On a recent trip, we had plenty of time to think about Family Travel Emergencies!
Family travel, as we all know, presents its own set of challenges, especially in distant locations where English isn’t the native language. It is quite likely that if you travel with your family often, sooner or later you could face an emergency of some kind. We were reminded of this not too long ago when we were confronted with a potentially dangerous situation, and we thought it would be helpful to share our experiences and those of our readers in order to help other parents be better prepared.
During a weekend stay at a nice hotel at one of our favorite ski resorts, we were abruptly awakened at five in the morning by the ear-splitting sound of the fire alarm. At first we thought it was our teen’s bedside alarm, but we quickly realized that the noise was a fire alarm outside. Not being sure what was going on, my husband and I went out into the hallway to try to find out if this was just a drill or a real problem. We stumbled through, asking our neighbors in a mix of foreign languages if the hotel was evacuating. When the fire doors emerged from the wall and swung closed, we knew it was the real thing.
We ran back to our room and quickly got the kids out of bed, making sure each had on their snow boots, coats, hats and mittens and that they had their cell phones. We grabbed our big backpack and loaded it with our devices, laptops, chargers, contacts and car keys. We quickly filed down the back stairs with the other guests into the main lobby. Over 100 guests gathered in the hotel foyer. Our family snagged a spot on a comfy couch, and, although the kids were shaking, we all remained calm.
As firemen began to swarm the building, a guest sprinted into the lobby with his luggage, saying the whole second floor was flooded from a burst pipe. Given the dangers of flooding while the power is on, the security staff quickly evacuated all of the guests to a restaurant down the hill. Many guests were dressed only in slippers and blankets and could barely navigate the hill in the cold temperatures.
We waited together in the restaurant, with many sitting on the floor, but fortunately the facility was clean and had plenty of bathrooms. Finally, after about 90 minutes, we got back into our room. Luckily, the flooding had happened only in the back half of the building, where the firemen were able to shut off access as well as power.
In hindsight, we realized how groggy we were early in the morning and that we could have done a better job handling the emergency situation more quickly.
Tips for Handling Potential Emergencies:
- When you check into your hotel, be sure to note where the fire exits are. Most hotels, even in foreign countries, post this information on the back of the door. Follow your hotel’s posted instructions.
- If you hear a fire alarm in the middle of the night, treat it seriously.
- If you smell smoke, be careful about opening the door into what could be a smoky hallway. If the door knob is hot, do not open the door. Put a wet towel over the crack at the bottom of the door and wait to be evacuated.
- If you don’t smell or see smoke, it is safe evacuate. Use the stairs, not the elevator.
- Being organized and having your glasses, contacts, car keys, passports, electronic devices and wallets in one place is always a good idea. In an emergency you can then throw them into a briefcase or backpack that you can carry on your shoulder. Of course if you’ve been told to get everyone out as quickly as possible, do not worry about grabbing everything. Listen to emergency professionals and obey their instructions.
Avoiding Family Travel Emergencies means keep important items near the door
- If you can, do grab critical emergency medicines such as epi-pens and asthma inhalers, although most emergency professionals should have these handy.
- If you can, make sure your children are properly dressed for a long wait. If you have a baby, grab the diaper bag and the infant seat, if possible.
- Keep a foreign language dictionary in your backpack. Some guests at the hotel were confused when the rescue officials only gave instructions in the native language.
- Unfortunately, we have had a few friends who had serious medical emergencies while traveling abroad. While everyone thankfully is okay now, several of them swear that having American Express medevac them home saved their lives. Be sure you understand the travel emergency benefits that your credit cards offer, as they can really make a difference. In addition, some companies specialize in offering emergency medical evacuation, which we really recommend for any kind of active adventure travel.
- American Express also offers a lost or stolen wallet recovery program for a minimal fee.
- Make sure a family member or friend back home has your travel itinerary and numbers where to reach you, just in case. If you are traveling with a passport, make a copy of it and keep it somewhere other than where you keep the passport itself. In some countries, it is also a good idea to let the American consulate know you are there visiting. The State Department website has postings about this kind of information.
- It never hurts to make sure your car or rental car has a back-up emergency kit, including water, especially if you are traveling by car through any remote areas. AAA offers a great guide on what to supplies to have in your car in case of emergencies here AAA Guidelines .
- Check out our past blog on emergency safety apps Important Life Saving Apps for Moms.
One Last Tip: Consider Wearing Snowtrax for Icy Conditions
While our fingers are crossed and we hope that you do not experience any Family Travel Emergencies, we do want you to be prepared, just in case!
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