Vacation Travel Tips

vacation travel tips
(Photo Credit: Jared Bartlett)

Between planning itineraries, booking hotels & flights, packing, and making reservations, vacations can be quite stressful, even if they’re meant to reduce stress. On top of the prospect of flight delays, bad weather, and rowdy kids, you shouldn’t have to worry about your home and your property. Careful planning can help you and your family avoid a costly loss at home and abroad.

  • Clear out your wallet: carry only what is absolutely essential. Aside from the inconvenience of a lost wallet, a stolen wallet can mean big trouble if your cards and IDs get into the wrong hands. Bring only one credit card with fraud protection and leave your debit cards, and any unnecessary contents at home or in the hotel safe. Report your trip with your credit card company to avoid an accidental freeze on the account. Also, bring only enough cash to cover the incidentals for the day – not the entire trip, and leave the rest in the hotel safe.
  • Make copies of your passport/ID: produce color photocopies of any documents you plan on having with you on the trip. Store a copy in the hotel safe, and keep one at home in case you lose the original. You can also register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which allows you to enroll your trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate if you plan on traveling abroad. This free service will assist you if you in an emergency, such as losing your passport.
  • Avoid social media: don’t over share your trip experience until you get home. While it may be tempting to publish your hike up the Great Wall or your pint of stout in Dublin, social media posts inform could-be criminals that you’re not home. These posts include status updates, check-ins, Snap Chat stories, pictures, and anything that is posted with your current location.
  • Make sure your rental is insured: If you are planning on renting a car on your trip, check if you’re covered. Typically, your personal auto policy will extend both liability and physical damage coverage while using a rental car within the US, its territories and Canada. Double check with your agent or insurance company to make sure. If you are traveling to anywhere else or you don’t have a personal auto policy, you’ll need supplemental insurance (provided as an extra cost by the rental company). As a general rule when in doubt, get the insurance offered at the rental company; peace of mind goes a long way when traveling. In addition, make sure you familiarize yourself with the local rules of the road and abide by all speed limits. Depending on the country you’re visiting, you may also need to apply for an international license.
  • Secure your home: make sure your home systems remain working while you’re away. Arm your security system before you head out and set the lights on timers to make it appear as though someone is home. If it is cold outside, make sure the thermostat is set to at least 65 degrees and all pipes are adequately insulated. Lock all doors, windows, and gates, and keep valuables stored inside the garage or the house, but away from exterior windows (so as to not attract burglars). If you’re going away for an extended period of time, reach out to the post office and your newspaper to suspend delivery until you get back. Piles of newspapers indicate a homeowner’s absence while mail and packages are prone to theft, which can also increase the risk of identity theft.

Whether you’re going on a weekend road trip or an international excursion, a bit of preparation and careful planning will help you have a more enjoyable trip and avoid a lot of potential headache.

Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls at Work

preventing slips, trips, and falls
(Photo Credit: Fotolia)

Slips, trips, and falls also known as STFs, are some of the leading causes of injury in the workplace. In the United States, nearly 50,000 people are injured and almost 600 more are killed in fall-related incidents at work. These injuries result in lost productivity, pain & suffering, lawsuits, and increase healthcare and insurance costs. To help reduce your risk of STFs on the job, follow these safety tips:

Inside the Workplace:

  • Keep hallways and corridors clear of obstacles and clutter
  • Never place any objects in front of emergency exits, especially furniture
  • Install handrails on both sides of all stairwells
  • Keep cords, wiring, and cables clear of walkways
  • Perform routine inspections to identify any dangerous conditions, repair any hazards immediately, and record the details of any incidents that take place
  • Place wet floor signs on wet surfaces (entryways after snowstorms, freshly mopped floors, spill areas, etc.)
  • Remove debris and objects such as loose papers, books, boxes, etc. from floors, walkways, and stairs
  • Use non-skid rubber mats to keep rugs from slipping
  • Do not place furniture within walking routes
  • Use child safety gates at the tops and bottoms of staircases to prevent children from falling down the stairs

Ladders:

  • Only use ladders on a solid, dry, and even surface
  • Always face the ladder when climbing up or down
  • Maintain three points of contact at all times (e.g.: Two feet, one hand/one foot, two hands)
  • Never lean or over reach over the sides of the ladder – reposition the ladder if necessary
  • Use tool belts – do not climb with tools in hand
  • Do not use ladders outside in windy or rainy conditions
  • Do not use chairs, tables, cabinets, etc. as ladders
  • Keep in mind the weight limit and use duty for each ladder

Outdoor Spaces:

  • Repair cracked or split walking surfaces immediately
  • Make sure parking lots, walkways, and doorways are adequately lit
  • Point downspouts away from walking surfaces
  • Keep walkways/driveways/parking lots clear of snow and ice
  • Clearly mark steps, gaps, ledges, and other hazards
  • Ensure all steps have handrails, and all ledges have railings

Taking these steps can help reduce or prevent slips, trips, and falls from occurring at your workplace and reduce the chances of injuries and costly lawsuits.

“Slips, Trips and Falls.” National Safety Council. National Safety Council, 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. http://www.nsc.org/NSCDocuments_Advocacy/Fact%20Sheets/Slips-Trips-and-Falls.pdf.

Tornado Myths Busted

tornado myths
(Photo Credit: The N&D Group)

Tornadoes can form at anytime and almost anywhere if the conditions are right. While accurately predicting their formation and movement can sometimes prove impossible for meteorologists, the damage tornadoes cause is widely documented and studied. Still, due to unique firsthand experiences, word of mouth, and sensationalized news stories, there are many widely spread myths about tornadoes that, if believed to be true, can put people in the path of danger. This list includes some of the most common misconceptions surrounding tornadoes.

Using Highway Overpasses as Shelters

Perhaps the most notorious and dangerous tornado myth is believing that a highway overpass is a suitable storm shelter. This stems from a 1991 Kansas event in which a TV news crew sought shelter under a highway overpass during a tornado and escaped with only minor injuries. The footage captured was shown across the US and led viewers to believe that highway overpasses are a good place to hunker down during a tornado. However, several unique and specific factors led to the crew’s survival, including the unusual design of the bridge in question as well as the path of the storm, which changed directions at the last minute, avoiding the bridge. A typical highway bridge’s shape could act as a wind tunnel, actually intensifying wind speeds and making overpasses some of the worst places to seek shelter. Wind speeds also increase with elevation and if a bridge’s embankment is higher than the surrounding area, it compounds the effect. In addition, vehicles stopped on roadways under bridges may disrupt the flow of traffic and block emergency vehicles, creating a traffic jam and/or cause accidents, putting others in danger.

The National Weather Service recommends that if you’re traveling in your car into the path of an oncoming tornado, immediately pull over and seek the nearest sturdy shelter – preferably an interior basement or first floor room of a well built municipal structure like a school or town hall. If no suitable building is available, as a LAST RESORT, lie flat in a ditch or low lying area to avoid flying debris, or drive away from the tornado only if it is far enough away and the road is clear.

Tornadoes Themselves

There are several widely held, but inaccurate beliefs about the storms themselves. The first is that the size of the funnel cloud is an indication of its relative strength. In reality, size does not matter when it comes to the wind speeds observed in tornadoes. Some of the strongest F5 tornadoes have measured less than 100 yards wide.

Another incorrect assumption is that tornadoes always move northwest, which may leave those southwest of a storm in a false sense of security. The truth is that while most tornadoes move in a general northwest direction, many times they do not and more importantly, a tornado can change directions suddenly and without notice.

Finally, the funnel cloud does not have to reach the ground in order to be destructive. Many believe the funnel cloud marks where the intense winds are located when in actuality, it’s just condensation. The destructive winds can reach the ground even if the funnel cloud does not. Furthermore, not all tornadoes have visible funnel clouds, and some may be obscured by heavy rain.

 Where and When Tornadoes Strike

When most of us think of tornadoes, thoughts of storms over expansive corn fields and flat prairie lands come to mind. And while the majority of tornadoes in the US do indeed occur in the Great Plains known as “Tornado Alley” during the period of March through June, they can occur just about anywhere and at any time. Tornadoes can traverse mountains, lakes, rivers, cliffs, and valleys. In fact, tornadoes have been documented in every state of the US and during every month of the year, in both rural and heavily urban areas. Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville, and even Brooklyn for example, have been hit multiple times, though many think that cities, especially ones with tall buildings, cannot. Tornadoes can also form on water (phenomena known as waterspouts), and the presence of a body of water does not weaken or stop a tornado.

Outrunning a Tornado

There are times when people try to outrun a tornado in their car, but this can be very dangerous. It is true that an average tornado moves slower than most cars at highway speeds, and at a great distance, motorists can avoid a visible tornado by driving away from it at a 90 degree angle relative to its path. However, this doesn’t take into consideration that a tornado doesn’t have to deal with traffic, obstacles blocking the road, emergency vehicles, flying debris, following a specific route (the road), or other drivers. Panicked driving can lead to fatal car accidents, and put others in danger. A vehicle can be swept up and tossed several hundred feet by a small tornado, even if the funnel cloud appears far away. Cars can also be damaged by debris and become disabled, blocking roadways and putting the occupants and other motorists in danger.

Never leave the protection of a sturdy building to escape in a vehicle. An interior room, preferably in the basement (or lowest floor) is the best place to be in a tornado. Vehicles offer very limited protection during a tornado. Whether you are in a car or not, if you are outside, seek suitable shelter immediately.

Opening Windows

Because tornadoes cause changes in atmospheric pressure, it is believed that the difference between the inside and outside air pressures can cause a home to explode outward. This is false. In even the most violent tornadoes, the differences in pressure rarely exceed 10%, which most frame homes could withstand with closed windows. The “explosion” like damage can be attributed to disintegrating roofs and walls that have blown inwards into homes, causing the other three sides to fall outwards, creating the appearance of a house that has exploded. Not only does opening windows cause more damage to the interior of the home by allowing rain and wind inside, it also wastes valuable time that should be spent seeking shelter. Additionally, being near windows in a storm is dangerous as it potentially exposes occupants to flying glass.

In general, there is no guaranteed safety when in the path of a tornado. With winds up to 300 miles per hour, these forces of natures can derail trains, rip up highways, and destroy skyscrapers. But preparedness is the best way to increase your chances of survival. Knowing where to shelter is an essential part of tornado safety. If you live in a mobile home or are planning on traveling in a vehicle, make sure you have an evacuation plan and pick suitable shelters before an emergency takes place. A car or mobile home offers very little protection during a storm as they can be easily damaged, rolled, or thrown by weak tornadoes. Practicing a tornado drill with your family and coworkers will help educate them with what to do if a tornado does form. Finally, pay attention to weather forecasts and storm watches & warnings as these will provide you and your family more time to get to a safe location.

Edwards, Roger. “The Online Tornado FAQ.” The Online Tornado FAQ (by Roger Edwards, SPC). NOAA, 1 May 2017. Web. 05 May 2017. http://www.spc.ncep.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/.

“Tornadoes.” Tornadoes | Ready.gov. Department Of Homeland Security, n.d. Web. 10 May 2017. https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes.

“Tornado Myths.” Storm Aware. State of Missouri, n.d. Web. 05 May 2017. https://stormaware.mo.gov/tornado-myths/.

US Department of Commerce, NOAA, National Weather Service. “Highway Overpasses as Tornado Shelters: Fallout From the 3 May 1999 Oklahoma/Kansas Violent Tornado Outbreak.” National Weather Service. NOAA’s National Weather Service, 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 10 May 2017. https://www.weather.gov/oun/safety-overpass.