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The Safety Doctor Article

Professional Speaker Magazine
June 2002, Pages 24-26.
Dr. Isabel Perry
©Copyright 2002

"Safe and Secure Travels; Why Jeans and Aisle Seats Increase Risk"

Have you ever thought about the most valuable asset to your company? It's YOU!!!! When you manage your business, keep your most valuable asset safe and secure at all times. Incorporate these precautions into your travel routine and reduce the possibility of becoming a victim.

Professional speakers are traveling like never before, and with the global marketplace, international travel is commonplace. Safe and secure travel habits must be exercised whether you are traveling across town or across the globe. Corporate executives and bodyguards have been utilizing these practices for years, but only recently have many of us been awakened by the necessity of protecting ourselves as we become more mobile.

Before You Leave Home
There are a number of phone calls to make prior to departure and they aren't to the newspaper publicizing your being out of town (great tip for burglars). Contact a trustworthy neighbor to handle your services (mail, newspapers and other deliveries); this lessens the risk of having unknown third parties knowledgeable of your whereabouts. Check if your health insurance covers you abroad; if not, perhaps purchase short-term health and emergency assistance policies for travelers.

Invest in some good luggage; it will serve you well and avoid the embarrassment of clothes coming down the carousel adjacent to your luggage with torn zippers. The luggage tags should have your office address (not home) printed on them. Don't forget to label the inside of your luggage, too...just in case the tags are lost.

Only carry credit cards that are necessary; empty your wallet of unnecessary information, especially your social security number. Make two copies of credit cards, phone numbers to report lost cards, travelers' check numbers, airline tickets, driver's license and Passport (critical for international traveling). Leave one copy with that trustworthy friend at home, and another copy in your luggage while you travel.

Don't forget your medications and don't forget to keep them in their original containers if traveling internationally. A letter from your doctor is recommended if carrying tranquilizers and amphetamines, which are considered illegal in some countries. One-third of jailed citizens abroad are there for drug charges and in some countries, possession, in addition to trafficking, is illegal. It is better to be prepared than to be detained and miss your flight.

When making your travel plans, always try to take a direct flight; most airline accidents are upon ascent and descent. Use connections through secondary hubs that are less likely to attract terrorists, who prefer areas of hustle and bustle, where commotion is a distraction.

Unfortunately, there are some populations in the world that want to target Americans. Consider your destination and wear clothing that blends into the local crowds. Jeans, red-white-blue clothing, and big tennis shoes are not advised. It shouts, "American." Albeit, other countries have similar clothes, however, their facial features and language are different, and their clothes may have a slight difference in styles that is distinguishable. The operative word here is "BLEND" into the environment.

There are special tips for the single person. Consider wearing a wedding ring so you can avoid harassment often put-upon the single traveler. Before leaving home, use automatic light systems and consider leaving a radio on. A clever suggestion from one police force was to put a dog bowl outside the back door with "Killer" on it.

Keep the garage door down when you are packing the trunk of your vehicle; burglars like to "case" a neighborhood before they strike and you don't want to provide them with unnecessary information.

Traveling in Your Vehicle
Whether you are traveling across town to make a presentation or traveling to the airport, there are precautions you should take to lessen your risk of injury. Beware of the "bump" accident where another driver will slightly bump the rear of your car; car thieves work in pairs and steal your car when you are outside inspecting the damage.

Another simple tip is to time your traffic lights; this is very important when arriving late at night. A car in motion is safer from vandals on foot than a stopped car. Keep windows rolled up and valuables out of view for "smash and grab" incidents. This happens more frequently in tourist areas where individuals on scooters stop close to your vehicle at lights.

If you must stop, leave one vehicle between you and the car in front of you for easy exit. If you are ever in danger, continuously sound your horn and CAUTIOUSLY violate traffic signals if necessary to leave the area.

When you park your vehicle, don't park next to vans or cars with blackened out windows. If thugs attack you when you exit your car, toss the keys as far away as possible. As they retrieve the keys, you may have an opportunity to run away and scream "fire." More people respond to "fire" than "help."

Whether you valet your car in your hometown, or use airport parking, only leave your ignition key with the attendant. It is CRITICAL than you hide the garage door opener. Why would you leave a means of access into your home with your address on the vehicle registration in the glove compartment? You may return to an empty home.

At the Airport
The US Transportation Department statistics for 1999 report 1 in 200 pieces of luggage are lost or misdirected. The average is one person per flight is disappointed; don't let it be YOU!! Eighty-seven percent of this problem is caused by gate agent error caused by miss tagged luggage. Before you say "good-bye" to your luggage, ensure that the proper 3-letter code of your destination is affixed to your luggage.

Since so many bags look alike, place a colorful ribbon or tag on your bag. That way you can help avoid someone taking your bag by mistake. However, don't overdo it; luggage festooned with many tags and stickers from previous travels indicates that you are a frequent flier. Thieves target these bags assuming you are a wealthy traveler.

Most airlines allow only one carry-on and it must not exceed 45 linear inches (add the height, width and depth). Domestic airlines do not have weight limits, however you may pay a surcharge in foreign countries if your luggage exceeds 40 pounds. Your carryon bag should include: tickets, hotel and car rental reservation numbers, passports or visas, credit cards, cash, traveler's checks, medicine (remember, customs officials will confiscate unlabeled medicines of any kind, so use the original containers), change of clothes, basic toiletries (stored in a sealed bag to prevent leakage from the pressurized cabin). Be ready for random searches of carryon bags. Travel light and know that unless you are in the most remote corner of the globe, you will find shops where you can buy extra supplies you need. If you are planning to take some gifts along, hold off wrapping them until you arrive; security officials may have to unwrap them if they cannot detect what is inside.

Along with your carryon, you are also allowed to bring an additional "personal" item, which may include a purse, laptop computer, briefcase, or small backpack.

Make sure you have all your electronic devices within reach before the security screening area. You can still carryon cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices, but prepare for a little extra scrutiny. Laptops will be thoroughly examined and must be taken out of their case to go through x-ray. Label the outside of your laptop with your name, as there have been numerous instances of people picking up the wrong one. As you pass through security do not place your items on the conveyor unless you are ready to go through the personal scanner. Others are eager to go to their gate and may erroneously pick up the wrong items.

Do not pack the following items in your carryon: knives of any kind, including their replacement blades, scissors, cigar cutters, corkscrews, metal nail files, crochet needles, flammable aerosols (i.e. mace and pepper spray, large hairspray cans, insect repellent), and flammable liquids (i.e. more than 16 ounces of perfume and lighters and lighter fluid). Individual flammable/aerosol containers must not exceed 16 ounces each and 70 ounces totally. In addition, the following items must be checked: golf clubs, baseball bats, pool cues, ski poles and hockey sticks. If in doubt, check with your air carrier.

At Your Destination
Request a hotel room on levels 2-7 since fire truck ladders only extend that high. If the desk clerk announces your room number, ask for another room; your whereabouts should be handled privately. If the persons on the elevator appear "strange," you should wait until the next apologies necessary. If you are attacked on an elevator, push all the bottoms and if the person pushes the "stop," try to pull it out. Have your room key out before you arrive at your room (same with keys to your vehicle). When you enter your room, lock you door, but don't chain it until you have checked to see if anyone is in the room. To avoid thieves, make sure the room always appears occupied with the TV or radio on and never hang the "please clean room" sign. Do not leave documents out in your room; credit card receipts have your number on them and you don't want to support someone else's shopping spree.

In case of fire, fill the bathtub with water. Wet the bath towels and wedge them under the door to keep smoke and fumes out. Use bed sheets to hang out the window to let people know where you are.

Never use the stairwell between floors for step-aerobics; this is not a place to exercise. These areas are fireproof and thus soundproof. It's a great place for thieves to hide. Always carry ID if you jog or exercise, in case of emergency.

If you are traveling to a foreign country, register with the US Consulate or embassies upon arrival. You are easier to evacuate, if necessary. Also, if someone from home is expecting a call and it isn't made, the embassy knows your whereabouts and can check to see if you are missing. Retrieve your passport from the front desk as soon as possible in foreign countries.

In Your New Environment
Only take taxis with official markings. When you enter the cab, sit behind the driver where he can't see you, but you can see him. Ensure that the photo on the posted driver's license matches the driver's face. Comment on his license number and say you will play that number in the lottery tonight. If you use trains or busses, sit in front near the conductor.

Be wary of "new found friends" and don't share travels plans or personal matters with them. Beware of distractions; gypsies often work in pairs. Bumping and pick pocketing has become a lucrative occupation for some.

Walk with confidence; thieves pry on the weak. Remember, you don't have to "outrun the bear," just others. Keep a mental note of safe havens such as police stations, hotels, hospitals, etc. If you are accosted in public, scream "fire." If someone grabs you, try to pull back his thumb to get out of the grip. Hit the most vulnerable areas (eyes, throat, groin, and shins). If he grabs you, come out of your coat or blouse; this is not a time to be modest. Do whatever it takes to get away. Never allow yourself to be taken in a car or down and alley. If you are knocked down, swivel on your back and kick.

In restaurants watch your drink; drug assisted rape is a real and growing risk. Purse-snatchers and briefcase thieves often work in bars and restaurants. Be cautious and don't hang your purse on a chair.

Hijackings or Hostage Situation
The most dangerous time is at the beginning (terrorists are tense, high-strung and behave irrationally). Remain calm and alert and manage your own behavior. Avoid resistance and sudden or threatening movements. Do not struggle or try to escape unless you are CERTAIN THAT YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL.

Aisle seats are the least desirable, since hijackers are more likely to beat-up people on the aisle. Avoid alcoholic beverages and pour out drinks, if possible.

Try to remain inconspicuous; avoid eye contact and the appearance of observing your captors actions. Consciously put yourself in a mode of passive cooperation. Talk normally, do not complain, and avoid belligerence. If questioned, keep answers short and don't volunteer information.

If it is a long situation, try to establish rapport with your captors, avoiding political discussion or other confrontational subjects. Think positively and avoid a sense of despair. Rely on your inner resources. You are a valuable commodity to your captors. It is important to them to keep you alive and well.

Safety is Like Insurance
The most cautious people will utilize all of the above suggestions. Some will adhere to a few. Similar to buying various types of insurance, you will take a certain amount of risk and that varies with all of us. Regardless of what measures you take, remember, "YOU are your business; manage it well and incorporate safety into your travel routines." Happy travels and Godspeed.

Copyright 2002 Dr. Isabel Perry. All rights reserved.

Dr. Isabel Perry offers you these articles to reprint or repost - FREE - provided that her name and contact information (supplied below) are included. Please let us know how you plan to use any article(s) by Dr. Isabel Perry by contacting us. 

Dr. Isabel Perry prescribes solutions to reduce risk, costs and increase production for all types of organizations. Dr. Perry is an Orlando, Florida based Safety Professional with over 20 years of broad-based safety experience including: safety speaker, safety consultant, expert witness, and former safety executive at a Fortune 50 company. Her clients include many multinational firms. Dr. Perry’s can be contacted at [email protected]