When traveling you will be in an environment where you do not have the same skills you have locally for sensing what/who is normal versus out of place, who is genuine versus suspect, or what places are safe zones versus more unsafe locales. This calls for more concentration on your surroundings and a measured approach to daily activity.
Steps that travelers can take to help them maintain the situational awareness and bolster their personal security preparedness include:
- Reading the U.S. Department of State safety and security information for your destination(s).
- Enrolling your travel itinerary in the U.S. Department of State STEP program.
- Routinely monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities. This includes following the pages for local security/police and news organizations on Twitter and other social media feeds.
- Do not give out any personal information to anyone you do not know or have just met, and be cautious about posting personal details, a group’s location or group plans on social media.
- If traveling to a country where English is not the primary language spoken, know key words for assistance and warning indicators in the local language (e.g. help, careful, look out, run, stop).
- When going through locations with security (e.g. transportation, large events), it is safest to move through security versus remaining outside a venue or in public areas.
- Where possible, use public transportation at off peak times and be efficient; do not linger in terminals or boarding areas longer than necessary.
- Establish a strong communication plan and protocol. Locally let others know where you are going and when you will return. If traveling outside of your city or country, notify your program leader or local staff of your itinerary and contact information.
- Carry key contact information including telephone numbers for your resident director or program staff, the nearest U.S. (or your country of citizenship) Embassy or Consulate, the GeoBlue Insurance and the local versions of 911 with you at all times.
- Know where the appropriate medical facilities are located nearest to you at all of your destinations.
- Report anything or person that seems suspicious to local authorities and follow the instructions of local authorities.
- Keep in routine touch with family and friends back home.
In order to be prepared if a major security incident occurs in your local environment, you will want to:
- Make sure to keep your cell phone fully charged at all times and consider carrying a portable backup charger.
- Carry some small amounts of food and water with you in case you are momentarily delayed. Also keep food and water in your accommodation if there is a shelter in place order that keeps you or your group indoors for an extended period (24-48 hours).
- Follow the directives of local authorities.
- Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions from local authorities. Carry ID (copy of passport) with you at all times.
- Communicate with, and expect communication from, your program leader or local staff as well from the Ohio State international risk manager.