If you're planning on vacationing this summer, City of Lakewood Emergency Management Coordinator Christine Badger asks you to remember the following before you embark on your summer journey:
Travel within the United States
- Start with a plan. Read up on the types of issues to which your destination is prone; tornados, severe thunder storms, extreme heat, etc. (www.DisasterAssistance.gov is a good starting point). Having a basic understanding of the causes and effects of different natural disasters will help you become better equipped to handle them. Also, know what the warning sirens mean. In Hawaii it means move to high ground or the roof of your hotel. In Oklahoma it means a tornado is imminent in the area and move to a safe location or if in the path and in your car, get out and lay flat on the ground or in a ditch. Always listen to a local radio station for updates when weather turns bad. Once at your destination read the safety information in the hotel welcome and information book.
- No matter how far you travel, always keep the following with you as a Travel Emergency Kit:
- Flashlight with batteries. Keep close to you while sleeping. Find one with a cell charger!
- First aid kit with medications of all who are traveling. Put in your carry-on if flying.
- Important medical information, especially for seniors. If the emergency happens at night medical information may not be accessible by phone. Insurance cards!!
- Basic car essentials and car disaster kit. (found on www.ready.gov )
- Be sure to leave a travel itinerary and a list of contact and personal information (Passport ID numbers, medical insurance etc.) with a trusted friend or family member. Once you've gotten to your destination, you should designate an easily accessible meeting spot with your travel companions. This way, if you get separated, you won't have to rely on telephones (which may not be working) to find people.
- Identity Theft: Before you leave, take a few moments to remove anything you won't need from your wallet, such as credit cards you don't plan on using while away. As you're doing that, create an inventory of everything in your wallet — that will make it easier to fill out a report should your wallet get lost or stolen. You can do this the old-fashioned way (with a pen and paper), include the customer service lines of each card. Keep the paper in a safe location while you travel.
- Stop your mail. A pile of newspapers on your doorstep or an overflowing mailbox isn't just an invitation to burglars; savvy fraudsters can use information in unopened bills and other letters to worm their way into your life. Before you leave town, contact the post office and place a hold on your mail, or ask a neighbor or friend to collect your correspondence until you return.
- Lock up everything, not just your door. Store any sensitive documents (including the items you just cleaned out of your wallet) in a locked compartment in your home just in case of a burglary. Make sure each electronic device has a strong password set so that a stranger can't easily access your information, and encrypt the drive on the device if you can. If you have an Android device, you can do this by navigating to your settings and clicking on the security option; iOS automatically encrypts your information when your device is locked. Have the capability to wipe your phone, tablet or laptop of any sensitive information should you lose it; both Android and iOS devices can be wiped remotely.
- Your social media accounts can leave you vulnerable: Take a closer look at your privacy settings! It's important to do an inventory of what information you are posting and is it public or private?. To see who has access to the information you post to Facebook, click on the little padlock icon that appears in the top right-hand corner of your profile. Your Instagram privacy settings can also be managed through Facebook or directly through the mobile app by clicking "Edit Your Profile" and setting your posts to private.
- In case of fire, know your exit route. When you find your hotel room also find the nearest exit. Count how many doors it is to the exit. This allows you to feel your way to the exit should it be dark in the hallway and you need to evacuate.
- Stay out of the elevator during a lightning storm…..I know this now due to a recent experience in Florida and getting stuck in the hotel elevator for about 30 minutes before maintenance could get it to move to the nearest floor.
- Register your trip with the State Department at www.Travel.State.gov . Registration will make your where abouts known in case it's necessary to contact you during an emergency, such as an earthquake. In addition, you will receive up to date information on security conditions. I did this for all of the students and myself when we went to Costa Rica for three weeks a few years ago. I also had medical releases (notarized) from their parents, allowing me to made quick medical decisions if necessary……..and it did.
- Write down important information, and keep it in a secure place. Don't only rely on your cell phone or laptop to store your emergency contact numbers, etc. Keep a hard copy back-up on you. You never know where you might be when a disaster strikes.
- Know the location and how to contact the closest US Embassy or US Consultants. This is where you need to go to get help leaving the country especially if the airports have been closed. After a catastrophic event, is not the time to be asking for directions to the closest US Embassy. Every time you travel into a new region, look up the address and write it down. They may also be able to help with legal trouble.
- Prepare for National Disasters which occur in that region. Take five minutes to go to www.Fema.Gov/plan and review what you need to do for those specific disasters prior to traveling.
- Health insurance: Carry your insurance card with you. Inquire about what coverage you have internationally: most likely you will need to take out specialist travel insurance. In some countries, medical costs are very low. However, many overseas hospitals will insist on having payment for services before providing (or continuing) medical care. Having an insurance card may show the hospital that you have sufficient resources to provide medical care, even if you have no money on hand.
- Join IAMAT (International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers), a nonprofit organization that provides health information and referrals to English-speaking local doctors around the world. There is no fee to join, and membership is valid for one year.
- Carry money wisely and in multiple forms. Spread out your money, both on your person and in your bags. Furthermore, try to have multiple financial resources available. For example, a budget traveler might take a supply of cash for most ordinary purchases, keep an ATM or debit card for cash withdrawals, and carry a credit card or two for emergencies or to buy airline tickets. Each of these (cash, credit cards, ATM card) can themselves be a separate means of getting money. Keep them in safe places, but split between your bags and your person.
- Important phone numbers: Carry in your wallet the local phone numbers for emergency services, such as ambulance or police. On GSM phones, the number 112 is guaranteed to connect to emergency services, no matter what country you're in. In a pinch, you can also try 911, which many countries forward to the local number. Travel insurers often have a 24 hour reverse charges helpline. Also carry the phone number of your country's embassy and your credit and ATM card issuer (they may even have a reverse charges number) so that you can report a card stolen or find out why it isn't working.
Travel safe and smart!! Have a fantastic trip!