Guest Contributor: Fred Mastison
The draw is powerful and at times relentless. Images of beautiful foreign destinations call us to visit and after some saving and planning we take our dream vacation. Our focus sometimes however can be as distorted as the photos of the hotel room you got a smoking deal on. While planning, your itinerary is obviously important, equally as crucial are emergency plans. The cold hard fact is that the world is a dangerous place. Even in idyllic locations the potential for dangerous terrorist attacks are a reality. It is a rare day that the news is not discussing an attack somewhere.
Terror attacks are intentionally designed to take place at soft targets that generally draw visitors. These attacks can take on many forms ranging from suicide bombs and armed gunmen to vehicles used to simply plow into crowds. As I pen this, our thoughts are with those in Berlin after a terrorist once again used a truck as a lethal weapon against a crowded shopping area (Supportive Link: 1). With an understanding that danger exists, we can take steps to still enjoy life and visit foreign lands. There are ten solid things you can do to help you survive or even avoid a terror attack. While this is worthy of about 500 pages, we will keep it short and to the point.
1. Choose your destinations wisely
There are certain locations around the world that simply are unsafe to visit for Western tourists. In fact, they are exceptionally dangerous even for the local population. Most major cities in Afghanistan I would consider extremely hostile and yet people make the trek to “see the sights.” While this may fall under the common sense category, it must be mentioned. The State Department is a good source for current safety concerns for most countries around the world. Heed the warning (Supportive Link: 2).
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2. Have more than one way out
If you enter any crowded or large public space, make certain to identify your exits. Look for the nearest way out through non-electrical doors. Even if you are outside, there are many times barriers erected for crowd control. Figure out how you are going to get around them. This needs to be done the minute you arrive as opposed to under stress in a dangerous situation. Like a fire situation, do not use elevators. Instead focus on large stairways that limit choke points. Once again, have multiple options. If a location does not have sufficient exits, do not go in. Your safety is more important than a statue.
3. Stay aware
Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. If there is a hint of any trouble, you should immediately use one of your preplanned exits and leave the area. Do not hang around the edges of the location, but instead make your way far from the site. Listen to emergency broadcasts for information.
4. Stay clear of any blast site
If you are unfortunate enough to be at a location where a device has detonated, you must leave the area. This can be difficult for those of us conditioned to help, but the danger is just too great and you run the risk of being an additional casualty. It is common for terrorists to plant secondary explosives with the goal of killing first responders as well (Supportive Link: 3). Recently at the at the Stade de France in Paris, the second bomb detonated 20 minutes after the first, and a third blew up nearly 60 minutes after the first (Supportive Link: 4). It is a horrific methodology and we must realize we are not equipped or prepared to help in that kind of situation.
5. Learn first aid
In the event you are involved in a terrorist attack, solid first aid skills are crucial. While I would still implore you to leave the site, there may be wounded even in safe locations. Equally as true is that you yourself may be wounded. With a majority of the first responders headed into the worst of it, you may need to take care of yourself for an extended period of time. While it is not as exotic as sun tan lotion, I would encourage you to always carry at least a basic first aid kit. Self-aid skills may make the difference between life and death.
6. Blend in
To help avoid direct action against you and possibly your group, you are encouraged to blend in. Do your best to dress as the locals would if possible and work to not stand out in a crowd. As a long time international traveler, it is generally an easy task to pick out people who are on vacation. The traditional camera around the neck and different clothing are obvious tell tail signs. While I am not encouraging you to hide, I am simply suggesting that you be more inconspicuous.
7. Shield and or hide
If something happens and you do not have time to escape, you should shield yourself or try to hide. Lay down behind the densest cover available. Things like concrete or brick structures offer the most protection. Avoid windows, doors as well as most construction metals. These are all thin and can generate projectiles should a blast occur.
8. Escape decisively
Now is not the time to second guess yourself. If the little warning alarm inside your head say there is danger…then there is danger. Hesitation can have tragic consequences and it is much better to be safe rather than sorry. Trust yourself and act.
Should the worst case scenario occur and you end up face to face with a terrorist your choices will be limited. Fight or die. As with most serious skills in life, fighting is not one you can expect to suddenly appear when needed. While anyone can flail and strike, you would be well served to learn how to do these skills in a fashion that would inflict the greatest damage. Remember that we will not unfortunately “rise” to the occasion, but rather sink to our lowest level of training. In order to fight well, you need to learn how to fight correctly. There are countless programs available for you to explore.
10. Acknowledge the danger
The first steps in dealing with any danger is accepting that it exists. People at times subconsciously dismiss dangers because it may put a damper on their trip. They then skate through a vacation hoping that something doesn’t happen. This is a recipe for disaster. By knowing the dangers that exist we can do our best to mitigate them. The danger is real and we must deal with it.
Terrorism is nothing new. It is however much more prevalent around the world now as travel becomes easier. Ideology fuels this plague and it shows no signs of slowing up. The best we can do is be prepared and not shrink from the threat. Choose your destination wisely and be ready to act if needed. With this attitude, you can more easily survive in a world troubled with terrorism.