When the London 2012 Paralympic Games conclude the week of Sept. 9, the British navy reportedly will send a task force to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, where it will participate in amphibious exercises off the coasts of Albania, Sardinia and Turkey before lingering off the coast of Cyprus.
Ostensibly, the upcoming exercises are meant to prepare the navy for evacuating Syria of British citizens. Indeed, the ongoing civil war in Syria has prompted several Western countries to consider evacuation plans for their citizens who remain in the war-torn country. Some countries already have issued travel warnings against Syria, while others have advised their citizens to vacate the country. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany have closed their embassies in Syria and are less able to assist their citizens there.
Foreign nationals should take full advantage of their governments' evacuation assistance regardless of the country in which they temporarily reside; British citizens in Syria are no exception. However, government planning is no substitute for personal evacuation plans, which are vital for any citizen in a foreign country.
Evacuation plans are essential for all expatriates who live in developing countries, including diplomats, businessmen, aid workers and seasonal residents. Natural disasters, mob violence from civil disturbances, terrorism and war can all precipitate evacuations. Natural disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti or the 2004 tsunami in Asia, erupt suddenly, while other events, such as the civil unrest in Syria, develop slowly. The latter instances give foreign citizens ample opportunity to leave; in Syria, foreign governments encouraged their citizens to vacate months ago. But even in such situations, events that require evacuation can occur abruptly, which leaves expatriates little time to plan their exits.
The potential for evacuation is not confined to developing countries. Many foreigners fled Japan following the March 2011 earthquake that damaged a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, and the 2010 wildfires in Moscow prompted a sudden and massive evacuation. No one expected the fires to worsen so quickly.