Travel Security Tips: Working In Hot Zones
Here are just a few of the travel tips I’ve compiled for my professionals heading into harm’s way. They could also help most civilians in any major city. Head on swivel is the key to an exciting new assignment and enjoying your stay.
1) Familiarize yourself with the entry and exit locations for your place of work and residence. You want to establish a sense of comfort with the pattern of life in the neighborhood. A lot of third world countries have busy neighborhoods with terrible traffic but many smaller side streets. I would suggest doing this during the daytime and on foot, instead of trying it in a car or taxi.
2) Do not travel alone at night, even in areas that are typically crowded or that you think you know well. Scammers, thieves, and gangs are common and in Europe and have been known to employ drugging beverages, using coercive tactics like the “turkey drop,” where they will deliberately leave objects out in the open for people to pick up, and then swoop in claiming a theft unless the victim pays or consents to doing something for them. Most major European cities have a decent police presence however they are not always within earshot and are not the most professional force out there.
3) Only utilize taxis from taxi corporations. Note the taxi number prior to entry. Note the taxi company phone number as well. Non-corporate taxis have a tendency to over charge, and more importantly, lack accountability which can lead to abuse, including sexual harassment and abuse. I have had experiences where cab drivers from non-corporate taxis will take me well off the route I commonly use to travel. Do not be afraid to voice concerns and demand that they return to the normal route. Often they use the excuse of “heavy traffic.” While uncommon, the possibility exists that they can deliver you to a dangerous location as part of a scam.
4) Have multiple routes to and from home and work. Vary which route you take and the time at which you take it. Varying routes and times is the easiest way to avoid casing and is the easiest way to confound a possible attacker. On these routes, look at a map and identify stretches of each route that MUST be taken, for example the stretch of road from the house to the first possible point where the multiple routes deviate, or the final stretch before the destination (if there is only one way to reach it). Those areas of essential travel are the places where, if someone is trying to ambush, they would.
5) Familiarize yourself with “safe zones” near these routes, such as shopping malls, police or gendarmerie stations, mosques, churches and so on, in the event you may be at risk.
6) If using a personally owned automobile, check the wheel wells for foreign objects prior to entry. Check the back seat and dashboard prior to entering the car. Observe the area around the car for disturbances, such as segments of wire, broken glass, and other indicators of tampering.
7) If you think you are being followed, try making multiple right turns. Statistically most cars continue straight, and this will narrow the pack down to an observable group. If you are being followed aggressively, report it to the local authorities or consult with the US Consulate.
8) Check in with the US Consulate within 72 hours of arrival in country. This can be done online via the State Department’s website, or in person or over the phone. This is essential for the Embassy or Consulate to keep in touch in case of emergencies, heightened threats to Americans, and the like.
9) Keep a cell phone on you at all times, well-charged, and with emergency numbers, including the US Consulate.
10) Avoid stairwells whenever possible and use elevators. Stairwells are confined, excellent locations for an assault, and are typically poorly lit, isolated and soundproof.
Study this video to prepare for this common ambush attack.
Enjoy your paths!