Posts Tagged Travel Safety

Personal Safety and Prepping: The Earthquake is Not Your Only Problem.

Personal Safety and Prepping: The Earthquake is Not Your Only Problem!

(Draft Post Being Edited for Approval)– This post will be related to the earthquakes in Southern California and Central America within the first week of July 2109.

The focus will not only be on what we need in a Go Bag, but why having what we need – and not having to leave our secure environment to seek these things out – reduces our personal safety risk profile. We will discuss preparedness for such a situation for lone workers, who spend most of their time away from the home or office, and how such preparedness is also invaluable for travel safety.

Resource:  Earthquake Backpack List 

 How to Build and Earthquake Survival Kit

Can You Predict Earthquakes – USGS

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Travel Safety and Security Awareness Tips: What is Blending In?

                                      Travel Safety and Security Awareness

                  What is Blending In? What do I do when I cannot Blend In?

One of the cornerstones to personal safety is what experts refer to as “blending in.” Better stated, this is not attempting to “fit in,” especially in an environment that is clearly foreign to you, it’s just not drawing unwanted attention.

This may apply to social workers, home health providers and other lone workers when doing business in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

It also applies when abroad, and in general, a good practice to engage in whether in a group or traveling solo.

The basics on blending in are common sense.

Dress down. Don’t wear bright colors that catch the eye, and keep your phone out of sight. Jewelry and other valuables also attract attention.

Footwear: Shoes that are comfortable and that you can move quickly in are a plus. Inmates participating in a victim selection study said they always factor in whether a prospective target is wearing shoes that will slow them down or allow them nimble movement.

Body language is also key. Projecting a relaxed, yet confident and friendly presence is ideal. Walking “heads up” and “shoulders back” are the cornerstones of a relaxed and confident person.

But what to do when you CANNOT blend in?

For instance, when you’re somewhere that you don’t look at all like the local folks? I experience this a lot traveling in Southern Africa and Central America.

In this case, the “script is flipped,” as it were.

If you’re going to be somewhere for a while and cannot blend in, it is now time to “develop assets,” as the military likes to say.

In other words, it’s time to start getting to know people. For instance, I’m sure to get to know store owners, the fellows running the bicycle rental shop I walk by every day, the pharmacist, several produce vendors, and security guards outside banks and other businesses.

My goal: I want as many friendly sets of eyes on me as I go about my day as possible. Locals know who’s who and word travels fast. If I’m somewhere more than a week, I also get to know several cab drivers.

With eyes on you, people who are up to no good know you are seen and recognized by the solid citizens and are less likely to victimize you. Locals know who they are and can report very easily. Locals will more readily step in to help, if they see you are in a difficult position.

Build relationships over time. I try and remain vague on where we’re staying and for how long. As President Reagan once said, “Trust but verify.”

I am always cognizant that I am a guest in this neighborhood or country.  Always show respect and honor the culture. Warm and friendly eye contact goes a long way, as does showing gratitude and kindness. Learning a few courtesy phrases always helps.

When abroad, I am sure to keep the contacts of locals I get to know, such as cab drivers, pharmacists, an Airbnb owner, etc., in my WhatsApp (the free international text and voice app most of us are familiar with.)

As always, know where to go in an emergency. Find out where the closest medical facility and police station are. Have your country’s embassy phone number in your speed dial list.  Regardless of how comfortable we become in any environment, including our own “back yards”, maintaining situational awareness is always key.

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3 Simple Travel Safety Strategies for Spring Break

Communications – Cover Your Six – Buddy Up = “CCB

Spring break is here & for those of us with children, the thought of them going on vacation without us is often anxiety provoking.  Believing “less is more”, I have given my daughters three easy- to -remember strategies.

Communication Strategy-

  • Parents and children should always have their cell phones on their person and switched on!!
  • Sharing your plans with your parents puts them at ease.  If your plans change, update them right away. If you can’t call, shoot them a text message. Remember, if they don’t know where you are, they can’t get help for you if the need arises.
  • Check in with your parents at a scheduled time each day. This will give them peace of mind and minimize their calling you to find out if all is well.
  • Mom and Dad: If the kids are proactive and responsible with these communication strategies, reward them by hovering less.  That’s my agreement with my daughters.

Cover your Six

  • Young men and women:  do what all professional safety, security, military and law enforcement officers do. Remain aware of your surroundings at all times and most importantly, know what is going on behind you at all times.
  • This blind spot is known as your “Six O’ Clock” and it’s from where bad guys generally launch attacks.
  • The simplest way to do this:  look LEFT and RIGHT whenever you walk through a door, an entrance or exit, get on or off an elevator, etc. Remember, the direction you do NOT turn toward is going to become your new blind spot. Practice this now at home so it becomes a habit.
  • Put away the headphones. If you don’t see someone coming up on you, you need to hear them!

Buddy Up

  • The buddy system is one of the most effective ways to lower your risk of being a victim of crime.
  • It’s not always convenient to wait for someone to walk with you to your hotel or to your hotel room, but it is well worth it!  You should buddy up even when going to the bathroom at a busy mall. This is not being paranoid. It is being smart!!
  • Just because there are three or even four of you walking as a buddy team, you still need to COVER YOUR SIX and pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Smart buddy teams also avoid isolated areas and will take the long way around to avoid quiet places, especially at night.

CCB” – If your children remember to implement these three simple strategies they will be that much safer during their travels

More Travel Safety Tips

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Personal Security in a Post-9/11 World-Moving in a 360-Degree Environment

As seen in the November 2009 issue of Mobility Magazine, an article on travel safety and security considerations for employees undergoing transfer domestically and internationally.

Topics covered include the importance of

  • Blending into your environment
  • Route selection / carjacking
  • Predictability as a vulnerability
  • Hotel room selection…..and more

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“Express Kidnappings”- No just a Third World Problem!

kidnappingWhen we hear of a kidnapping we usually think of it in the context of extortion for some type of ransom. Politically, a kidnapping may take place in an attempt to gain leverage over a government or state entity. But what is an “express kidnapping” and why are we hearing that term more often of late?

“Express kidnapping” is a term typically used to describe the abduction of a person with the intent of holding them for just long enough to visit multiple ATM machines, in order to draw the maximum amount of cash allowed in any given time period. Most card holder accounts limit the amount of cash that can be drawn on any one transaction or in any 24 hour time period.

The Brazilians often refer to this as a  Sequestro Relampago which literally means “Lightening Kidnapping”

This type of crime is more common in Third World countries and may start out as a carjacking of an unaware citizen or traveler. Alternately the victim might be robbed and then thrown into the perpetrators vehicle in which the crime spree will continue. Rouge taxi drivers also take advantage of tourists day or night and especially if their fare is intoxicated. Alternately, an unsuspecting traveler may get into a rouge cab drivers vehicle upon arriving at the airport.

Although in most cases the victim is not held for very long, there is a risk that the victim will be murdered at the end of the crime spree so that they will not be able to ID the perpetrators if apprehended. Obviously female victims run the risk of sexual assault during this time period. As with any crime, the simple intent to rob can easily degenerate into violence if things do not go smoothly especially during the actual abduction phase.

While express kidnappings are seen more frequently in developing countries, there have been reports of an increase in the incidence of such crimes here in the United States. These are most often crimes of opportunity and avoidance always starts with good situational awareness and knowing who is around you and what they are up to.

If you are traveling on business familiarize yourself with the areas you will be staying and working. Be sure to know what parts of town to avoid and always use well vetted ground transportation especially when it comes to taxis. Dressing down and not wearing expensive jewelery helps you blend in. Laptops, cameras and electronics draw unwanted attention.

Traveling in groups always makes you a more difficult target. Avoid isolated or “fringe” areas and be wary of groups of young males who seem out of place. Also remember that recent FBI reports state that females continue to play a larger role in gang activity here in the United States.

Never approach a vehicle that has pulled up alongside to ask for directions etc. Keep walking, and move toward a busier area. Walking against the flow of traffic also makes it more difficult for a vehicle to pull alongside.

If you must use an ATM do so in a well light and busy area. Be aware that this is often where perpetrators do their surveillance from a standoff position then perhaps follow the prospective victim to a quiet or isolated area before striking. Although less convenient, try complete all financial transactions inside a bank branch.

If you get an uneasy feeling about using an ATM despite any tangible reason to be suspect, always honor your instincts and leave the area and complete the transaction elsewhere. Never deem your instincts to be irrational or silly, they are rarely wrong!

Whether traveling, or at home,  make yourself less predictable in terms of which bank branch or ATM you use and at what time of the day. Try vary the routes you walk and drive.  If you are aware of your surroundings and less predictable in your habits and patterns you present as a harder target in general.

If you will be traveling abroad, please visit the State Departments website during the planning phase of your trip and visit their Current Travel Warnings list.

Larry Kaminer

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