When you read the news headlines today, it can be easy to get worried and stop traveling. We live in a world where boundaries are blurred, travel is easy and (perhaps too) open and anything can happen anywhere at any time—a US Street, a Paris theater, a European Train, a hotel in Mumbai, a beach in Egypt or a marathon in Boston.
For travel enthusiasts, the response should be to keep traveling. Continue to experience different cultures while sharing our own, but most importantly travel wisely and safely.
Travel Safety is about preparedness, risk assessment and risk reduction rather than staying at home and never traveling.
The real risk of dying in a terrorist incident are about 1 in 20 million while the odds of being killed in a car crash are 1 in 19,000. Comparing these statistics shows that the world is a generally safe place and the risk associated with travel is far less than what the media may have you think.
Travel expert Wendy Perrin thoughtfully points out at http://www.wendyperrin.com, please do not confuse the risk of a terrorist incident with the risk of being involved in a terrorist incident. “Is it virtually certain that there will be another terrorist attack in Europe in the next 12 months? Yes. Does that translate into a high degree of risk for the individual traveler to Europe? No.”
Nonetheless, it is prudent to be aware of a destination’s political stability before you arrive there. Take advance precautions and preparedness to understand what to do if there is an incident and, once there, be situationally aware of everywhere you go.
Here are some useful tips on how to prepare and what to do if something does happen in a city you are visiting:
Before You Go:
Check the State Department Website for travel warnings in international destinations.
Schedule non-stop flights, or at least avoid flights that stop in high-risk locales.
Even though it is a recommended way to discourage luggage theft, avoid adding distinctive markings to your luggage. Bright markings on your luggage make you more visible and mark you as a tourist at a time when it’s better to blend in.
Create a 3×5 card with emergency and identifying information, listed below. Laminate if possible. Store a photo of this card on your cell phone and a cloud storage device such as iCloud.
- DOB, height, weight, eye color, hair color, allergies, medications, etc.
- Your contact info in-country: cell number, hotel name and number, local embassy number.
- Local police and ambulance number.
- Emergency contacts back home – I recommend two: cell, work and/or home numbers.
AT THE AIRPORT:
- Never travel in a fog! While you do not need to put your head on a swivel, be sure to scan your surroundings and your destination within an airport frequently. Be aware of what’s happening around you – and where an exit is should you need one quickly.
- After checking in for your flight, go immediately to the secured areas of the airport.
- When you arrive at a destination, leave the airport as soon as you receive your baggage.
- Wear clothing that doesn’t stand out. Dress for invisibility.
- Scan your surroundings whenever in an airport, looking for abandoned briefcases, packages or suspicious items, and report them to airport authorities. Then leave immediately.
General Rules For Personal Security
- If possible, travel with others. There is more safety in numbers.
- Everywhere you go, have a plan, so that you can act automatically if there is an incident or attack.
- Store phone numbers and memorize locations of safe places to go in case of emergency, such as hospitals, hotels and police stations.
- Watch for suspicious activity and report it to the local police or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Be careful with strangers that take an interest in you.
- Select your own taxi from designated taxi areas and only get into vehicles clearly marked as taxis. Compare the taxi driver’s face to the photo on the license displayed in the car.
Security Inside your hotel
- Keep your hotel room door locked, and chained/bolted at all times.
- When you hear a knock on your hotel room door, only open it if you know who it is and can verify the person’s identity.
- Arrange meetings with strangers in the public areas of your hotel, never in your room.
- If a package is delivered that you were not expecting, refuse it.
- Be aware of hotel entrances and public space and scan before arriving and departing for situational perception.
If an attack does occur…
While this is unlikely, it’s better to be prepared. Lie flat on the floor and behind any solid object that might protect you from projectiles. Stay put until the danger passes. If you have to move, do it on your stomach. When it’s safe to get up, don’t stop for any reason, even to help police or rescue personnel. Just leave the area right away.
At your Destination:
- Identify the main tourist destinations and stay away from any that are not fully secure.
- Make yourself aware of your surroundings and the conduct of people around you.
- Stay away from large gatherings or demonstrations.
- If you are with friends, identify a rendezvous point to meet should there be an incident.
- Prepare an evacuation plan in case of incident.
- Find telephone numbers of local transport and hire car companies.
In Event of an Incident
Travellers involved or close to a terror incident are advised to exercise heightened security awareness and to follow the directives of local authorities.
Here are a few safety first tips:
- Stay within the confines of your residence or accommodation & stay away from the windows in an emergency. Do not go out into the public streets.
- Be alert to local news developments. Listen to television and radio reports.
- Adhere to any imposed curfews or security restrictions.
- Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Unusual behavior and strange devices should be reported to the police or security personnel promptly.
- If in the vicinity of an attack, do not stay to watch what is happening, move away immediately in a safe direction.
- If you are injured, attend to yourself before others.
- Obey all instructions and orders that are given by local police.
- Contact family or friends and let them know your situation.
- Write down what you saw before and after an incident. This could help the authorities in their investigation.
Again, understand the world is a safe and friendly place and the odds of any malicious incident interfering with your vacation is small at best. But things can happen, so planning and awareness are key. While no plan is foolproof, these precautions may provide some degree of protection and can serve as practical and psychological deterrents to would-be terrorists.
As CEO and founder of Unicomm, LLC., John Golicz produces the largest and fastest growing travel trade show series in the United States– the Travel & Adventure Show Series. With nearly 30 years of travel experience, John is an expert on how to travel better, safer, smarter and cheaper.