Vacation Survival

How to prepare and protect yourself and your family on this summer's vacation

You've earned that summer vacation. What with all the stresses in law enforcement today, getting away and relaxing is an important ingredient for a healthy lifestyle. But if you fail to plan and prepare and lower your guard during the trip, you can open yourself and your family to victimization. A little advance work in this regard will do a lot to increase your travel safety, get you to your destination and insure a well-deserved R&R.


Now some may say that even considering this topic is paranoia. To that I reply that you are talking to someone who a mope tried to once rob 100 feet from the front doors of the police training bureau. That's right, several years ago while heading to a local peanut shop at lunch, some cracked-out suspect tried to rob me. Fortunately, I was thinking about mental awareness for a future class I was giving and was able to apprehend the masked idiot armed with what appeared to be a small auto-pistol (turned out to be a cigarette lighter that looked like a .25 ACP pistol). What was so startling was the number of officers in training that day that stated, "I would have had to give him my money...I didn't bring a pistol to work today." So it is preparation, not paranoia.

Planning your Trip

Web sites like Yahoo® Maps allow you to plan out your route that in the past required an AAA TripTik®. These web sites also allow you to see what hotels and motels are along your route so that so can make reservations in advance. It can be pretty miserable to try to stop late in the evening only to find "no room at the inn." Furthermore, you can view hotel/motel web sites to see the quality. Ever stop for the night at a motel to find out that it is the local party center? This is no small point when you consider mobile meth labs and the risk to your family. Having made arrests of Columbian drug dealers with kilos of cocaine at motels and having been involved in a shooting of a home invasion suspect hold up at a suburban motel, I can tell you that motels just out of the boundaries of large cities are notorious for providing refuge for dopers and fugitives.

While attending university, I worked security. During that time I worked at several hotel/motels and learned some travel tips. When staying at a motel, if at all possible I avoid rooms with external exits. Known as "down and outs" in the business, most of these rooms have large windows next to the doors. During my time in security, several of these rooms were burgled because it is easy to slip a tire tool between door and frame and pry the door open. The metal and window "flex" enough to allow room for the door to be pushed open. Park towards the front of the motel under a light; back or side lots tend to attract problems. And be wary when entering/exiting the motel. Dealing with children and carrying luggage can distract you from your environment. Walk your family to the room, and then come back to carry other items. Make sure you double-lock and chain the door at night. Motels have "E" keys that allow employees to enter double-locked doors. These master keys can be lost or stolen, and most motels won't replace the door locks due to the cost. Check the fire exit diagram on the inside of your room door for an exit plan. Additionally make sure you always look out the door peephole prior to exiting or opening.

Vehicle and Equipment Preparation

I had my tires rotated and my vehicle inspected prior to leaving town. It cost me $150.00 for new front shocks, but it was worth the investment. Some things can't be prevented. My SUV engine once blew on a mountain in West Virginia. I just had the thing serviced and had no indicators of trouble. I rented a car and continued on my trip, but the cost was over $3,000.00! It only makes sense to take a look at your vehicle to see if it's up to the task. Breaking down and needing repairs at the side of the road is risky for you and exposes your family to collision from inattentive motorists.

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