When Disaster Strikes… on Vacation

Guest Blogger: Sheila Babyak

Vacations can be the most anticipated, fun-filled events of a lifetime. We spend all year deciding where to go, how to get there, what we’ll do, and budgeting our money to be sure it is a vacation of a lifetime! No one ever thinks that their vacation could be disrupted by some sort of an unexpected event or disaster. While we can’t plan for unknown disruptions or disasters there are things that we can do to prepare ourselves in the event a situation should arise.


Where the fire started. Photo Credit: Sheila Babyak

Two years ago my husband and I, along with two of our very dear friends, embarked on a vacation to Mexico. We were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary and my 60th birthday. We were staying at a beautiful resort, renting a gorgeous private condo steps away from the beach, and were getting ready to begin our memorable vacation.

Unfortunately that vacation came to an abrupt halt when at 4:00 A.M. my husband woke up to use the bathroom and found a condo filled with thick, black smoke. While the three of us were sleeping soundly, he quickly found his bearings and woke us all up. Because we were in unfamiliar surroundings, it was so dark outside, and the room was filled with smoke, we were unable to get our bearings. As soon as we realized what was happening we managed to get outside. Both of our husbands went to the front gate, which was occupied by a Spanish speaking male who could not understand them as they tried telling him our unit was on fire. After some commotion he gave us a flashlight and accompanied us to our residence. Security was called and we stayed on the outside patio waiting for the sun to rise trying to decide what our next step would be.

The management then found us another place to move to until they could clean the condo we were staying in. Everything was covered in soot. Our packed clothes were black and our faces were black. We couldn’t stop coughing and as scared as we were, we were grateful that my husband had awoken when he did. Otherwise, things could have ended much differently.

I have often revisited that day in my mind and always caution friends and family as they make plans for traveling. No one ever thinks anything will ever happen to them, but it can, and it does. While there was nothing we could have done to prevent a fire that started with faulty wiring in a bathroom ceiling, I was left with a valuable lesson of always being prepared when traveling, especially when in unfamiliar surroundings.

Whether you are in a hotel, on a ship, at a resort, on a beach or wherever, always be prepared and be sure to speak to young children about what you would do in the event a disaster struck. Know where the exits are, know who you would contact if there was an emergency, have flashlights and batteries, a first aide kit readily available and always ASK questions when you arrive at your destination to know who you would call and contact if assistance were needed.

Disasters can strike at any time, anywhere, and under any circumstance. The more prepared you are, the better chance you have of successfully finding you and your family a place of safety.

~Sheila Babyak

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