The Safety Doctor Article
Professional Speaker Magazine
June 2002, Pages 24-26.
Dr. Isabel Perry
"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
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
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 elevator..........no
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
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
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
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.
Isabel Perry offers you these articles to reprint or repost - FREE - provided
that her name and contact information (supplied below) are included. Please let
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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]