When packing for a trip, we usually consider how to pack our suitcase in such a way that it will pass TSA inspection. While trying to navigate busy and sometimes unfamiliar airports, we are frequently irritated by the inconvenience of security measures. Unfortunately, most people do not see the big picture.
Following the events of September 11, stricter screening procedures were implemented to help deter violence in airports and on aircraft. While this may have increased safety while in transit, it has left some people feeling stranded once they arrive at their final destination.
You are responsible for your personal safety
Most Americans, believe it or not, rely on others for their personal safety. In the aftermath of an emergency, people frequently look to the military, law enforcement, or private security as the sole providers of protection and safety.
However, we cannot rely on others to provide an immediate and effective response. This is especially true when traveling in an unknown area, state, or country where carrying a firearm or a handheld weapon is prohibited.
Personal safety and accountability include always having an entrance and exit plan, whether at home, the airport, a restaurant, or a foreign country. Despite the restrictions imposed by your travel, there are steps you can take to ensure your personal safety.
But first, we’ll go over some statistics and events that will hopefully help you understand why it’s important to be more prepared when traveling.
Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old Staten Island mother and wife, was killed in Turkey in January 2013.
During an interview, her killer stated that he came across Sierra while walking alone after drinking alcohol and sniffing paint thinner. He told authorities that he tried to kiss her, but she resisted and struck him with her cell phone. Then he dragged her into an alcove, where she fought him for approximately 30 minutes.
Some might conclude that traveling alone in Istanbul, Turkey, is dangerous.
But what about incidents that occur in our own backyard?
On October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on people attending a concert from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 59 people and injuring over 400 more.
Our goal is not to discuss what the victims may have done but to acknowledge the existence of evil and prepare ourselves to combat it as best we can.
According to studies, the average response time for law enforcement nationwide in 2013 was 11 to 18 minutes. A common statistic is that the average gunfight lasts three seconds, while a shooting incident lasts about 12.5 minutes.
These statistics indicate that, on average, we may be unable to rely on others for assistance when we are most in need and that we are ultimately responsible for our own personal safety.
With these statistics at our disposal, it may be difficult to understand why daily habits of preparedness aren’t more common than other “universal” safety rituals such as wearing seatbelts while driving in case of an accident, installing smoke detectors in our homes in case of a fire, and locking our doors to deter theft.
Nonetheless, the average American overlooks daily practices aimed at personal protection. Here are some steps you can take to increase your awareness and safety before, during, and after your trip.
Having a plan is the first step in protecting ourselves or loved ones at home or on the road.
Carrying a firearm or an edged weapon, being skilled in hand-to-hand combat, or simply remaining calm, thinking, reacting, and communicating appropriately.
It is critical to identify a survival resource and consistently train it, thereby assisting in the development of an ingrained mental pathway for our safety habits.
If you’re traveling within the United States, carrying a firearm once you arrive may be an option, but you must first research the local firearms and carry laws.
Is it reciprocal with your home state?
If not, what are the licensing laws in your area?
If you are flying with a firearm or a handheld weapon, you should consult with both the TSA and the airline to ensure you follow the proper procedures. This is not an option for international travel.
Before you leave, do some research on your destination. When flying into an airport or arriving at a train station, research the various modes of transportation available in the area and how to get to them.
Is public transportation, for example, a practical and safe option?
Check out the free crime reporting websites to get a sense of crime trends in the transiting area. Some may be lacking in detail, but they will give you an idea of which areas have a high incidence of crime.
If you’re going to use taxi or car services, make a list of reputable companies and pick-up locations ahead of time, and find out if they’re regulated in your area. Taxi services in the United States are regulated and have set prices in each state; they typically offer two to three price brackets for daytime, nighttime, and peak hours. In addition, most taxis are outfitted with security cameras and GPS trackers.
When traveling abroad, not all cabs are regulated. If you need a cab, you should call one rather than hail one. Look for numbers and labeling on the outside of the cab when it arrives. Look for a meter, radio, and badge on the inside. Know where you’re going and be aware of currency conversions in your destination country.
Ride-sharing services such as Uber, UberX, and Lyft are also popular modes of transportation. Most ride-sharing services are now regulated, with state and territory governments imposing varying requirements on drivers before they can work.
Uber drivers are generally required to have a state-based driver authority (similar to a taxi driver), which typically includes a criminal history and medical check, as well as proof of insurance.
Aside from regulations, most rideshare services have a number of different parameters in place to ensure the safety of their passengers, which include:
Passengers are not anonymous: they are given the driver’s name, photo, vehicle information, and contact number. The journey is also documented.
GPS Tracking: Once your driver accepts your request, your journey is tracked using GPS on both your phone and the driver’s phone. You can also share your ride with friends or family so they can keep track of your progress.
Rating System: Passengers anonymously rate drivers on a scale of 1 to 5. Drivers’ accounts may be deactivated if they consistently receive low ratings.
Make a note of any high-crime neighborhoods or areas and avoid them if at all possible. Having a plan and knowing where you’re going will cut down on unnecessary loitering, which may alert predators that you’re unfamiliar with the area.
When booking a hotel, look for a well-known, reputable brand. Most hotel chains have a rewards program and a website where you can book reservations, which frequently includes a star rating system.
Request a room on the upper floors when making your reservation. Higher floors help to keep people from walking in off the street and easily accessing your room.
Once you’ve made your reservation, write down the hotel’s address and phone number and keep it somewhere, so you can easily find it when you arrive. Human predators benefit from distractions and opportunities created by rummaging through your personal belongings.
Knowing the area becomes even more important if you’ve booked your travel accommodations through an online hospitality service that rents out private residences, such as Airbnb or VRBO.
Is the rental area secure?
Is public transportation available?
Will it be occupied by the owner while you’re renting?
If you’re renting a car or driving to your destination, is there parking available at or near the rental?
Always read previous renter reviews and rent from a trusted source to ensure you know who you’re renting from.
Don’t advertise that you’re traveling alone or that you’re a tourist. Even if you are unsure, always move with confidence. Wear simple clothing and accessories.
When traveling abroad, be sure to research local customs and dress appropriately. Be aware of cultural etiquette in the areas you will be visiting, whether inside or outside the United States.
Keep in mind that anything you say or do in public can be heard or seen. Speaking openly about your plans, where you’ll be staying, or how excited you are to finally be out on your own could put you in danger if you happen to be in the wrong crowd.
Make every effort to stay in well-lit areas with high pedestrian traffic.
Know your limits when it comes to alcoholic beverages, don’t leave drinks unattended, and don’t accept drinks from strangers. When you’re drunk, it’s even more important to choose a reputable car service.
We know several people who have been mugged or worse because they had one too many and assumed that everything would be fine once they got in a cab.
Hotel employees are subject to the same rules as everyone else. To avoid misplacing or losing keys, have only one keycard made for your room. When you’re in your room, make sure to lock the door and use any extra security locks.
Because not all hotel doors have additional security features, bring a rubber or tactical doorstop with you to check the door from the inside, making it more difficult for someone to force entry.
Always keep identification papers and high-value items locked up in the room’s safe. If there isn’t an in-room safe, the front desk may have a safe deposit box.
When you leave your room, leave the do not disturb card on the outside of the door and the radio or television on. This will make your room appear occupied, which is especially important when traveling alone.
Check the safe for personal items before checking out of the hotel. Make a thorough sweep of your hotel room to ensure that no personal effects are left behind.
Make sure you don’t throw away anything that could be used to identify you, such as old boarding passes, receipts, mail, or agendas. Although most hotels no longer attach personal information to room keys, you should still turn in or take hotel keys with you.
Again, if you’re staying in a private residence booked through an online hospitality service, being prepared is critical to your safety. Communicate via the booking site, set expectations with your host for your visit in advance, and don’t leave personal items behind.
Try to be extra vigilant at airports and other major transportation hubs. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world travel through these various networks on a daily basis, making it a target-rich environment.
Maintain accountability for your personal items at all times and never leave them unattended. If you forget, the constant loudspeaker announcements in most major airports will undoubtedly remind you.
Even after traveling, safety is of the utmost importance.
Check your luggage upon arrival to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything. Check your bank accounts and credit card statements on a regular basis to ensure that none of your accounts have been compromised. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report on a regular basis for any signs of fraudulent activity.
Maintain awareness in all aspects of your life. Just because you returned safely to the safety of your own home does not mean that dangers are no longer present.
We frequently become complacent in our daily routines, and it is equally important for us to maintain vigilance while carrying out our daily activities.
Personal accountability and preparedness are the two most important factors to ensure that you and your loved ones do not become victims while traveling to and from work, to another state, across the country, or internationally.
Useful resources to check out: