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Get out and travel this summer, but be storm-savvy

By Cassandra Lucas-Moore, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator

As we are all still reeling from the recent tornadic activity and severe storms, I can’t help but think of preparations to ensure safety, especially when traveling. We are entering the height of the summer travel season. What can we do to remain safe? 

The first thing to do to travel safely is to plan before you leave. Preparations include mapping out where you are going and what areas you will be traveling through. Have a paper map of the area and the route to where you are staying, in case your phone loses power and your GPS is affected. 

Next, make sure you research your trip! Does the hotel or campground have a storm shelter, should the need arise? If you are vacationing near water during stormy weather, be ready to move quickly to higher ground as storms can bring flash flooding. Pack according to the weather outlook but also pack an extra sweater or pants, socks and sturdy shoes, a pair of gloves and a disposable rain poncho. A whistle on your keychain and a small flashlight can help you signal for help or find a safe route in darkness if needed. 

Write down emergency info for where you are going and give your itinerary to someone before leaving home. Every member of your traveling group needs a copy of the itinerary, and you should agree on where to meet if separated during an emergency. Even if not traveling, your family needs to have a plan for where to meet and how to connect if storms blow through close to home. 

If a tragedy strikes, you need to have quick and easy access to your emergency contacts and your medical and prescription information—have a paper copy, not just stored in your phone.  Take photos of your ID and travel documents in case of loss or theft. Many times power is affected after severe weather. A $20 portable powerbank can charge small devices like phones and laptops, and a hand crank or battery NOAA weather radio can keep you informed. Keep charging cables in your vehicle, and keep your gas tank over half full, plus keep some cash on hand in small denominations, because if the power is out gas stations can’t pump gas and ATMs won’t work. Texting and social media may get word to your family fastest when phone lines are overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath of a tornado.

While on vacation, pay attention to the weather reports. Be aware of where to go in case of severe weather. Practice “what if” thinking to train your brain to be aware of fire exits, weather cover, and safe movement routes. If you do get stuck in an area with severe weather and tornado warnings, take cover immediately on the lowest level away from any windows. If in your car, don’t try to shelter under bridges or overpasses—they are not safe. Protect your head in case of falling debris. Stay in shelter location until the all-clear is received, then follow directions of emergency responders to get medical help and safe shelter. Avoid downed power lines, and don’t drive through water over roadways. 

Ready.gov has planning and safety tips for many emergency scenarios. Every county in every state across the United States has an Area Agency on Aging to assist seniors, adults with disabilities, and caregivers with resources and information. CareWell Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Barry and Calhoun counties, is happy to assist in connecting you with Area Agencies on Aging nationwide. Visit our website at carewellservices.org or call us at (269) 966-2450 for more information.

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