Keeping Safe on the Road

By Lain Ehmann

In the post-9/11 world safety has become a big concern. But plywood and duct tape aren’t enough to keep you, your family and your possessions safe – and they’re really hard items to take with you when you travel for business. The editors of Silver Lake Publishing have created The Personal Security Handbook: Practical Tools for Keeping Yourself, Your Family and Your Things Safe at Work, Home, or on the Road (Silver Lake Publishing, 2005).

Here are some of their top tips for business travelers.

  • Don’t assume you are free from risk as a target of kidnapping, theft or another threat because you aren’t wealthy. “The most frequent kidnapping targets are middle-class executives and their families,” say the authors.
  • Maintain a low profile. Leave the fancy clothing, jewelry and electronic gadgets behind.
  • Vary your routine. Don’t eat at the same restaurant or travel the same routes daily. Mix things up.
  • Only use official taxi stands. Even if the car looks like a real cab and you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain, use only cab companies recommended by your hosts or your hotel.
  • Stay in the pack. There is safety in numbers, so avoid isolated areas. If you’re traveling to an international hot spot, the authors recommend teaming up with others from your country and staying in what’s known as a foreign national enclave.
  • Keep an eye on your stuff. Avoid being separated from your luggage or hand-carried items. Many scams are designed to get you apart from your baggage.
  • Guard your personal information. Don’t display your name, phone number or home address on the exterior of your bags and watch what you put in the garbage. Many things we unthinkingly dispose of contain sensitive information such as travel itineraries, credit card information and other personal data. Also, don’t leave sensitive personal or business information lying around your room.
  • Let people know where you are. Leave a copy of your itinerary with the home office and check in regularly to alert them of any changes to your plans.
  • Speak the language. You can’t become fluent in every language, but at least learn a few key phrases such as: I need the [police, doctor, ambulance].
  • Avoid unknown hotels. Opt for larger chains or use ones recommended by business colleagues or your travel agent.
  • Request a lower floor. “Most fire departments do not have the capability to rescue people above the seventieth floor with external rescue equipment,” the authors say.
  • Know your way around. Don’t rely solely on taxi drivers. Obtain and study a map of the city so you have some points of reference and know the locations of important items such as police stations, hospitals and the embassy.
  • Know who to contact if you have problems overseas. The U.S. Department of Transportation has a Travel Advisory and Airport Safety Hotline (800-221-0673) that advises international travelers of potentially dangerous airports and countries. The U.S. State Department operates a Citizens’ Emergency Center (202-647-0900) that offers assistance in emergency situations to travelers abroad, as well as international travel advisories and alerts, says the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).

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