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How prepared are You for your Long Distance Road Trip?

If you’re planning a lengthy road trip, there are many things you’d never think to bring with you that could get you out of a crisis situation. You need way more than just that blanket in the trunk, car jack and spare tire, umbrella, rainproof poncho, utility tool and fire extinguisher.

041Weather

  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, wide brimmed hat
  • Cold climate: thermal underwear, wool/hat/scarf/mittens, chemical heat packs, snow boots, windshield de-icer, cat litter (cheaper and lighter than sand, will give traction to a vehicle stuck in snow/ice)

Accident/Vehicle Breakdown

  • Flares, reflective warning triangles
  • “Call Police” sign. This goes against the rear window with the message facing motorists approaching from behind. If a predator sees a stranded female motorist, he’ll be tempted to stop and assault her. But if he sees the “Call Police” sign, he has no idea if another motorist called the police and the cops are only two minutes away.
  • Head lamp (will come in handy for changing a flat tire in the dark)
  • “LifeHammer” type tool: It slices through seatbelts and smashes through glass.
  • Paperwork: auto insurance card, medical card, list of important numbers, paper pad, pen
  • First aid kit
  • The auto emergency kit should include batteries, jumper cables, antifreeze, tire inflator, tire gauge, foam tire sealant, duct tape, flash light and glow sticks.

Self-Defense

  • Pepper spray
  • Ear horn, whistle

For Being Stranded

  • Spare water
  • Food designated for emergency use: nutrition or energy bars in a flavor you don’t like, and a few cans of dog food. Often, stranded motorists eat through their emergency food too quickly. This won’t happen if you’re looking at that gritty-tasting low carb bar or Liver Chunks dog food.
  • Small mirror (to reflect sunlight to search-and-rescue aircraft)
  • Toilet paper, sanitizing wipes, garbage bag, wire ties, urinal
  • Spare sneakers and socks

Miscellaneous

  • Car compatible phone charger, preferably solar and hand crank powered (in a separate article of mine, I discuss numerous great apps for your smartphone when driving long distance)
  • Often, before people embark on a long road trip, they have weeks, sometimes months of advance notice (such as for a move or vacation). During that time, you should commit to getting as physically fit as possible. You just never know what demands will be placed upon your body as a result of some mishap during your road trip. For example, a physically fit body can better withstand walking for long periods in the heat while carrying a toddler and rucksack than can a de-conditioned body.
  • Also during that time, take self-defense lessons.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Must-have Apps for Safe Long Distance Driving

Whether you’re driving long distance to make a career move, visit family/friends, or just sightsee multiple states, you may be wondering what kind of helpful applications for your phone are out there.

045There’s just tons, and many fall under the category of convenience, such as apps that locate the cheapest gas stations, the nearest and cheapest lodging or your favorite restaurants. But this article is about safety and security.

The issue isn’t so much what particular app to install, but the type of app, what it does. For example, there are a number of weather applications out there. Which one is best? That depends on your needs and wants. But the important thing is that you know that the category of weather should be one of your app considerations for equipping your phone.

However, I will be mentioning some applications in particular, just to give you an idea of what’s out there. For instance, there’s the iMapWeather Radio application. This works even when your phone is asleep. It will arouse your phone to alert you if you’re nearing dangerous weather. This app automatically updates to wherever you currently are located.

Additional Apps for Road Travel

  • iTriage helps you figure out medications and medical conditions. It tells you where the nearest medical treatment centers are. You can also ask medical questions and get fast answers. So if, for instance, you notice that one of your legs has begun to swell and ache after you’ve been on the road all day, you can plug in this information and see what the likely cause is. As mentioned, there are numerous apps out there that fall into specific categories; review several before making your decision.
  • Another medical app worth mentioning is smart-ICE4family. Its features include: EMS-alert and location finder if the user becomes unconscious; in addition offers a piercing siren to help locate user; and a one-button-hit provides pre-existing medical information to first responders. If you think you might accidentally drive your car into a remote lake or ditch, this app is for you.
  • wikiHow explains how to resolve countless emergency situations. Chances are, whatever fix you’re in, this app covers it. It has over 140,000 how-to articles that explain resolutions for choking, animal attacks and surviving in the wilderness.
  • DriveSafe.ly is coming soon, designed to eliminate texting-caused accidents. It will read your text messages out loud. It will also read to you your e-mails. You also won’t need to touch your phone to respond.
  • Flashlight converts your phone to a flashlight. Need I say more?
  • Another category is “accidents.” If you don’t want to be overwhelmed by apps that seemingly have everything under the sun, such as the wikiHow, you can opt for applications that focus only on vehicular crashes, such as iWrecked.
  • For repairs, there’s RepairPal. You may also want to look into Collision Call.
  • Red Panic Button; the name speaks for itself. Another good app is iMPrepared.

Other categories that are must-haves for your long road trip are that of GPS and maps.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Safety Tips for Lone Female Road Travelers

Rule #1 for women traveling alone: Do not look or act like prey, as this will grab the attention of any predator nearby. Looking like non-prey may be difficult for some women, but one way is to dress in black. Black is the color of authority (e.g., judges, nuns, priests, referees, police officers). Here are more rules:

042

  • Before embarking on your trip, get your car road ready by a trusted body shop.
  • Never give strangers a ride. If you’re tempted, ask yourself what their fate would be if you never crossed paths. Would they die? If not, ignore them and move on. You are not obligated to give anyone a lift, even if it’s “just a mile down the road,” even if the stranger is a woman. She might be a co-conspirator with a man to rob you, or just plain dangerous by herself.
  • To reinforce the don’t give strangers a ride rule, review possible scenarios before you leave for the trip. For example, you strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger at a diner who then offers to cover your meal, then says he/she needs a ride to the motel down the street. What would you do? Plan ahead your template response, then rehearse it.
  • Give someone your travel plans including complete itinerary before you leave.
  • Always be aware of every exit in any building you enter such as diners.
  • Don’t yap to anyone that you’re traveling alone, not even the nice lady pouring your coffee. If anyone says something like, “It must be scary, traveling alone,” and it’s obvious you’re alone, do NOT validate this comment! Say something like, “Actually, I’m not the least bit scared. I turn into a grizzly bear when threatened.” Rehearse this line so that it sounds like it’s true.
  • Do not carry a lot of cash; use your ATM card or credit card.
  • Leave the pricey jewelry and high priced designer handbag behind. Don’t wear clothes that suggest you have a lot of money. Do not wear any attention-getting attire.
  • Wear sneakers when driving. You can run easily in these and walk long distances. Forget the flip flops or pumps.
  • Never ask strangers for directions; only ask employees.
  • Don’t stand at the payment counter fishing through your stuffed purse to pay for gas or your meal. Have the money in your hands ahead of time and leave the purse hidden from view in your car.
  • Carry pepper spray on your person.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Protect your Home when Traveling

When you go traveling, I’m sure you make a point to protect the various things you bring with you—including your laptop, children, even spouse. But what about something you left behind? Your home? Is that being protected too?

1BBefore Leaving

  • Don’t wait till the last minute to arrange kenneling for your pet.
  • Tidy up the exterior of your house including mowing the lawn. Overgrown grass, unmoved rubbish and dormant toys/tools make a house look unoccupied. If you plan on traveling long enough for the grass to get overgrown, arrange with a trusted adult to mow your lawn.
  • Don’t leave your car outside.
  • Put your snail mail and any paper delivery on vacation hold.
  • Give spare keys to a trusted adult. This person should also know the “safe” word for your security system should they be in contact with the monitoring center.
  • Hopefully you have a reliable neighbor who will promptly remove any flyers in your door or on the knob.
  • Here’s something you probably never thought of: A burglar casing your street on trash pickup day may notice the one house whose trash cans aren’t at the curb. Hmmm…maybe those people are away on vacation? So have a neighbor bring your trash cans out on trash day—with trash in them—and then bring them back in.
  • Get rid of food that may spoil while you’re away.
  • Make sure the locks on your windows and doors work.
  • Set up an automatic timed lighting system. Open curtains or shades enough to reveal this to anyone passing by, but not enough for someone to be able to see your valuables through your windows.
  • Put as many valuables as you can in a fireproof, waterproof safe.
  • To prevent water flooding problems, switch off the water to your dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Make sure all appliances and electronic items are unplugged to avoid fires.
  • Lower the thermostat but no less than 60’.
  • Give the garbage disposal one last run, because if there is food waste in there you may come home to a swarm of fruit flies.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors and home security system work.
  • And don’t forget to turn your alarm system on before you embark on your trip.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Replacing Stolen Passports and Credit Cards

Travel season is upon us. Summertime is all about exploring new and exciting places. It’s the season of planes, trains, automobiles and…criminals. When you are out of your element and unsure of your surroundings, you are at a higher degree of risk. Travelers need to be on high alert for property crimes and identity theft.

Years ago, before my wife was my wife, she was traveling in Spain. She got off the plane, headed for the rental car terminal, rented her car, and drove off the lot. At the first stop sign, a man knocked on her passenger window and pointed, saying, “Tire, tire.” She put the car in park and walked over to the passenger side. The tire was fine and the man was gone. So she got back in the car and found that her purse had disappeared from the front seat. Her driver’s license, passport, cash, and credit cards were all gone. What a nightmare! When she went to the police, they asked, “Were you a victim of the flat tire scam?”

You’d think the rental car agency could have warned her. But the lesson here is that you cannot rely on others to protect you. You are ultimately responsible for your personal security.

Fortunately, she is a resourceful person and was able to handle the crisis quickly and efficiently. If your passport is ever lost or stolen in a foreign country, you can apply for an emergency replacement at the nearest embassy. Generally you’ll need to show up in person, and it helps to have a traveling companion to vouch for you. The embassy will need to see some type of verification of your identity, and they’ll likely request a copy of the police report.

When traveling, consider carrying your essential documents in a money belt or one that hangs from a lanyard around your neck, hidden under your shirt. You should always carry photocopies of your identification, but they won’t do you any good if they’re stored in the same purse that was just snatched from your rental car. One smart option is to scan all your pertinent documents in full color and upload them to a secure web-based encrypted digital vault. Some of these services are free, while others charge a small fee. In a pinch, you can download the necessary document from any computer with Internet access, and print a new copy.

For more information on coping with a lost or stolen password, see this list of frequently asked questions.

A lost or stolen credit card requires a different course of action, and its effectiveness largely depends on your preparation. Before traveling, call your card issuer and inquire about their policy for replacing a card. Pack a copy of your credit card that includes the front and back impression. If your credit card is lost or stolen, call the issuer and cancel the card as quickly as possible to mitigate any losses. In the best case scenario, the company should issue a replacement card and ship it overnight at no charge. Most card issuers will accommodate you, and if you find out ahead of time they won’t, find another card issuer.

In an emergency, you can always ask a friend or family member to wire you money. When a U.S. citizen encounters an emergency financial situation abroad, the Department of State’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) can establish a trust account in the citizen’s name to forward funds overseas. Upon receipt of funds, OCS will transfer the money to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate for disbursement to the recipient. The State Department’s travel website offers more details on emergency money transfers.

And always be sure to carry some spare cash. Tuck it in that money belt so even if your purse or wallet is stolen, you’ll be in good shape.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert adviser to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses travel security on Fox News. (Disclosures)