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I grew up on the West Coast in a family where having 72 hour kits and food storage was a normal part of our daily life. During college, I worked for an emergency preparedness company and taught people how to be prepared for natural disasters. I spent most of my life feeling prepared and confident that I knew what to do if a big earthquake struck. I never thought I would experience an earthquake while traveling.

Imagine my surprise when one night, a couple of years ago, I experienced a major earthquake while traveling alone with my three young children in Santiago, Chile. We were just beginning our three month stay at the Grand Hyatt Santiago (now Hotel Santiago). I had just gotten my older two to sleep in the other room and was working on getting my baby to sleep when the shaking started.

I soon learned it was an 8.3 magnitude quake and the initial tremors lasted for three to five minutes.

a view of a city from a hill

Experiencing An Earthquake While Traveling

At first I didn’t realize what was happening but I quickly realized and rushed to wake my children in order to get to a safe space. Despite the noise from the pictures hitting the walls, lamps falling over, and the chandelier jingling around, I couldn’t wake them. They stayed put and I did my best to keep them safe while they laid asleep in bed.

The Aftershocks Began

Luckily I was able to get my husband and mom on the phone before they heard about the earthquake on the news. While I was on the phone with my mom, the aftershocks started.

With each rumble, my anxiety level got higher and higher. I wasn’t sure if we needed to evacuate the building. I was concerned about what I would do with two very heavy sleeping kids and a baby if evacuation ended up being necessary.

a group of people standing on a stage

Time to Take Action

To put my mind somewhat at ease, I looked around the hotel and gathered items for a “go bag”. A “go bag” is a small bag with a few essentials you can grab in case of evacuation. Once I packed up a few diapers, wipes, snacks, and changes of clothes, I started to feel better.

Some aftershocks were quite strong and each one sent a new wave of panic through my body. That night, there were over 70 aftershocks. One was a magnitude 7 and six were a magnitude 6 or above. I didn’t end up sleeping much.

Looking Back on My Experience With an Earthquake While Traveling

I’m glad Santiago is prepared for large earthquakes and the infrastructure handles the strain of large earthquakes. It was calming to know I had a few things in my hotel room to help get through an evacuation.

Most of all, I’m grateful for the eye opening experience that it was. I had never stopped to think about how I would handle an earthquake while traveling in a foreign country.

I hope you will come back as I continue to share things I learned after the earthquake. Some of the topics will include, resources you’ll want after a natural disaster, small things to toss in your suitcase to help you be better prepared, and what the hotel staff did following the earthquake.

Have you ever experienced an natural disaster while traveling?

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