Unit Safety Rep shares vacation disaster story, avoidance

  • Published
  • By Gary R. Gray
  • 341st Force Support Squadron
Did you ever have one of those trips? One that was great...for the first hour? And then, well, it kind of fell apart... 

Let's say you had a mid-May trip to Mount Rushmore. Not that long of a drive, and the weather starts out nice. From there you plan to visit your mom in Omaha. You have a nice two-week break that you deserve. With plenty of time, you even decided to take your family for a little scenic tour into Wyoming and then head over to Rapid City, S.D. Pretty easy, huh? 

Then it starts... 

Because you rushed, you missed taking a quick view of the weather forecast for Wyoming and you didn't see the weather buildup of a freak snowstorm. You also forgot to lay out some blankets and snack foods for the two hours you waited after pulling over for the storm. And, yes, you probably should have taken more notice to the starter problems the car had been signaling for the past month. Try getting a new starter in Sussex, Wyo. 

You thought you had planned well by bringing along emergency cash for the trip, but then you left it in unlocked luggage in the motel room in Rapid City, S.D. And oh, the misery of those mosquito bites to the kids? Yes, the insect repellent would have saved the family a lot of grief. 

But you know what? That wasn't the worst. When you finally got to Omaha, Neb., you got that phone call that we all dread. It was from your neighbor back home. He said it took him a couple days to find a phone number where he could reach you. 

He told you the police came by your house because someone broke in through a back window of your house and snuck out with almost $10,000 in personal property. You were also really embarrassed when your neighbor asked why you didn't stop delivery of the newspaper or, at least, why you didn't ask him to watch the house while you were gone. Yes...should have done that! 

A simple 30 minutes worth of planning would have made the trip pleasant for the whole family. Follow a few easy steps: 

- Plan for someone to watch the house and pick up mail and deliveries. Make arrangements to have the lawn mowed. 

- Check out the vehicle. If people do not inspect the vehicle on their own, spending a few extra bucks to have a trained specialist check it out will pay off in the long run. 

- Assemble an emergency kit for the drive. Include up-to-date maps, an address book, a flashlight, road flares or reflectors, an extra set of car keys, jumper cables, screwdrivers, pliers, a fire extinguisher, duct tape, etc. 

- Check the route and weather conditions. Every state has a road conditions Web site to view potential hazards. 

- Know the weather conditions of the vacation site. Pack the insect repellent as well as the proper clothing for that area. 

- Never pick up a hitchhiker. 

- Plan to stop every few hours to rest. People should stay alert and be aware of what is happening around them. People must take immediate action to remove them self from any potentially dangerous situations. 

- Always lock the car when entering or leaving it. Park in well-lit, busy areas and check the vehicle's interior and surrounding area before entering. People should not advertise they are a tourist. Place maps and travel brochures in the glove compartment. 

- Never carry large amounts of cash; use traveler's checks. Keep a record of traveler's check numbers and credit card numbers in a safe place. Have telephone numbers to call in case checks or credit cards are lost or stolen. 

If planning to travel outside the United States, spend a few minutes on the government
Web sites, www.USA.gov or www.travel.state.gov and check out the tons of information available regarding travel tips. 

In short - do your homework! Plan ahead! 

And please don't let the children forget their MP3 player. People who have you ever listened to a 12-year-old whine for two weeks about why it's critical they listen to the Jonas Brothers! Think it through - make it the best vacation of all!