Thursday, July 24, 2008

Know the Local Hazards

I recently returned from a week-long conference. After the spouse got tired of staking out real estate by the pool, it was time for a run. My only comments as I headed off to another conference session were to use sunscreen since the sun in the desert was much more intense than where we live, to take a bottle of water since the dry, windy climate could lead more quickly to dehydration, and to watch out for rattle snakes. “Watch out for what???” If I recall correctly it was a quick run.

It is important to know what the local hazards are whether you are on vacation, recently moved to a new area, or are temporarily assigned to a new location. Since each location has its own inherent hazards, it is a good idea to know what they are before you get there (or as soon after arrival as possible). It’s a good bet that the hazards where you live are barely a blip on your radar since you are used to taking precautions for them, however when we relocate, everything is new, including possible physical, social, biological or other hazards. Also, hazards may be location specific, seasonal, or location specific and seasonal. Here’s a number of hazards that may be common in one area and unknown in others:

  • Buried cluster bombs in Central America and South East Asia complements of Uncle Sam and the various wars that have been fought in these areas. Most areas where these are a threat are marked but you still need to watch your step in some places.

  • Gang violence in most major American cities. You wouldn’t want to be caught dead (pun intended) in rival gang colors in east LA.

  • Pickpockets in most cities world wide.

  • Kidnapping is a Fortune 500 business in some countries. It isn’t everyday you head off to work and have to worry about being ransomed back to your family before lunch. In some countries this is a definite concern.

  • The cultural view of safety precautions. These vary from stringent in some areas and industries to non-existent in other parts of the world. If you always wear your seat belt at home, they may not even be available in your third-world vacation location of choice.

  • Wild life has its own hazards--bears in the northwest, scorpions in your boots in the southwest, ‘gators in the south east…you get the idea.

  • The cute female that is cuddling up to you at an Asian bar…that isn’t all female. While this usually isn't a safety hazard, your buddies will probably never let you live it down so it qualifies as a social hazard.

  • Another social (and legal) hazard is kissing someone in public, even your own spouse, in strict Islamic countries--it can land you in jail.

  • Many rivers in early summer can be dangerous. The water looks inviting but it could be running cold, high, and fast, and be a drowning hazard. Also, there are usually snags on the bottom of rivers that have collected over the winter.

  • Where you live there may be a lake with bass and trout, however in the tropics you are likely to find sharks, piranhas, barracudas, and jellyfish. Sea snakes, Puffer fish in Japanese restaurants, and electric eels are also concerns.

  • We take it for granted that you can turn on a tap nearly anywhere in the US and take a drink, brush your teeth, or freeze it to make ice cubes, but this is not always possible in many locations around the world—gastrointestinal upset, putting it nicely, will be the result.

  • Natural disasters differ from area to area. If you are new to coastal Florida, find out what precautions to take against hurricanes. Ditto if you are on the west coast in regards to earthquakes, landslides and wild fires, and the north, mid west and east coast in regards to snow storms.

The bottom line is to take a bit of time whenever you find yourself in a new location. Assess the situation, make a note of anything that may impede your safety, and take steps to protect yourself.


  1. Friend of mine inssisted on coming with me abroad. I ate the food and drink the water, nothing happen. He got diarrea for about two days and stomach cramps,

    I felt really bad for him but, you must built some resistance for your stomach to tolerate this changes I told him.

    I hope I dont loose this resistance if I remain eating all these sterilized food, here in the U.S.A.

    Raggedy Man

  2. There are many other examples, such as:

    Local water supplies: Many bodies of water in the north east USA are contaminated with mercury that comes from the air via coal fired plants in the midwest. Eat too many fish from these waters and you run the risk of mercury poisoning.