouds. The request was denied, as there was a lot of air traffic at the time, and this plane went missing only five minutes later.

This has been a devastating year for aviation in Asia, as this marks the third loss of a plane (the first was Malaysia Airline Flight MH370 which disappeared in March over the Indian Ocean, and the second was Malaysia Airline flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine).

With advances in technology and improvements in air travel, it is easy to overlook the dangers of flying, as in general, it is a very safe means of transportation. This event serves as a reminder for the importance of emergency planning when traveling, as disasters such as this are unpredictable.   

Planning for a worst case scenario is not one that we look forward to.  It is a morbid consideration to comprehensively plan for what should happen upon our unexpected demise.  The only thing you can feel good about is that once you do have a plan, a peace of mind prevails.  But that plan should be revisited and updated as necessary.  And what good is a plan if nobody else knows about it? 

I think of the families of those that survive the passengers of AsiaAir 8501.  How many of those know what their loved one’s intentions are?  Did they actually have a Last Will & Testament?  If so, where is it?

"...what good is a plan if nobody
else knows about it?"
For AirAsia, contacting those families is a challenge.  Most travelers neglect to complete the additional information on their itineraries listing an emergency contact.  Then comes the added challenge of where to repatriate recovered remains.  What about the actual identification of those remains? 

These issues are not limited to air travel, as witnessed in the ferry fire in the Adriatic Sea this week. More than 400 passengers were traveling on the Norman Atlantic between the Greek port of Igoumenitsa and the Italian port of Ancona when the fire began. At least ten people were killed in this wreck, with weater conditions making for an extremely challenging rescue effort. Rescuers will face similar challenges to those in the plane recovery mission as they attempt to identify the deceased and notify their loved ones.

Emergency plans for every trip are a signature feature for all members of Vetted International’s Travel Assistance program. Our Travel Assistance staff will work with you to ensure that you and your family are prepared for emergencies, including ones of this type. With membership, one of our Travel Assistance experts will assist you in creating a Record of Emergency Data, or RED file. This provides us with information about who to contact in case of emergency, and gives you the peace of mind in knowing that your loved ones will be notified should you be injured or killed while away from home.   As an option, our DNA bank will securely store specimens in the event one is needed for remains identification.  Further, all programs include emergency medical evacuation and remains repatriation services so that the traveler can be returned home.

Our members can upload any document they wish to our secure portal.  Many choose to upload a copy of their passport, Record of Emergency Data (RED),  Living Wills, and Last Will & Testament.  In the case of an air disaster, Vetted can expedite the handling of the injured or deceased traveler’s care or repatriation without delay.

To learn more about emergency preparedness plans, or to speak with a Travel Assistance expert about organizing your own RED file, please contact us. We are eager to help you in making travel as stress-free as possible. The importance of emergency readiness is the grave reminder we can take away from this horrible incident, and Vetted is committed to providing you and your loved ones with 24/7 care when crises occur.

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