Top 10 Things to Do if You Are Stuck at an Airport when an Earthquake Strikes US East Coast

On August 23rd, there was a 5.8 Earthquake on the US east coast that hits Nation’s Capital, was felt strongly in New York and luckily not many were hurt. It happened just hours after the strongest earthquake in Colorado in 40 years, and one in Colombia. Airports in NYC, DC, Virginia were shut down and power and cellphone lines cut. So while people couldn’t make calls or receive them, they could send text messages, tweet, post on Facebook and in other social networks and fuel all kinds of hot debates.

SimpliFlying We reached out to our partner, Philippe Scheimann from SOSTravelers.com and asked them for a guest article on what to do in such a situation, when a crises hits a region not well prepared to deal with it. Hence, here is the guest article by Philippe, which provides top 10 tips on what to do if you’re stuck at an airport after an earthquake (assuming you’re still connected to the internet)


1. Tell the world about yourself and get some urgent help

It is a good idea to update as soon as possible your status on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks so that you can tell the world about yourself, your situation and what you need. See for instance the story of a traveler stuck in India because of airlines strike, opening a Twitter account to get some help.

2. Find the right location in the airport, to charge your devices

You need to keep in mind that batteries of smart phones as well as laptops discharge quickly are quick to end. You’ll need to think of applications that require as little resources as possible such as texting instead of using voice services.

In some cases, the power may be down and yet generators may be working to provide some basic services. In these areas, it might be possible to recharge your batteries and a hot spot may be working. Here is a good site dedicated to helping you find power while travelling at airports around the globe

3. Find out what’s happening

During crisis like earthquakes, there is a need to find out what is really happening and filter all kinds of misinformation and rumors. It is recommended to follow official sources of information such as the US Geological Survey website whose updates can be accessed through Twitter by following accounts such as  earthquakebot programmed by Bill Snitzer.

It is also useful to take a look at Trendsmap.com or geochirp.com. Applications like geochirp allows to search in a specific location based on key words the people who are tweeting. Once you see the identity and the posts of those people, it is then possible to start a dialog, following them and more.

While radio might very much be considered a technology of the past, it is worth having a battery operated radio or  a MP3 player with radio. They take up little room and if the power goes out, these devices may be the only devices that will allow you to be updated from reliable sources.

4. See how you can help

In circumstances like an earthquake, it is crucial to help one another, share resources and skills.  Going through various posts, talking in real life with people around you may allow you to help in various ways as well as receive some help.

5. Use Twitter to follow airlines and airports

If Twitter is up and running, it is worth following accounts from the airport and various airlines in order to get some information and interacting with airport officials. You will need to find and use hashtags that are relevant to your situation. This way, you can be part of the conversation. This came in handy during the ashcloud too!


6. Use Facebook to follow/create pages on the situation

There is a good chance that a page or a group will have been created and devoted to the situation you are in. If there is no page nor group, it is very easy and straight forward to create it. update your status, find out if there is a group, if not create one group.

7. Use of Google+ to have useful discussions

Google+ is the new actor in the social network arena and it already has reached a meaningful amount of users. While there are still no business accounts connected to G+, there is a good quality of information and important interaction between users. See what Thom Miller has to say regarding G+ vs FB and the earthquake in Virginia in response to active supporters like Robert Scobble:

Thom Miller - I have about 100 messages on my G+ stream about the earthquake. I have three on Facebook ‘news feed’. What’s really funny about that is that most of my friends and family on Facebook are in Virginia..

8. Use your cell phone creatively

When power is down and cellphone lines are cut, cellphones may still be used in a … smart way taking into account that their batteries discharge quickly especially if you use multiple applications.

While it is probably a better choice to use text than voice applications, there are some free voice applications such as skype, google talk or Viber that also provide chat services. It is never a good thing to have to hang up a conversation right in the middle because your battery is dead.

If you see that the situation may last long, it is best to rely on text messages. As a reminder, text messages allow you in specific countries to post over networks like Twitter.

9. Find out who has the same needs around you

Natural events like earthquakes put everyone on the same boat. Some travelers have the same need that is to go from A to B. If the airport is closed, an airport located several hours drive may be open. While it might be possible to find some individual solutions for each traveler, it is recommended to find out who has the same needs around you and find a common solution such as chartering a bus together, renting a car or more. Social networks as well as basic social skills of starting to talk with your neighbor allow to find other persons.

10. Get help to travel/sleep/eat

It is recommended to purchase a $2/month membership and contact SOStravelers.com to re-arrange your travel plans. SOStravelers aims at helping stranded travelers by providing a platform for collective solutions and connecting them to experienced travel agents available 24×7.

An experienced travel agent will be able to access various platforms that travelers cannot access. The travel agent will find the solution even if it requires sending the traveler to another airport, find a room in a hotel when it is not possible to find one using automated services and more.

At SOSTravelers, we are also looking to provide collective solutions so that a group of travelers who may not know each other at first but share the same aims become an ad-hoc community. This community may then be able to find some cost effective solutions that would not have been found on an individual basis such as renting together a car, hiring a bus or even a plane.

We hope you found these tips useful. Do you have some of your own experiences to share? Please feel free to comment on the article or Tweet us (@simpliflying)


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