Extreme weather and natural hazards

How to prepare and what to do if you’re affected by extreme weather and natural hazards while travelling or living abroad.


Extreme weather occurs and natural hazards exist across the world. They may affect you if you are travelling or living overseas. You may hear the term ‘natural disasters’ to describe these events.

This page has guidance for if you are travelling or living in an area which is prone to extreme weather or may have natural hazards. It includes how to be prepared and what to do if you’re likely to be affected.

There are many extreme weather events and other natural hazards that might happen around the world. These include:

  • tropical cyclones (also known as hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones)
  • flooding
  • earthquakes
  • volcanic eruptions
  • tsunamis
  • wildfires

These events could trigger other risks, such as landslides (which can occur after heavy rains or earthquakes), aftershocks or outbreaks of diseases.

Natural hazards and extreme weather events can seriously damage and disrupt a country’s infrastructure, including buildings, roads and bridges, water supplies, drains and communications. The effects can be more extreme and serious if this infrastructure has not been designed properly to withstand these events, or to protect you while they are taking place.

Once the event has happened, you should be aware of possible risks relating to damaged buildings or other infrastructure. Be aware that events in places away from where you are can still cause disruption, such as through loss of power, communications or transport services.

It may take time for airports to re-open and there may be serious shortages of accommodation, food, water and health facilities. It may be harder for you to receive help from humanitarian workers if it is difficult to access the area due to transport infrastructure damage or flooding.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s (FCDO) ability to help British nationals may be limited (perhaps severely) in these circumstances. We cannot ensure your safety and security in another country. The relevant authorities in the country or territory you are in are responsible for your safety and security.

Take local advice on how hazards may affect you.

You can find information about natural hazards that can be expected to happen in a country on the relevant country’s travel advice pages.

Tropical cyclones

Every year, tropical cyclones cause considerable loss of life, do immense damage to property, and damage transport, electricity and communication infrastructure.

Tropical cyclones feed on heat that is released when moist air rises. ‘Hurricane season’ happens in the months in which an area of sea is at its warmest.

Highest risk:

  • June to November in the Northern Hemisphere Tropics (Caribbean, Atlantic, Southeast Asia, Pacific, Far East)
  • November to April in the Southern Hemisphere Tropics (for example, East Africa coast)

Tropical cyclones can cause:

  • high winds: buildings can be damaged or destroyed; trees, power and telephone lines fall; flying debris becomes dangerous
  • storm surge: a hurricane can cause a temporary rise in sea level of several metres which can flood coastal areas and damage buildings on the shoreline
  • very heavy rainfall: this can cause localised or widespread flooding and mudslides

Find out why tropical cyclones happen and how they are categorised.


Floods can be caused by heavy rainfall or as the result of a tropical cyclone or tsunami. Heavy rainfall and flooding can cause devastation and loss of life. It can also severely impact transport infrastructure.

You may be at risk of drowning during the flood. After the flood, you are at increased risk of water-borne diseases like malaria or typhoid fever.

Find out more about flooding from TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre), the World Health Organisation and the Met Office.


There is a higher risk of earthquakes in certain parts of the world that sit along or near fault lines in the Earth’s crust. Earthquakes can cause loss of life and property, and damage to transport and other infrastructure.

Destruction from an earthquake can depend on several factors, including:

  • the magnitude (strength)
  • the length
  • the local standards to reduce damage from earthquakes, such as building regulations

Even if you are not near the centre of an earthquake, you may still see the effects of it. There can be aftershocks after an initial earthquake.

Find out more about earthquakes from the World Health Organisation. The British Geological Survey also tracks significant earthquakes in the last 60 days globally.

Volcanic eruptions

There are many volcanoes located around the world. If a volcano erupts, this can cause loss of life and widespread damage to property and transport and other infrastructure.

The impact of an eruption depends on many things, including:

  • how close the volcano is to towns and cities
  • whether there is any warning of the eruption

The effects may include:

  • ash and gas being released into the air, making it harder to see or breathe
  • contamination of water supplies
  • other extreme weather events (such as floods or wildfires)

Find out more about volcanoes from the British Geological Survey, and health advice from TravelHealthPro.


Tsunamis are very dangerous and will often cause widespread destruction, including to homes and infrastructure.

You may be at higher risk of a tsunami if you live in a low-lying coastal area or an island.

The impact of a tsunami can depend on:

  • how fast the tsunami is moving
  • how many waves of the tsunami there are
  • whether there is any warning

You may be in danger during the event itself, such as being at risk of drowning or being crushed by debris, or after the event, where you are at increased risk of water-borne diseases like malaria or typhoid fever.

Find out more about tsunamis from the British Geological Survey and the World Health Organisation.


A landslide is the mass movement of material, such as earth or debris, down a slope. They can be caused by other natural disasters, including heavy rain and earthquakes.

Find more information about landslides from the British Geological Survey.

Extreme heat

Intense heat can be dangerous. The risks include: 

  • dehydration 
  • overheating 
  • heatstroke 

See TravelHealthPro for more information on the health risks of extreme heat.  


Wildfires are dangerous and unpredictable. They can start easily and spread quickly, particularly during times of extreme heat.  

Causing a forest fire can be a criminal offence, even if unintentional. You should:

  • extinguish cigarette ends properly
  • not leave empty bottles behind
  • follow local rules and signs when lighting barbecues; often barbecues are only allowed in designated areas on a concrete base
  • always douse barbecues before leaving

In some countries, open fires and smoking are banned in areas at risk of wildfires.  

Read about the health risks of wildfires on TravelHealthPro website

If your travel plans include an area at risk from wildfires, contact your travel operator or accommodation provider.

What you can do to prepare for extreme weather

It’s sometimes difficult to predict where, when and at what strength an extreme weather or other event will strike, and therefore what the scale and type of disaster may be. For example, tropical cyclones can veer off-course, change speed or suddenly intensify or weaken. The course of a tropical cyclone cannot always be accurately predicated and there may be a degree of uncertainty (a ‘margin of error’) in the cyclone’s path of up to 50 miles.

Historical information on the location of flooding or earthquakes can help local authorities and populations to be aware of the risks. However, these events can often happen with little or no notice, or in unexpected areas.

If you’re travelling to, or living in, a region that is commonly affected by natural hazards, stay alert to the risks. You should:

  • make sure you have appropriate travel insurance before any travel
  • monitor the progress of approaching cyclones or storms using websites such as the US National Hurricane Centre, and local weather and media reports
  • find out more about local procedures, such as the location of any shelters
  • keep up to date with Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) travel advice by signing up to receive email alerts when the travel advice is updated for the country you’re in
  • read our guidance about what to do if you are affected by a crisis abroad
  • think about how you, or your travel plans, may be personally affected by an event and what personal preparations you might make
  • ask your tour operator, airline and travel insurance provider what their terms and conditions are if you are affected by an extreme weather event before or during your trip
  • countries have national disaster management agencies and many have early warning systems (such as for tsunamis in the Indo-Pacific region)

What you should do if you have warning of an event

If you become aware of an extreme weather event that is forecast to affect the country you’re in, you should:

  • sign up to receive email alerts when FCDO travel advice is updated
  • keep in touch with your travel or tour operator and your hotel (where applicable)
  • monitor local radio, TV and press
  • follow the advice of local authorities, including any evacuation orders
  • be familiar with advice that is specific for hazards (such as ‘drop, cover, hold’ in an earthquake)
  • check in with family and friends in the UK
  • be prepared in case you need to move to a safe place at short notice – keep any essential items and supplies such as travel documents and essential medication together

Airports, transport networks or hotels may shut down if a hurricane approaches.

If you are a humanitarian aid worker travelling to an area affected by natural disaster, read TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre) advice for travelling to areas of humanitarian crisis.

Sources of information


We welcome your views on the support we provide, to help us to identify what we do well and what we could do better. Contact us using our feedback contact form.

Alternatively write to us:

Consular Feedback Team
Consular Directorate
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH

Telephone +44 (0)20 7008 5000


You can read the disclaimer relating to this guidance.

Published 22 March 2013
Last updated 13 May 2024 + show all updates
  1. Information about extreme heat and preventing wildfires added.

  2. Updated information for if you are travelling or living in an area which is prone to extreme weather or may have natural hazards, how to be prepared and what to do if you’re likely to be affected.

  3. Guidance fully reviewed and updated.

  4. Update to page information/content

  5. Trying to get it to appear live

  6. Corrected Topic and Detailed guidee category fields

  7. First published.