Summer is the most popular time to travel. I love taking walking trips each summer. Despite this, the steady stream of recent terrorist attacks threatens to turn vacation dreams into holiday nightmares. Within the last two months in Britain alone–which was long considered a safe haven for international tourists–has been hit by a number of attacks, including one at a concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead and 116 injured, another at London Bridge which killed eight people and injured 48, and a third last week outside a mosque, which killed one person and injured 11.
The recent attack in the Istanbul Airport was a grim reminder of the reasons the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was forced to adopt stringent security protocols in airports throughout the world. Unfortunately, the emphasis on security equates to excessively long lines at security checkpoints, thousands of missed flights, and mounting aggravation among travelers. In fact, according to a report done in May 2016, on American Airlines, alone, more than 70,000 passengers missed flights due to TSA-related delays. I’ve been with some humans at the airport when they missed a flight. Temper, temper! Passengers of other airline carriers also miss flights due to security checkpoints, which can result in wait times of several hours.
Despite the frustration, most travelers are willing to endure security measures because they realize the importance of airline travel safety. But there are additional steps you can take to ensure your safety as you travel by air this summer:
Before heading overseas, check the U.S. Department of State website which advises U.S travelers about the safety or lack thereof relative to foreign destinations. The site provides travel alerts, which are short-term advisories tied to specific events; and travel warnings, which are recommendations about countries which should be avoided, altogether. Some areas currently included on the travel warnings’ list include Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Turkey, and Ukraine. On May 31, the U.S. Department of State issued a Europe Travel Alert to warn about the risks associated with traveling to Europe during the summer months.
Even those destinations not currently included on an active warning list could prove problematic, as intelligence gathering is an inexact science. But don’t let that keep you from traveling. According to the National Safety Council, Americans are 353 times more likely to die from a slip-and-fall accident than from a terrorist attack. And data released by the CDC asserts that we are 110 times more likely to succumb to contaminated food than from an act of terror. So don’t ignore the risks. Just don’t let fear keep you from enjoying a vacation or traveling for business.
Tips for safe and comfortable overseas travel
- Be respectful of others’ cultures and institutions. If, for example, the recommended dress code for visiting a church/holy site/mosque requires you to cover your arms and legs, respect the request.
- Learn basic native-language phrases. If you speak English and are traveling to a country with limited English speakers, take the time to learn and practice words to help you make basic requests.
- Avoid large crowds or protests where there is an elevated risk of danger. For more about this, check out our recent post about safety during civil unrest.
- Add the U.S. Embassy’s 24—Hour Hotline to your cellphone contacts. If only I had opposable thumbs!
- Carry your hotel’s native language business card to show cab drivers and police, if necessary.
- Take pictures of your passport photo, driver’s license and credit cards and email them to yourself. Keeping the photos on your phone instead of emailing them is inadvisable in case your phone is lost or stolen. If you travel with a canine companion, this type of theft is less likely.
- Avoid confrontation whenever possible. Don’t attract attention by arguing with someone unnecessarily. Try to calmly settle disagreements, especially if you are in a crowded setting.
Airport Security and Safety
Situational awareness is essential when navigating airports and all related security procedures. For example, if you see someone leave a bag on the ground for an extended period, alert airport police. Will this mean that you and other travelers might potentially miss your flight due to security protocols? Yes! But it’s important to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s request that “If You See Something, Say Something.” My mantra is “If you want something, eat something.”
- Only allow official personnel to inspect or move your luggage. Always keep an eye on your belongings. This is especially important in curbside loading/unloading areas where people have not been screened. Someone could potentially tamper with your luggage before you check it in and you could end up unwittingly carrying an incendiary device on board.
- Keep your tickets and passports close to your person at all times – not dangling out of your purse or pocket or resting on top of your bags.
- Watch your valuables go through x-ray machines and pick them up as quickly as possible. Loudly alert security staff if you see someone pick up your bag or loose articles such as your watch or wallet or tennis balls (you know – the things that matter most).
- Don’t make jokes about “terrorists” or “bombs” or other loaded language. TSA agents and foreign airport officials are working to keep you safe. Making this kind of a joke could land you in serious trouble.
Despite my wisecracks, it’s important to remember that airport security and traveling safely are no laughing matter. Follow these tips to ensure you come back home to everyone in your family…even those of us of the four-legged variety.
Remember that safety is a daily priority – whether you are working at home or traveling the globe. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
This summer, whether you plan to enjoy a stay-cation or leave your house for a short or extended period of time, there are several safety-related things to consider. In our ongoing three-week series about summer safety, we will cover safety at home, while traveling, and around water. To read part one of our series, click here. In this part two post, we will focus on ways to ensure personal safety relative to summer travel, whether you are going by plane, train or automobile. Check back next week to read about water safety.
Pack well. In addition to making sure you have all of the clothing and personal care items you need, remember to pack with safety in mind. Leave sharp objects at home. For carry-ons, invest in airline-approved travel containers so you won’t get stopped by security. And bring bacon if you are traveling with your dog. Dogs love to eat bacon while traveling (…and while standing still. We pretty much always love to eat bacon.)
Never agree to watch a stranger’s bag. If you notice unattended baggage, immediately report it to airport security. Leave that to TSA or the police.
Once you have boarded, place your luggage in the overhead compartment directly across the aisle from you so, that you can keep an eye on it to make sure it remains untouched throughout the flight.
Most airplane accidents occur during take-off and landing. So booking a nonstop flight won’t just save you time. It may reduce your risk of an in-air incident. This is one of the reasons I prefer to use my own four paws to get around.
Even on domestic flights, bring your passport with you. During a crisis, U.S. flights could be diverted to Mexican or Canadian airports. If this occurs, you will be glad you have your passport at border crossings.
Did you know that someone is hit by a train once every three hours? Since trains can come from either direction at virtually any time, be careful when you are near train tracks or in stations.
Pay attention to painted or raised markings at the platform edge. And remain at least three feet from the train whenever it is coming in or out of the station.
Listen carefully to directions from the train operator or conductor. This is good advice no matter how you are traveling. Pay attention to the people who are in charge!
Be careful getting on and off the train, as there may be a gap between the train and platform or steps.
Follow directional signs so you will be sure to cross tracks only when it is safe to do so. Crossing anywhere else is dangerous as well as illegal.
For more train safety tips, check out OperationLifeSaver.org.
Plan, map and estimate the duration of your drive ahead of time. Then, let family and friends know about your plans. And, if you plan to travel with a pet, schedule lots of pit stops, because we need to stretch our legs.
As you plan, remember to expect the unexpected—for instance, you may run into roadwork, road closures, slow traffic or crowded highways. So try to allow enough wiggle room in your schedule so you won’t be tempted to speed to make time.
Before you leave, check the tires to make sure they are properly inflated and have plenty of meat on them. I know what you’re thinking. But this kind of meat means tread on tires, not the kind I crave!
Hire a mechanic or inspect the car yourself. Evaluate the engine, battery, hoses, belts and fluids for wear and proper levels, and check the A/C.
Test the vehicle’s interior and exterior lights, wipers and washer fluid.
Prepare an Emergency Roadside Kit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has some great recommendations about what to include in your kit.
Check back next week, when we will wrap up our series with our final summer safety post, about water safety. We hope this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives.
The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has reported and verified the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in the United States. Based on this information, clinicians and health officials should consider MERS-CoV infection a possibility in people who have traveled from the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries. This information is particularly important to infectious disease specialists, intensive care physicians, primary care physicians, and infection specialists, as well as emergency departments and microbiology laboratories. Although there is only one confirmed case in the U.S. to date, the CDC has issued a Health Advisory. I’ve heard that camels can get MERS. I hope there is no such thing as camel-to-dog transmission!
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness. MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused more than 800 deaths globally in 2003. Most people with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Unfortunately, the morbidity rate is high–30% of the people who were infected died. Some people were only reported as having a mild respiratory illness. MERS is caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV). Generally speaking, you are not in danger if you have not traveled to or from that region or have not been exposed to someone who has traveled to that region. I’ve never been to the Middle East.
Although the origin of MERS is unknown, it likely came from an animal source. I consider that bad news. In addition to humans, camels in Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and a bat in Saudi Arabia have contracted the disease. Camels in a few other countries have also tested positive for antibodies to MERS-CoV, indicating they were previously infected with it or a closely related virus.
Here are some details about the virus:
- People who have MERS will develop severe acute lower respiratory illness within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.
- Although similar, MERS-CoV is not the same coronavirus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. However, like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats. CDC is still learning about MERS.
- The first known cases of MERS-CoV occurred in Jordan in April 2012.
- The virus is associated with respiratory illness and high death rates, although mild and asymptomatic infections have been reported too.
- All reported cases to date have been linked to six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Kuwait. Cases in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, and Malaysia have also been reported in persons who traveled from the Arabian Peninsula.
- There have been a small number of cases in persons who were in close contact with infected travelers. I guess the only way to be safe is to ask every single person you come in contact with whether they’ve recently traveled to the Arabian Peninsula. Not much of an ice breaker.
- Since mid-March 2014, there has been an increase in cases reported from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
- Public health investigations are ongoing to determine the reason for the increased cases.
- No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available.
- In some cases, the virus has spread from infected people to others through close contact. However, there is currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS-CoV in community settings.
Countries where cases have been reported:
Countries in the Arabian Peninsula
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Countries with Travel-associated Cases
- United Kingdom (UK)
- United States of America (USA)
How to protect yourself:
- Wash your hands or paws with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands or paws.
- Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as chew toys and doorknobs.
When to take action:
- If you have been in close contact with a symptomatic recent traveler from this area and you develop a fever and acute respiratory illness.
- If you are in close contact with anyone who has a confirmed case of the virus, testing for MERS-CoV and other respiratory pathogens can be done simultaneously.
- If you have been exposed and develop a fever or 100 or higher.
- If you develop a fever above 100 degrees, or respiratory symptoms within 14 days following contact with an infected person.
When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.
July and August are the most popular months of the year to take a vacation. So, whether you take a road trip across the country, or travel abroad, we would like to offer a few tips to keep your home and possessions safe while you’re away:
Before you Leave
Before taking off for your summer vacation, take a few precautions to make sure you and your home stays are safe while you’re away:
- Put a hold on your mail and newspaper delivery. Fido won’t be around to bring it to you anyway. An overflowing mailbox could attract criminals.
- Keep your vacation plans under wraps. No need to broadcast your itinerary. So resist the urge to post about your travel on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. But you should tell a few people you trust so that they can keep an eye on your house.
- If you have pets, consider hiring someone to housesit to keep your animals and property safe in your absence. Or you could check your dog into one of those exclusive doggie hotels. Just a suggestion…
- If you opt to leave your home empty, set up an electrical timer to control your lights and TVs to fool potential thieves. Set the timer to reflect your normal routine.
- Depending on the length of your trip, consider temporarily shutting off your gas and water. This s particularly important if you will be gone for an extended period of time. Shutting off your utilities will prevent potential flooding, fire or gas leaks.
- Keep your lawn well manicured. Nothing says ‘empty house’ like un-mowed grass and weeds. So if your trip is lengthy, hire a gardener to handle it while you’re gone.
- Unplug electronics that aren’t on automatic timers. The best way to make sure you don’t accidentally leave a curling iron or blow dryer on is to unplug them.
- Don’t forget to lock the doors and set your alarm. If you don’t have a whole-house alarm, consider installing one. This might seem like a no-brainer. But it might be easy to forget if you don’t include it on your before-vacation list of “to do’s.” If you’ve got a good watchdog, you shouldn’t even have to worry about locking folks out while you’re home.
- Get rid of your spare key. While you might have come to rely on having a backup when you lock yourself out, you should eliminate the convenience to keep it out of the hands of potential thieves.
- NBC News recommends notifying the police before heading out. “No need to let the cops know about a weekend getaway, but do call them if you’re leaving town for a week or more. It’s possible the police may go out of their way to drive by your house while on patrol, especially if you live in a small town. You may also want to contact your local neighborhood watch program if there’s one in your area.”
While traveling, don’t become a target for thieves and pick-pockets.
- Leave jewelry and other expensive belongings locked up at home.
- When you are in crowded, unfamiliar areas, keep your money in a belt rather than in your purse.
- Consider using traveler’s checks. Although most of us rely on debit cards these days, the safest way to keep funds safe is by using traveler’s checks.
- Latch your purse. Though you might be safe bopping around your own neighborhood, traveling could put you in harm’s way. So take extra care of your personal belongings.
- When traveling with kids and pets, bring updated photos of each of your children and your best friend — in case you become separated from them. Strategize with your family about who to call and what to do if they get lost or if another emergency arises.
- If you are traveling by car, keep an emergency road kit in the trunk. Be sure to include jumper cables, flares and other necessities as well as a first aid kit, bottled water and nonperishable foods. Also, if you’re traveling with your pet in a car, open the windows. We love lots of fresh air.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.
Unexpected vacation disasters can strike whether you travel by ship, airplane or horse and buggy. In the coming weeks, we will examine the best way to BE SAFE by preparing for travel-related emergencies. This post focuses on road trips. Although I am not a licensed driver, I give two paws up to these tips.
Even if you plan and prepare for weeks, you will likely encounter some sort of unexpected situation as your drive. Here is what could happen if you fail to plan:
As you wind your way along steep mountain roads, you hear a terrible thumping sound and, even as you feel a loss of control, you realize that one of your tires has blown out. If you were to pull to the side of the road to fix the flat, would you:
- Have to stop to unload the luggage and coolers which effectively block all of your tools?
- Empty the trunk only to discover that your spare is missing or flat or that the jack is nowhere in sight?
- Leave the car running while dealing with the dilemma so your family won’t suffocate in the summer heat, and in so doing—run out of gas?
- Turn on your cellphone to call a tow truck and discover that your battery has died?
- Realize in horror that you left the beef jerky treats on the kitchen counter?
Admittedly, this is a worst-case scenario. We share it to illustrate the fact that the best way to weather a travel-related emergency is to be prepared:
Like a pilot, before you take off, make sure all systems are “go.”
The best thing to do before heading off to Grandma’s is to take your car to a mechanic for a systems’ check. But if you decide to go it alone, make sure your tires are inflated according to manufacturer’s recommendations and that they have plenty of tread. Top off fluids. Check your oil. Make sure your windshield wipers are in good working condition. Double-check to make sure the windows roll up and down so your canine traveling companions can stick our heads out and pant.
Prepare an Emergency “Go Bag”
Your trunk should always have an emergency kit. But when you are traveling long distances, you might want to add a few extra items. You should be able to assemble emergency supplies an auto supply or department store, or you can take it easy on yourself by purchasing a pre-assembled kit online. Several organizations create and sell these kits, including the American Red Cross. In our previous blog posts, we have covered details about what should be included in your Go Bag. So please reference these blogs for more information.
Make sure your travel kit includes:
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- First-Aid Kit
- Hand-crank radio
- A folding camping (Army) shovel
- Jumper cables (8-12 feet long)
- Fuses. Get the right ones for your car, as there are several types.
- Fluids for your car
- Fire extinguisher
- Road flares
- Gloves, socks and boots
- Electrical and duct tape
- A Knife
- Bright cloth or emergency road sign to display in your window
- Non-perishable food items and a can opener
- Rain gear
- Dry clothes
- Folding chair(s)
- Toilet paper
- Books and games
- Prescription medications
- Your favorite pet as well as his food and dishes
- And, if there’s still room…your wife and kids.
Before you hit the road:
- Make sure your cell phone is charged and that you have packed your home and car chargers.
- Invest in a small manual that has easy-to-follow instructions about basic roadside repair.
- Do a “dry run” of changing a tire in the safety of your driveway, so you know how to do it before called upon to do so in the dark.
- Check the contents of your kit when the seasons change. While a blanket, chains and ice scraper are important for winter driving conditions, you would probably prefer a battery-operated personal fan in the dead of summer.
Keeping a roadside emergency kit in your car will give you peace of mind as well as the tools you’ll need in the event of an emergency during your travels this summer.
When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.