This is a guest post from Dr. John Giduck. John is a well known author and trainer who specializes in writing about international symphonic mass terrorist attacks. John originally prepared this article for a lecture on international travel safety. I thought it was so good, I asked him to allow me to re-publish it. He graciously agreed. I think it’s a great list of tips for anyone who travels outside the country. If you like this article, check out John’s books as well. I can highly recommend all of them.
Here are 20 rules for surviving travel for untrained people. Active shootings are largely (not exclusively) an American phenomenon. The rule is run if you can, hide if you can’t run, and fight if you have to. But don’t hide in a place or way that prevents you from fighting if found. If you can get 15 ft between you and a shooter, run and keep running. Hassan at Ft. Hood was only able to hit the people he trapped inside offices and those little cubbies. When outside with people fleeing he couldn’t hit anyone (see number 18, below).
Most people who are going to target you at the airport look for flights arriving from certain places (like New York) and specifically target designer labels on clothing and luggage. Do not have large visible name tags on luggage with your name, address, etc., and never just stick a business card in the plastic holder on your bags. In airports today where you can’t just pick people up at the top of the jetway, they’ve learned to pick you up at the baggage carousel for your flight. The answer is do not ever dress well arriving in a foreign country, women should not have expensive jewelry on. Don’t take anything overseas you care about losing. Also, US Customs has been known to accuse you of having bought the jewelry in that country and on return try to charge you expensive duties.
Picking up cabs at airports has often been part of organized criminal enterprises. The husband should always be seated in the back, even if space means his wife/girlfriend is in the front next to the driver. Most men will do the opposite, but you can’t control the driver sufficiently seated next to him. From the back you can put a knife to his throat, punch him in the side of the neck, the ear or the temple, or get him in a choke hold. That means you have to have put a knife in your checked luggage in a place you can get it out right away as soon as you get your bags off the arrival carousel. Keep in mind that in many countries – like the UK – knives Americans carry all the time are felonies, so be careful with it and be sure to never display it.
Have identified your route from the airport to your hotel and have a map. The moment the cab driver takes a turn that he shouldn’t, especially if down a dark side street, you need to tell him to stop and turn back. If he does not, you immediately engage any of the steps in number 2, above. You cannot hesitate. Be sure you know how to say, “Stop, turn around right now!” in the native language of the country you’ve landed in.
Bring door stops and bubble wrap with you. The door stops secure any doors additionally (not perfectly, though) and the bubble wrap is put just inside your hotel door so if anyone does manage to get in during the night the noise from them stepping on it will alert you. Of course, you need to have a weapon by your bed to grab quickly. In some countries many assaults occur in hotels or train sleeper cars at night. If a couple is traveling, the man should sleep on the side closer to the door.
Elevators aren’t usually too much of a problem in public buildings. But always move to the back so you’re behind everyone. Be aware that personal space zones in European and Asian countries are much smaller than in the US and they will use that to crowd you. If you feel a potential threat push the button for the next floor suddenly and get out quickly. If someone is waiting for you on your floor and has a partner in the elevator with you, you’ve just split them up if the one in the elevator gets out with you. If he does (since that button hadn’t been pushed before it’s a warning) turn and drive your fingers into his eyes or punch him straight in the nose. It takes a highly trained person to receive a punch to the nose and not be dramatically affected by it.
When walking down crowded sidewalks some thugs will work in threes. One will be in front of you and two behind you and to the sides. The front guy will suddenly bend over to tie his shoe, and when you stop the two behind you come up and put a knife or gun to your side and lead you off down an alley. This will even be done in daylight. If this ever happens to you be prepared to move quickly, to include using a snap kick right up between the legs and immediately step to the side and past him. That creates an obstacle for one of the two coming up behind you, and allows you to just turn and deal with the other one. When you do that, they’ll act like you just hurt an innocent person. Don’t be dismayed or disarmed by such behavior. Move away and into the crowd and keep moving.
Know what your improvised weapons are that you have with you and in your hotel room.
Most people are safest when in a place of business. Second safest at home. Hotels are a threat area. Travel to and from is always your most vulnerable Try not to carry a little backpack. Everyone in the world identifies Americans by their obsessive backpack carrying. Pay attention to the pace at which people walk in the country you’re in, look at how they dress, walk, etc., and try to fit in with it all. A Russian can pick an American out from 100 yards away just by the way we walk. If you travel a lot you will be able to identify a woman from any European country. They walk differently from American women. If you’re aware, this becomes easy. But your threats are already aware and looking to identify you. Americans are always very lucrative targets.
Untrained people go through life looking at their environment through a 30 degree span in front of them and never look above eye level or to the sides. People trained in surveillance – and even criminals figure this out – will, therefore, always be on the periphery of that and will usually take up posts on the opposite ends of your 180 degree spectrum as you face forward, and in windows above you. Anytime you walk out of or into a building, look to the far right and left, then always check the overhead. Just that demonstrated level of awareness will send most bad guys looking for less “switched on” targets.
Always check your “six” (behind you). You can stop at store windows and use the reflection to pick people up. Anyone following you not using a mobile platform (ie., a car) will be positioned about 20 to 30 feet behind you. A second person will be either another 20-30 ft behind him (or they’ll be walking together) or across the street but only 10-20 behind your lateral position. Be always checking those positions for being followed. This becomes like breathing, with a little practice you do it and don’t even think about it.
Always park your car nose out in a parking lot for rapid departure if confronted. No one can back up in a hurry, and if you are attacked while getting into your car the assailant is in the “V” of the door and will be swept into the car with you if you try to reverse first. This is a rule for all women as they are frequently assaulted by rapists just as they get into their cars in parking lots. And as part of this, ALWAYS KNOW WHERE YOU PARKED!!!! If parking in the daylight, look for the lights and park under them. They’ll be on when you come out at night. Most people don’t bother to check when they park in the daytime. This is another rule women should follow all the time.
If in a shopping mall or if you think that you’re being followed, do an abrupt turnaround like you forgot something and look everyone straight in the faces of those you are concerned about as you walk back past them. If you see someone suddenly turn around, tuck his head and act like he’s going to light a cigarette, etc., to avoid being identified by you, he’s a problem. You can do much the same by going up an escalator then immediately going down the escalator right next to it, looking at the faces of everyone going up.
If in a parking lot, walk down the center of the driving lanes. You are in less danger of being hit by people who happen to be driving up the lane than you are from the people hiding to the far side of cars as you walk past and cannot see them. High profile vehicles like trucks and vans are of the greatest concern. If you’re close to them, you’re an easy victim.
If you’re being followed on foot in a city or town, take the first turn at the corner. If he made that turn, take the next one. If he’s still there take the third. If he’s still there you have a problem and need to respond to that threat.
When driving to and from anywhere, ALWAYS alter your routes. That applies to foot and vehicle transit. Don’t end up being targeted because you’re too lazy or tired to walk an extra block or two.
If something feels like it isn’t right, IT ISN’T!!! Trust your gut and act on it.
If you are accosted or confronted by someone, do not talk, do not negotiate. Never say acquiescent things like, “We’re not looking for any trouble.” That only raises their confidence level that you’re going to be an easy victim and makes them behave more viciously. Strike first, strike fast, hard and strike a lot. Then evacuate quickly. Scream the whole time. Thugs prefer robbing men because they won’t scream, whereas women will. Remember these people are predators not combatants. They are not looking for a fight but an easy victim, just as with all predators.
Rely on the fact that if someone has a handgun, if you can get 15 feet of separation from them, statistically if they shoot at you they’ll only hit you 1 out of 10 times, and of that 1/10 only another 1/10 wounds would be fatal. That means that if you can get 15 ft apart and keep moving, and they do shoot at you (few criminals will), you’ll only be in danger of dying 1% of the time.
Never, never, ever allow someone to put you in a car. That’s an important rule for all women. It’s better to be stabbed or shot while resisting and left there while they drive away. The chances are very good you’ll live. Anyone who gets kidnapped and is put in a car will seldom be found alive.
Be sure to always leave your daily schedule with someone who will be checking. Arrange check-in times so if something happens they’ll be alerted to it right away. If that person is back home, be sure you’ve already given them someone to contact, to include the local police department. At the same time, whoever is traveling together should have established ERVs.
Those are Emergency Rendezvous points (British military term), so if something happens and hubby is fighting off the bad guys, the wife and kids need to scatter. Everyone knows where to link back up as you’ll likely not all have communications with each other. Always make the ERV a public place. When it comes to this, women (especially American women) need to abandon their desire to not evacuate but to stay there as though they’re going to be able to help.
The presence of women only makes it harder for a husband or other male to deal with a problem physically. A large, strong, well-trained male can deal with a number of men attacking him, but what he cannot deal with is those same men splitting up and some grabbing his wife and kid while he’s being drug to the ground by the others. Without a gun he simply cannot protect them. When something occurs, the women need to get out of there and leave the man alone.
Even if he gets his butt kicked he’ll be fine and be proud of the beating he took to keep his wife safe. What he and she will never be able to deal with is her getting gang raped in front of him and their kids, because she wouldn’t do what she was told and evacuate with all due speed.
In the end, it’s all about being smart and using that common sense that everyone realizes isn’t always all that common.
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