Natural disasters. They're a part of life and yet we're so incredibly unprepared for them when they do come along. The effects of a natural disaster can be truly shocking, hitting fast and leaving behind a trail of epic destruction.
So can you ever really be guaranteed protection from the ires of mother nature? Yes, no and maybe, is perhaps not the cut and dry answer you’d like to hear. But when it comes to travel we all like to know that should the very worst happen, we'd have a life raft of sorts to get us home safely.
According to most travel insurance plans natural disasters are typically defined as a “flood, fire, hurricane, cyclone, tornado, earthquake, volcanic eruption, blizzard or avalanche that is due to natural causes.” It’s worth knowing that not all policies will cover the same events, for instance, some may omit volcanic eruptions or avalanches, and it's important to note those exclusions.
In this handy guide you’ll learn all about travel insurance in regards to avalanches, bushfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, and storms. You'll find out what type of cover is available for each of the above and how to ensure you will be be protected should the unexpected take place.
Looking to do a bit of natural disaster research? We also provide you with some helpful information as to where the worst types of events take place. Remember, the better prepared you are, the more informed your decisions can be.
Finally, if your holiday does take a hit we’ll tell you how to best salvage the situation. Knowing what’s required of you can take a load off should you run into trouble.
We all know the old adage; “you can't have too much of a good thing”. Unfortunately, you certainly can have too much snow! A sprinkling of snow falling on pristine landscape? Beautiful. A nice deep covering of snow on the mountain side? Perfect for skiing and boarding! Tonnes of the white stuff plunging towards you down a mountainside? Not so good!
If you’re serious about skiing and snowboarding, you need to be aware of the dangers of avalanches. These marauding torrents of snow, ice and assorted mountainside debris might look spectacular from far away, but when you’re in the firing line of an avalanche, it ain't that pretty.
Getting caught in an avalanche can mean broken bones and belongings- and that's if you're lucky. When you're at risk of an avalanche, taking out comprehensive ski insurance is vital.
Most people think of avalanches as a cascade of snow falling down a mountain, but avalanches can range in length and severity. A common avalanche is the “loose snow” type, in which low to medium density masses of snow move quickly down a mountainside.
Another type of avalanche is the “slab” variety, which occurs when densely packed blocks of snow roll down the mountain. This type is the more dangerous of the two, and can account for the majority of avalanche fatalities.
There are a multitude of factors that can cause avalanches, but there are two main ingredients; tall mountains and lots of snow! Avalanches occur when something triggers a collapse in a weak layer of snow, setting off a chain reaction which forces vast amounts of snow, ice and other debris down the mountainside at an alarming rate. Due to the unpredictable nature of snow fall and busy conditions at mountain resorts, this can happen at almost any time.
It's easy to become complacent when you are out and about in the mountains but don't underestimate the seriousness of avalanche warnings- these could save your life.
Got a mountainous adventure coming up? Hover over the map to see if your elevated destination falls into a high risk zone.
The information in the map below is provided as a general guide only. Please refer to avalanche.org for up-to-date information.
Avalanches can cause major disruption to your travel plans. That's where travel insurance comes in! Typically a policy will give you cover for any travel cancellations and expenses, loss of belongings, and the most important: personal injury.
These are some of the things you can claim for...
Of course, there may be some exclusions that apply to your cover. Should the following occur on your travels you may not have provision to claim:
1. Always heed travel warnings and take extra care in danger zones
Operators of ski resorts and other popular mountainous tourist destinations know their stuff. So it pays to always pay attention to their warnings at all times. While it is a myth that avalanches can be caused by sound, it is certainly true that they are often caused by unwary skiers wandering into danger areas. Note: You also run the risk of invalidating your travel insurance by not heeding clear travel warnings.
2. Sip 'n ski? Maybe not
Feel free to enjoy a drink or three after your ski session, but stick to non-alcoholic beverages before your hit the slopes! Avoid any temptation to ski after a few tipples; this can increase your risk of injury and impair your judgement, which is the last thing you need whilst navigating the white stuff. Again, any injuries incurred whilst you are intoxicated are unlikely to be covered by your travel insurance policy.
3. Contact your insurer as soon as it is safe to
Your insurance company needs to be kept up-to-date on all goings on. Keep in contact with them until you are safely back home. Recording all expenses will maximise your chances of a successful claim.
Don't get left in the cold following an avalanche, take out the right travel insurance policy and make sure you are protected!
Since the dawn of time, mankind has been harnessing the power of fire. Some might say fire is man’s best friend. But this is only true if your best friend is a scary, dangerous, unpredictable thing with a tendency to get out of control quickly and with lethal results!
We all know about the dangers of fires in our own homes and neighbourhoods, but there is something about travelling that can cause our mentality to shift. This is understandable – after all, travelling is all about freedom of the mind and body – but it is vital to stay informed, to stay aware and to stay safe when you are away. If you ignore the dangers of bushfires, prepare to get toasted!
Fires tend to strike in hot, dry destinations. That said, that doesn't mean a fire can't strike anywhere. Hover over the map to see if your travel destination is a typical "hot zone"! NOTE: The information in the map below is provided as a general guide only.
Bushfires can be devastating. There are a myriad of factors that can combine to cause a bushfire, but usually they are triggered by tinder-dry conditions and a spark from a dropped match, a lightning strike, or another seemingly innocuous event. The following are some of the worst bushfires in recent years:The Wallow Fire, 2011
The bushfires that struck Arizona and Mexico’s Bear Wallow Wilderness in 2011 were some of the most aggressive seen in recent years. The destruction of 2180 square kilometres was found to be caused by two careless campers and their abandoned campfire.The California Fires, 2014
The climate of California makes it particularly susceptible to bushfires, but 2014 saw more blazes than usual. A total of 7,865 bushfires were recorded throughout the summer, causing US$184.02 worth of damage.Black Saturday, 2014
Black Saturday is the official term given to the horrendous set of fires that struck the state of Victoria in 2009. The fires raged for over a month, leaving 4,500 square kilometres of burnt land in their wake and tragically claiming the lives of 173 people.
Even if you are not caught directly in the path of an inferno, bushfires are so devastating and unpredictable that they can cause massive disruption to travel. Fortunately, your travel insurance can help you with this. These are some of the events you can claim for...
Of course, there may be some exclusions that apply to your cover. Here are a few important points to keep in mind before you claims...
Here's what you need to do when the temperature starts to rise;
Keep a record: Your insurer will need to know about all additional purchases made and expenses incurred as a result of a fire. This includes additional travel tickets, accommodation receipts or medical bills, so keep all of this documentation with you.
Keep in contact with your insurer: Put your insurance company on speed dial and keep it there. If disaster strikes, you need to be in constant contact with your insurer. They need to be informed of all developments as soon as they occur, so keep that phone handy!
Get confirmation: Don’t make any major payments until you have the green light from the insurance company. Remember to confirm that all additional expenses will be covered before going ahead.
Get fired-up for your trip, but don't get burnt! Follow these tips and enjoy an exciting, inspiring and, above all, safe holiday.
The Earth’s tectonic plates are constantly moving, at times even colliding with one another. This produces a tremendous amount of energy in the earth’s surface, creating huge vibrations, leading to earthquakes. Although we only tend to hear about the worst occurrences, thousands of little earthquakes actually take place each year.
Earthquakes can strike anywhere but they are particularly likely to happen near a fault line (a place where two tectonic plates meet). The largest quakes will usually occur when two plates collide. For this reason, regions such as New Zealand, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Japan, the Americas and Indonesia are highly prone to earthquakes. PLEASE NOTE: The information in the map below is provided as a general guide only. Please refer to earthquaketrack.com for up-to-date information.
The following earthquakes take precedence as some of the absolute worst of recent times.
Luckily, major earthquakes occur only a few times a year and the odds of an earthquake occurring during a short visit are unlikely. Additionally, modern technology continues to improve and has made it easier to predict when and where an earthquake is likely to rumble.
If an earthquake has occurred at your holiday destination either before or after you’ve left home, you may be covered. But, before you travel it’s worth understanding the terms of your cover.
If the earthquake was not a known event when you bought your policy you would be covered for:
The recent devastating earthquake in Nepal killed and displaced thousands of people. Whilst a tremor this size is said to occur only once every hundred years, the quake had catastrophic consequences due to Nepal’s poorly built infrastructure. Whilst the odds of getting caught in an earthquake on holidays are unlikely, it’s always good to prepare for the worst. With popular tourist destinations such as Japan, Nepal and Indonesia all bearing the brunt of sizable earthquakes it’s important to have the facts and understand any necessary safety procedures.
Firstly, if you’re travelling to an earthquake prone region you should buy travel insurance and get a good understanding of the fine print. As well, make sure you’re registered at Smartraveller. Get to know the emergency phone numbers procedures for the region and keep your passport and photo ID secured or with you at all times. If you happen to be living overseas when an earthquake strikes an emergency back-up plan can be a very wise idea.
Earthquake survival tips will vary but it’s worth understanding the local safety codes. For instance, in countries with modern infrastructure, such as Japan, it’s thought that the best place to be during an earthquake is under a table in the middle of a room. On the other hand, in countries with structurally unsound buildings, the rule of thumb is to evacuate immediately. Brushing up on the area’s safety procedures can make all the difference when it comes to your security.
Depending on the state of disaster around you it may be advisable to return home immediately. If you are safe but have found yourself stranded due to cancelled flights and damaged infrastructure, you may incur significant accommodation and travel costs. Although these would be reimbursed by travel insurance, it’s advisable to keep any additional expenses to a reasonable minimum and hold on to your receipts.
No matter how experienced or conscientious a traveller you are, an unpredictable event such as an earthquake can turn your holiday upside-down. Making sure you’ve got travel insurance and understanding any significant exclusions can be the first step in managing a natural disaster.
Hurricanes are just strong winds, right? Wrong. By definition winds must reach 120 kmph before they are classified as a hurricane. They are amongst the most indiscriminately lethal and devastating events that nature can throw at you. While hurricanes are relatively rare, they are powerful enough to ruin a holiday.
Hurricanes can strike almost anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you need to cancel your trip and spend the holiday wrapped in a blanket under the bed. You just need to know the risks associated with: a) the location you are visiting, and b) the time of year. The Atlantic hurricane season usually lasts from May to September, but it is vital to read up on information specific to where you are going. Places such as the coast of North Carolina, the Bahamas or the Cayman Islands have hurricanes on average once every 1.5 years, so the risk is fairly high. Always keep an eye out for weather warnings and take heed of advice from the government before you travel.
Our map shows the typical paths of tropical revolving storms.
The following hurricaines take precedence as some of the worst of recent times.
In most cases travel insurance does cover you for natural disasters. The following are some of the typical events you can claim for.
Even if your travel insurance does cover losses, damage or injury caused by a hurricane can still be invalidated. Here’s how:
You might think of hurricanes as random, rampaging monsters, but in fact the weather bureau will often give out warnings well in advance of a hurricane. Always heed weather reports and travel warnings; if you are specifically advised not to travel because of a hurricane warning, your insurance company is unlikely to cover you in the event of a wind-related mishap!
Something else that could pose a problem is taking out insufficient cover. You wouldn't wander into a rain storm without an umbrella, so don't stray into hurricane territory without appropriate insurance. Basic travel insurance will cover you for medical bills only, leaving you unable to claim for damaged belongings, cancellations or other monetary losses in the event of a hurricane.
Top tip: Keep an eye on the cut-off dates for claim submissions, and keep a copy of your insurance policy's fine print with you at all times. You don't want to be precluded from claiming because of a technicality!
A handy rule of thumb; to ensure a successful claim, keep everything! Keep a record of every event that occurs as a result of the hurricane and get documented evidence or confirmation from airlines, local authorities, hotels or other businesses.
After you contact your insurer, don’t make any large payments until you receive confirmation that the payment will be covered. Keep a record of your communications and ask your insurer to do the same.
Once you’ve got the green light from your insurer, make the payment, but don’t forget to hold onto your receipts! All insurance companies will need proof of purchase before they agree to a payout, so keep hold of any evidence of the transaction, whether that is receipts, bank statements or any other documentation.
We love a storm! There’s nothing like being safe and sound at home when the rain starts to fall and forks of lightning start to flicker on the horizon. But what about when when storms get out of hand? Big storms can be bad news for anyone, but for travellers they can be disastrous. A good storm makes for a great photo-opportunity, but when that storm grows in severity, your travel plans can be ruined as a result.
Storms can affect you virtually anywhere in the world. Whether its a catastrophic cyclone in Fiji, torrential tornado in Toronto or horrendous hail storm in New York that shuts down road traffic or a snowstorm that freezes the tarmac and grounds flights, storms can have a devastating effect on international travel.
You should never underestimate the powerful impact of a storm. A storm can combine all the very worst weather conditions and wreak havoc on those unlucky enough to find themselves in its eye. The following weather conditions can prove incredibly dangerous and should be treated with utmost caution:
Travel cancellations, injuries, damaged belongings, spiralling costs; all of these can result from a particularly bad storm. This is why cover is crucial for your trip; you can't always predict which way the weather can turn.
There is a veritable deluge of things that you can claim for in the event of a storm, here are some examples:
Travel cancelled before you leave: If a major storm happens in your holiday destination before you leave, this is likely to put your travel plans on standby as flights to and from the destination may be affected by poor visibility. As long as you have kept all the paperwork relating to your travel plans and to your insurance policy, you should be able to claim. You must have purchased your cover BEFORE the storm!
Being stranded: While storms are usually predictable, they can also happen suddenly, which can cause a bit of a headache if you are mid-trip. If a storm has cancelled or grounded your flights, you may find costs beginning to spiral as you make alternative travel and accommodation arrangements. It is important to contact your insurance company as soon as you are affected whilst keeping a record of all correspondence and additional expenses you incur.
Personal injury or loss of belongings: If the worst happens and you get caught in the vicinity of an treacherous storm, keep a record of all medical treatment received and all belongings damaged or lost. Contact your insurance company immediately and keep a record of all communication.
If you get caught in a storm, or if a storm causes mass travel cancellations, you will want to claim back the costs incurred. Follow these tips to make this process as seamless as possible:
Read your policy documents: The best way to understand your cover and the claim process is to look at your Product Disclosure Statement.
There are several reasons why Hollywood loves a volcano; they are big, loud, spectacularly scary and also very deadly, making them perfect for a starring role in an action movie. Unfortunately, it is for these same reasons that an erupting volcano can be a pretty dangerous beast.
On the other hand, volcanoes are easy to spot (they are huge, immovable mountains after all) and their temper tantrums are fairly easy to predict. That said, their eruptions still manage to catch people off guard now and again, and even a dormant volcano can pose some serious hazards of its own (take for example, the continuing Bali ash cloud). If you are planning on entering one of Planet Earth’s volcanic danger zones anytime soon, you'll need to take note of the current travel warnings and get yourself insured early. As well, you'll need to make sure that your insurance covers injury, travel cancellation or loss of property; don’t just assume it does!
Volcanoes occur at the edge of tectonic plates. These plates are always moving, causing a large amount of friction where two plates meet. Often, one plate is forced beneath the other in what is known as a subduction zone. This process creates enormous amounts of heat and pressure, melting the rock beneath the Earth's surface, which is then expelled via an eruption. The fault lines of the Pacific rim have created some of the world's most famous - and infamous - volcanoes, included those found on the west coast of South America and in Krakatoa in Indonesia.
Pleased note, the information in the map below is provided as a general guide only. Please refer to volcanodiscovery.com for up-to-date information.
Absolutely not! Volcanoes are like bumper-size picnic hampers full of just about everything Mother Nature can throw at you. Obviously it is the big, firework display pyrotechnics of volcanic eruptions that grab the headlines, but they account for only a fraction of the dangers posed by volcanoes. Ever heard of tephra? These nasty little things are pieces of volcanic rock and solidified clumps of ash that get blasted out of a volcano when it erupts. Add acid rain and pyroclastic flows (slow moving lava flows that decimate everything in their path) to the mix and you’ve got yourself a recipe for extreme danger.
But it is the clouds of noxious gases and ash released by a volcano that are likely to cause you the most hassle. Recent eruptions in Bali and Iceland sent disruptive clouds drifting for hundred miles, grounding flights and delaying thousands of frustrated travellers.
There may be some exclusions that apply to your cover. The following could invalidate a claim...