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1.  Register at one or more hospitals.  You can do this free-of-charge as a precautionary measure, allowing you to cut down on the amount of paperwork you’ll have to complete in the event of an emergency.

2.  Get health insurance and make sure you understand your coverage (including whether medical evacuation is included in your plan).  Keep in mind, however, that some hospitals will not be able to offer direct billing outside of office hours, so no matter how comprehensive your health insurance plan is, you should always have an emergency stash of cash on hand.

3. Put together an emergency kit.  This should include basic first aid items, a copy of your passport, a copy of your insurance card, a copy of a valid credit card, a list of any known allergies and pertinent medical information (including current vaccinations), a copy of nearby hospital contact details (including address, telephone number, and map, if available), your consulate’s 24-hour emergency number, and cash (many local hospitals will demand cash up front before beginning treatment).  Keep one kit at home, one at work, and one in your car. If an emergency strikes, call the hospital while you’re on your way so that they can properly prepare for your arrival. 

4. Identify 2-3 bilingual interpreters or friends whom you can contact if needed.  Examples include a secretary, Mandarin teacher, or China Helpline, a paid translation service.  Even if you speak Chinese, you may have difficulty articulating your thoughts in the heat of the moment.

5. Identify emergency facilities and tour hospitals in your area.  Keep in mind that not all hospitals treat children.

6. Create an emergency action plan and share it with your ayi, driver, and emergency contacts.

7. Get trained in CPR and basic first aid, along with your ayi and driver.  Many facilities in Shanghai offer training in both English and in Mandarin.

8. The emergency number in Shanghai is 120.  This hotline is staffed by English-speakers, but an ambulance should only be called if the patient needs to be immobilized to be transported to the hospital.  Keep in mind that ambulances are frequently not the fastest way to get to the hospital (cars do not give way to ambulances in China!).  Ambulance drivers will need to be paid in cash upon arrival at the hospital.  In most cases, you can request that the ambulance takes you to a specific hospital. 

9. Specify a legal guardian for your child who is empowered to make medical decisions in the event that neither parent can be contacted.

10. Walk through a sample scenario, noting length of time of commute to hospital, location of entrance, etc.

Hopefully you’ll never have to use your emergency action plan, but as with most things in life, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Do you have an emergency plan at home?

Expats encounter certain challenges while living abroad, particularly when faced with an emergency.  It’s something no one likes to think about, but it’s imperative that you have a well-thought out plan for dealing with medical emergencies.  The following are ten tips to help you effectively prepare for the worst case scenario: