A Room with a View (and a Fire Escape)
Emergency Preparedness on Your Family Holiday Abroad
By Shannon Venable of Italiakids.com
Everyone would agree that careful planning for the event of an emergency is essential for any home, especially those with young children. Although this is not the most glamorous aspect of holiday planning, emergency preparedness is also an important part of traveling abroad with children. The following simple precautions could be lifesaving:
Gather the local emergency contact information for the area you plan to visit and keep this information with you in your purse or backpack, as well as on site in your hotel or vacation rental.
It is also advisable to list any allergies among members of your party, travel and primary insurance details, and the phone number of a third-party contact not traveling with you. Visit the
state department website
and make a note of how to place an emergency call in the event of a medical emergency, fire, or crime. You may want to ask the concierge at your hotel or your rental agency contact for the cell phone number of a local, English-speaking physician. It is also useful to jot down some key phrases for describing symptoms or emergency situations (these can be found in many guide books).
When checking in to your hotel or vacation rental, have the concierge or rental agency contact go over the essential safety and evacuation information with two responsible adults in your party.
Ask them to point out the location of smoke alarms. If bedrooms are on the second floor or higher, ask your contact to show you a plan of the building and the escape route to the ground level.
Many doors and windows in old buildings have metal bars and can be locked from the inside only in some cases, a dangerous scenario in certain emergencies like fire.
If you are staying in a villa or apartment, be sure that every adult member of your party is aware of the escape plan and locks up the house at night accordingly (locking the house or apartment is also an important safety precaution). Be sure to leave a key in the lock or on a table or sill directly adjacent to the lock in a door on the ground level and on any upper level with an exit. Also describe this procedure to any children mature enough to understand.
At home, our family has a "meeting place" outside, which is where we instruct our children to wait for us if we have to evacuate the house due to an emergency like fire or earthquake. It is also a good idea to create a meeting place for the kids at your vacation rental, somewhere safe where they know they must wait until a responsible adult in their party or emergency personnel join them. This can prevent children from wandering off and getting lost in an emergency situation, or even worse, heading back into a dangerous site.
For both urban and rural areas abroad, assess the terrain and formulate an idea of how to conduct a safe evacuation in the event of emergencies like flood or fire.
Take the example of a villa stay in the countryside amid rolling foothills on a secluded farm at the end of a one-lane, unpaved road...be sure you inquire about other means of access/exit on the property in the event of a fire. Many of these properties do connect to other roads via old fire or tractor trails. For lodging in the city, traffic may be a consideration. Assess the location of your hotel or apartment and discuss the best possible evacuation routes with at least one other responsible adult in your party.
Be sure to have one responsible adult in your group carry a first-aid kit.
This will not only save you the trouble of scouting out Neosporin at a foreign pharmacy; simple first aid materials can be a crucial first response in the event of medical emergencies (but never hesitate to call an ambulance if needed).
Finally, relax and enjoy your holiday knowing that should an emergency arise, your family is prepared to handle it.
Shannon Venable is director of Arte al Sole and publisher of Italiakids.com, an online resource for international families in Italy.