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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Summer is here. Many people are planning vacations in the Rocky Mountain West. On behalf of emergency response personnel, I offer the following tips when visiting Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas, Idaho and Utah:

1. Dress in layers and always have a medium-weight jacket. In elevations over 5,000 feet, it can snow during the summer, and nights can drop into the 30s.

2. Drink lots of water. Not sodas, coffee, etc. This will prevent dehydration.

3. Summer winds can reach 75 miles an hour. If you see trucks pulled over to the side of the road because of the wind, consider stopping yourself.

4. Be respectful of summer thunderstorms. Several people are killed each year by lightning. If you plan on hiking, leave early in the morning and be off the mountain after lunch. If you get caught in a storm, seek shelter immediately.

5. Children should carry a simple emergency kit in a fanny pack. It should include a snack, garbage bag (with a hole cut in the bottom) that can be used for shelter and warmth, a small bottle of water and a whistle. If they become separated from the group, instruct them to hug a tree and blow the whistle.

6. Use the "slip, slap, slop" technique for sun protection. Slip on a shirt, slap on a hat and slop on the sunscreen.

7. Never approach or feed any wildlife. They are not pets!

Use common sense. Follow these tips, and you should have a great vacation experience in the Rocky Mountain West! -- A WESTERNER

DEAR WESTERNER: Thank you on behalf of all my readers who plan to visit some of the world's most majestic scenery. It's important to be reminded that Mother Nature can turn treacherous if you are not prepared.

DEAR ABBY: I'd like to say something about computer-answered telephones.

Everywhere you call, you get a recording saying, "Punch one for this, punch two for that ..." and most of the numbers they tell you to punch have nothing to do with what you called about.

Grocery stores, utility offices, the telephone company, banks and Lord knows how many more businesses have machines to answer their phones. I wouldn't be surprised to hear a recording should I call for an ambulance or the police. It seems that every business in the world now uses recorded answering services.

I would like to know how many people would prefer that every business return to having live telephone operators or receptionists. I also think that everyone who becomes irritated by those recorded-menu answering machines and all those numbers to push should write to their governor, the president, congressional representatives or SOMEBODY to complain. -- TIRED OF PUSHING NUMBERS IN MARYSVILLE, TENN.

DEAR TIRED: Not a week goes by that I don't receive one or more letters with the same complaint. I have been known to ask my assistant to make calls for me because I get so frustrated with pushing "one for this" and "two for that." Although I understand why businesses have resorted to this impersonal answering method, the "personal" touch is far more conducive to a pleasant business experience.

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