FORT HOOD

Of floods and seaweed Factor in safety when planning a road trip for summer vacation

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Story by Eric Pilgrim on 07/10/2019
After countless years taking small day-cations here and there, I am finally ready to go Griswold and join the myriad of other Americans hitting the road this year for summer vacation.

This is a major milestone. Even thinking about stays at hotels or someone's house any longer than a couple of days creates anxiety and conjures up flashbacks of childhood trips gone awry. Pilgrims make good travelers, not so good at staying put somewhere.

For this trip, I decided to stop by the Fort Knox Safety Office first for a little pre-trip advice. Safety Specialist Brian Wood obliged. Having returned with his family from a vacation to Florida in May, he was primed to offer his two cents.

Prior to leaving.

"One of the first things I did was, I had my vehicle inspected at a maintenance shop," said Wood. "You have to make sure the tires are good, the vehicle is in good working order in fact, I had to change my rear brake pads and rear rotors because there was a squeaking noise. It was a good thing I checked it before I went on my 1,000-mile road trip."

Wood said it's also important to plan what to pack for the trip considerations include a warning signal kit, emergency medical kit, flashlight, working jack, medications and immunization records, an ice cooler for snacks and drinks, extra water and food for pets, umbrellas and rain jackets for inclement weather, working car seats, and current vehicle registration and insurance.

Wood advises that travelers develop a plan for securing the house while they're gone.

"Make sure someone watches your home," said Wood. "If your mail is stacking up out front, people can see that you're gone for an extended period of time. That's what those folks with bad intentions look for."

Other ideas include attaching timers to lamps or setting up the home to be monitored electronically while you're away. Wood suggests it's a good idea to inform the bank or credit card companies about an extended vacation, to include where the final destination will be, so they don't lock accounts due to purchases suddenly occurring at locations where you wouldn't be. Also, exercise caution about what gets posted on social media about the trip.

During the trip.

Weather is another consideration. Wood highlighted the unusual flooding that Washington, D.C. just experienced as a prime example and said he learned his own valuable lesson about checking weather conditions not only along the trip but also when arriving at the final destination.

"While we were down in a resort in Florida there was a huge seaweed issue, so we chose not to go in the ocean because there was so much seaweed and with that carries all that bacteria," said Wood. "Here we drove 16 hours and there was so much seaweed, feet of it in the ocean, it was really just un-swimmable.

"I would not have driven 16 hours if I had known that."

Wood said it's a good idea to exercise caution on where you stop for fuel and restroom breaks, and pay close attention to construction and accident reports using a GPS app. Build in extra travel time as a precaution to allow for detours and traffic jams. If you're traveling in a group, make sure good communications are established.

There are more safety considerations once you arrive.

"Assess the area," said Wood. "Stay on a higher level at a hotel, be inconspicuous, drink from bottled water and watch the food that you eat, especially if you're out of the country. Also, don't go alone when you're at these areas. Always go with your family members or with a group so someone's looking out for you."

Returning home.

Wood said it's important to plan for the return trip just as you did the trip down check weather, assess the vehicle, plan for stops, monitor traffic issues and build in extra time for delays. He advises using credit cards, but also plan to carry cash or travelers' checks in case of emergencies, and ensure insurance includes towing services.

"The bottom line is to have a safe trip there and back so you can have good memories of your vacation," said Wood. "If you plan ahead, more than likely you're not going to have any issues."

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