INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL RISKS:
Safety, Security, Threats
By Scott Stoddard
reprinted from AMERICAL SURVIVAL GUIDE
American travelers should be increasingly alert to the hazards of
overseas travel and should prepare ahead of time for the possible dangers.
Terrorist attacts, kidnappings, air disasters, bombings, hotel fires, and
ordinary street crimes are becoming more prevalent each year.
The State Dept. reports that the number of terrorist incidents involving
American citizens is about 800 per year. The overall American death toal from
terrorism is over 400 persons.
Weeks and even months before you plan to travel to a foreign land, you
should develop a systematic plan for handling travel hazards. This plan can
be broken into three sections.
#1) PRE-FLIGHT PREPARATION
#2) IN-FLIGHT TRAVEL TIME
#3) ACTIVITIES ON FOREIGN SOIL
Vaccinations may be required before entering certain countries. The
"WORLD STATUS MAP", updated on a monthly basis, lists what countries require
colera, typhoid and yellow fever vaccination. It is available by writing:
WORLD STATUS MAP
Merrifield, VA 22116
301-564-8473 [cost is $6.00]
Plan to get these inoculations early. Some may require more than one
inoculation which need to be given at least a week apart. And could be as
much as a month apart. If you are going to areas with malaria you should
start taking malaria prophylaxis pills two weeks before departure for them to
Another source for vaccine information is:
John Hopkins University,
The International Health Clinic,
Hampton House, Room 113,
624 North Broadway,
Baltimore ,MD 21205.
Call 301-955-8931 week days between 9am-5pm.
They offer a complete range of vaccines along with pre-trip and
post-trip consultations with doctors who specialize in infectious diseases
and international health.
Visas and passports should be obtained at least a month before departure.
When getting passport photos, always order extra copies on multipules of two.
These extra photos might be used on visas, drivers permits, or for a new
passport if yours is lost or stolen.
If you already have a valid passport, make sure that the old entry
stamps will not cause you any problems when entering your country of
destination. An Israeli entry stamp will not look good if you are planning a
trip to an Arab country. If this is the case, get a new passport.
Terrorism is a major concern for travelers in these turbulent times.
Actually, you are probably safer traveling abroad than walking down a city
street at night in a major U.S. city. It is wise, however, to make plans in
the event of a terrorist incident and learn ways to reduce your risk.
Keep a file at home and at the office that contains the following
important items: your itinerary, including flight numbers and hours of
departure, a photocopy of your airline ticket, passport, a record of your
blood type and Rh factor,a list of special health conditions or medical
restrictions, your eye-glass perscription, a photocopy or list of travelers
check numbers and an emergency communication plan.
In the home file folder be sure to include a valid will, a record of
financial affairs that require administration, a power of attorney over your
financial affairs to your spouse or a designated person, checks and deposit
slips for your joint account, your key to a joint safe-deposit-box, a
photocopy of your credit cards, copies of your life and health insurance
policies and instructions on what to do in case of hi-jacking or kidnapping:
who to contact, what to say to the press ("company policy against
An emergency communications plan is a list of key-words or a code that
you can keep in both home and office files and is used when kidnappers or
terrorists permit you to speak or write to outsiders. Make the list short so
you can memorize it. To help you remember the code list, the first letter of
each word on the list should form a simple acronym. 'ALARMED' = I am in a
city with street noises. Use as "don't be alarmed" 'SAD' = I am being beaten
and/or tortured. Use as "sad to miss you" 'GIVE' = I am in a rural area
with no street noise. Use as "give my love..." 'MANY' = I am among many
armed captors. Use as "many thanks for your love and support" 'ALL RIGHT' =
I am OK, well treated. Use as "I'm all right" 'GOOD' = I am injured or sick.
Use as "I'm in good health" *note that the first letters of ALARMED, SAD,
GIVE, MANY, ALL RIGHT, and GOOD spell out ASG-MAG (American Survival Guide
Magazine).This acronym or any other word you can come up with will help you
remember your set of code words.
The National Transportation Safety Board,(NTSB), and many flight
attendants say that the safest seats are in the rear of an airplane. While
those seated in the rear of the airplane have a better chance of surviving
the intial impact of the crash, prompt evacuation to escape fire and smoke is
extremely important. Because fire will probably block exits on one side of
the plane, aisle seats with quick access to exits on both sides and the rear
Cotton and pure wool are good fabrics to wear while traveling aboard
commercial jet aircraft. Synthetic fabric like polyester and nylon should be
avoided. They tend to melt when exposed to fire, increasing the threat of
A new product offered by Survival Products Inc. called "SURVIVAID" will
increase your chances of escaping a fiery plane crash. Weighing less than 5
ounces and stored in a small plastic envelope measuring 5.5" X 8", Survivaid
is a flame proof hood that is placed over your head. It contains a passive
filter that removes harmfull particulate matter from the smoke and absorbs
toxic fumes and gases. The SURVIVAID can be ordered for $29.95 from:
SURVIVAL PRODUCTS INC.,
Fort Worth, TX 76185
This product can be also used to increase get-away time in an office or
During a hi-jacking incident, the safest seats are those located over
the wing in the mid to aft section of the plane. Because the cockpit is where
the terrorist will be concentrating their efforts, a seat near the rear, and
not an isle seat, will be the safest.
The 1985 TWA hi-jacking of Flght 874 in Athens and the 1986 Pan Am
hi-jacking of flight 73 in Karachi show that terrorist, after securing the
plane, will single out Americans... especially government/military personnel
for the roughest treatment or execution.
The terrorist will demand all passengers passports. Try to stall or
delay handing over your passport by keeping it in your carry-on luggage in
the overhead compartment. That way if the hi-jacker forces you to move to
another seat, you will not have your passport with you.
Eventually you may have to give up your passport. Avoid carring a
briefcase of anything else that might signal to the terrorist that you might
be a business traveler. If you carry an Official Passport, or a Diplomatic
Passport, get a tourist pass-port also. Show this one if you are forced to
surrender your passport.
ACTIVITIES ON FOREIGN SOIL
After passing though customs, you will need to find a taxi or bus to get
you to your hotel. Walking out of the terminal with luggage in hand is one of
the most risky times for a traveler. Airports are becoming increasingly
crowded, and that makes it easier for pick-pockets and thieves. Carry your
documents and money in a safe pocket or zipped away in your carry-on bag.
Once at your hotel, make sure you know where every exit is on your floor
in case of fire or other disaster. Know where the fire exit is to go down
and the exit to go up to the roof. The disasterous hotel fire in 1986 at the
DuPont Hotel in Pureto Rico showed that this may be critical information
needed to survive.
To avoid attention when out wandering around the city, dress as the
natives dress. Act like you know where you are going even if you don't. Don't
wear jewlery, and use a cheap watch to keep track of time.
If you are in a country with a possible terrorist threat, vary your
routine and routes to avoid repetition. Avoid publicity or association with
others who may be terrorist targets. Also don't let your office or hotel
staff know your schedule or plans in advance. Your schedule should be known
only to your family, those traveling with you and your client or host.
In countries where rioting is a problem, the safest action is to go away
from the disturbance and stay indoors. If you are in the street when a
shooting takes place, lie down immediatly and cover your head with your arms.
Don't get up untill the shooting stops. Then get away as fast as possile. If
you are in your hotel room when the shooting starts, close the curtains and
put the mattress or bed against the window. Turn out the lights and get out
of the danger area.
In a country with possible unrest it is wise to regester at the U.S.
Embassy the first thing after arrival. The U.S. Embassy can provide limited
help in certain emergency situations. Should you require medical assistance
in a foreign country, a list of English speaking doctors can be obtained. New
passports can be issued for $42.00 should yours become lost or stolen. The
embassy will help locate missing Americans and can offer help in times of
civil unrest and natural disaster.
Be carefull to avoid legal problems during your stay. In many countries
there are certain things you should not photograph: bridges, military
installations, public buildings, ect. Be aware of these restrictions. Avoid
anything to do with illegal drugs including marijuana and cocaine. The State
Dept reports that over 900 Americans were arrested in 1985 for violations of
local narcotic laws. 70% of these arrests were in Jamaica, Mexico, and the
Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and West Germany.
If you are detained or arrested by the host country, ask to call your
enbassy. If the situation looks bad and there are onlookers, throw a hand
full of business cards and shout for everyone to report your problem to the
U.S. Embassy. Under international conventions you have the right to call
your embassy. Continue to politely request this right.
International travel offers a unique view of the world and the benefits
and pleasures available should be sought after. A knowledgable and prepaired
traveler recognizes that travel does pose some risks. Taking steps to reduce
those risks will help make your trip more pleasurable and memorable. -= END