I think about safety quite a bit. For one thing, I work in
manufacturing, and were attuned to the possibility of production
floor accidents. Because I also travel frequently for my job, Ive
learned much about simple ways to keep myself out of harms way
while on solo business trips.
In the first of a two-part article, Ill share travel safety tips.
Next issue, stay tuned for ways to increase safety in your
It was the day I had to move out of my dorm for the end of the
semester and I was headed home after work. That wasunless I found a
party. I told my family not to wait up; Id be home late. Was that
ever a mistake! Shortly before closing we were robbed at gunpoint
and shuffled into the meat locker. By the time we were rescued and
gave our statements to the police, it was nearly dawn and no one at
my home missed me. That was a huge lesson to me to always let
someone know where I was and when to expect me.
Before a plane ever leaves the ground pilots are supposed to file a
flight plan. This is a good idea for those of us who travel as
well. Be sure someone knows where you are and when to expect to
hear from youand when to start worrying. If you are flying, make
sure a friend or family member has your flight information. If you
are driving, make sure to communicate your general route. You never
know when you could encounter problems due to weather, mechanical
breakdowns, or someone who means you harm.
When traveling to a new location, arrive before dark if at all
possible so you can see where you are. If you have to arrive after
dark to an unfamiliar location, consider traveling with a co-worker
or taking a hotel shuttle or taxi rather than driving into an
unfamiliar metropolitan area. You can make one wrong turn out of
some airport locations and land in a dark and scary part of town
very quickly. If you do get lost, do not stop until you find a
safe-looking well-lit business that is filled with people. If you
do not feel safe, do not get out of your car. You dont want to make
any false 911 calls, but dont hesitate to call the police if you
feel that you are in danger.
If you are driving, make sure your car is regularly serviced. Check
oil, tires, washer fluid, and basic operation before you leave. If
you dont have a roadside assistance program, get one. There are a
number of programs offered by cell phone companies, your automobile
manufacturer, or providers such as AAA.
Even if you typically drive rental cars, it is still a good idea to
give the car a once over and check dashboard gauges before pulling
away. Ive had to return a car more than once due to a low tire or a
check engine light. And its still a good idea to have roadside
assistance even if you drive rental cars. Most manufacturing
facilities are in rural areas and you might get a faster response
from AAA than the rental car maintenance provider.
Be familiar with the car you are driving. I know this sounds like
what you learned in drivers ed back in high school, but never leave
the parking lot without knowing how to operate the car. If you are
like me, there are some weeks you may drive more than one rental
car and this can get confusing. Know how to operate windows, doors,
lights, the trunk release from all possible methods (includingfrom
inside the trunk should you ever need to get out of there),
emergency flashers, rearview mirror, side mirrors, rear window
defogger or wiper, horn, seat adjustment. And, make sure you can
recognize what all of the warning lights on the dash mean. Check
the glove box for the owners manual to check out any additional
features on the rental car. Another way you can minimize the
confusion is to ask for the same type car or same make each time. I
drive a Jeep so if I can get another Jeep product, I never have to
look down because it operates very similar to mine.
As much as we love our GPS apps and devices, it pays to always
carry a paper map or atlas. You never know when your signal will
disappear or your device will fail. When that happens, chances are
you will be miles from any sign of civilization to pull over and
I am often guilty of traveling during the very early or late hours
of the day. If I am not careful, traveling to and from rural areas
can pose a risk of being stranded in a remote location. Consider
the time of day you will be traveling when you create your flight
plan. Stick to well-traveled routes. Keep your gas and washer fluid
levels topped off so you can chose when and where you stop. I never
get below a quarter of a tank in the day and unless it is a very
familiar route where I know where I will stop next for gas, I fill
up at half a tank. Remember: Stay in touch with your contacts so
they know when to worry.
When traveling at odd hours, pick your rest stops wisely. Unless a
rest stop is very well lit, has visible 24-hour security, and is
well-populated, dont stop there. In other words, a rest stop may
not be the safest place to stop during the dead of night. I
typically look for exits that have large truck stop complexes. If
you ever exit and find the gas station isnt well lit or there arent
a lot of people around, get back on the interstate and find the
Dont travel distracted. If you dont have a hands-free device, dont
talk on the phone. And, of course, never text or read email while
When traveling by car I keep a small bag stocked with all of the
supplies I might need while driving. This bag contains everything I
could possibly need at my fingertips, including a spare car charger
(for my cell phone); hands-free headset for cell phone; atlas;
whistle (to alert attention in case I need to call for help);
lotion and hand soap; paper towels and moist hand wipes; hand
sanitizer, tire gauge; $2 in quarters; a small flashlight; bungee
cords; pens; lip balm; and music CDs.
ICE: in case of emergency
ICE stands for in case of emergency. Be sure to have an ICE listing
in your cell phone and inside your wallet for the person who needs
to be contacted in the event you are unable to speak for yourself.
If you have a medical condition or are on any medication that a
first responder needs to be aware of, be sure to keep a medical
alert card inside your wallet.
You know if you have a medical condition or are on certain types of
medication you should always wear some type of medical alert
jewelry but this is especially important when you are traveling.
Check with the facilities in which you visit to make sure you are
in compliance with any policies on jewelry and what is allowed. I
once worked with a woman who was diabetic and she had a small
adhesive pouch attached to the back of her hard hat with an insert
containing important information.
Although I am from a coastal state, I dont live on the coast. I
once found myself traveling into an area that was in the projected
path of a hurricane. Once I reached my destination all outgoing
flights were cancelled and I was stuck. Luckily I had someone
nearby I could stay with, and the people at the plant gave me
driving directions on local roads to get to my friends house
because the interstate had only one-way traffic as the evacuation
route. When I asked my local contacts why they hadnt called me to
cancel the trip they told me they made the assumption I had known.
Lesson learned herealways check the weather at your destination and
- Take the time before you head out to check on local weather.
Talk to the folks at your destination to find out if there are any
hazardous conditions you need to be aware of such as snow, ice, or
any other driving conditions you may be unfamiliar with.
- Always know what county you are in. There is nothing worse than
driving in the rain and hearing an emergency alert that leaves you
wondering whether it applies to you. When in doubt, get off at the
nearest exit until you get your bearings.
- Cell phone coveragedont count on it. When you find yourself in
an area with bad weather, be sure to check in with your contacts on
periodic intervals so someone knows your progress on your
One of the best ways to give yourself peace of mind is to choose
the right hotel. Talk to your local contacts to get their input as
to the safest places to stay. Sometimes you can tell by the chain
or hotel website what the surrounding area is like. Something else
I have found to be very helpful are the online maps that now have
street-level views. I was recently presented with an airport hotel
option that looked stunning until I saw the street view with the
razor wire around the parking lot fence and decided Id rather not
drive into that part of town after dark.
- Park in well-lit areas near the main entrance or directly
underneath a streetlight.
- Do not overload yourself such that you do not have a free hand
or are distracted to your surroundings. Make multiple trips or get
a luggage cart so that you can be aware of your surroundings.
- Never have food delivered to your room unless it is hotel room
service. If you want a pizza delivered, meet the driver in the
lobby or by the front desk where there are others around. Never
invite a potential intruder into your hotel room.
- Avoid traveling with valuables. Use the hotel safe when one is
available anytime for anything of value. Laptops will often fit
into room safes.
- The only time I have ever had a computer stolen was at work,
but it taught me a lesson about backing up. Make sure to back up
your computer at regular intervals. Often the files on the hard
drive are far more valuable than the machine.
Dont talk to strangers
As a native southerner, its difficult for me to be rude. But Ive
learned there are times when I must maintain a safe distance from
- When traveling alone, keep a low profile. Dont strike up any
conversations revealing that you are traveling alone.
- Avoid wearing clothing with your companys logo. You never know
when someone you encounter on the road will have issue with your
employer and youd rather not be a target. Most frequently people
will ask about employment but I find it best not to advertise whom
I work for. I typically dont wear make-up and dress in T-shirts and
jeans so I can fade into the scenery.
- I will never become accustomed to panhandlers in large cities
but if I make eye contact, they will approach me so I maintain an
awareness of my surroundings but dont look them in the eye.
- I make it a habit to keep my valuables out of sight at all
times. When in metropolitan areas after dark, I make it a point not
to carry a purse and keep as few valuables on me as possible. I do
not venture down any streets that are not well populated or well
- Traveling with dogs has an additional security feature. I find
panhandlers and most bothersome strangers to take a wide path
- Always be aware of your surroundings and never place yourself
in a secluded area where you may become trapped by someone who
intends you harm.
Listen to your inner voice
In the book The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker explains
that we all have an internal warning system that makes us feel
uneasy when things just arent quite right. Way too often, people
dismiss this voice and later regret it. When you hear a little
voice tell you to avoid a situation or you feel the hair on the
back of your neck stand on end, pay attention and remove yourself
from the situation or environment.
We work with people who may not necessarily want to be there or we
are delivering a message they may not want to hear. You may be
delivering training on a sensitive topic that may cause tempers to
flare. If at any point anyone threatens you, take it seriously.
Report the incident to human resources or site leadership.
We arent in a dangerous profession, but danger exists if we are not
mindful of potential risks. Exercise appropriate cautions and you
will be ahead of the game.
If you want to learn more about domestic and international travel
safety, visit these websites: