Whether you are in a foreign country or in your hometown, you need to keep yourself and those with you safe. Situations can arise to which you have no control, but you need to do your best to reasonably alleviate risks. You do not need to go about in fear, but a little knowledge, wisdom, and commonsense goes a long way. While this is about personal security abroad, many of the concepts and tips can be applied anywhere.
Research the Location
A great place to check for dangerous situations in your destination country is on the United States State Department website. You can check the travel advisories with the following link: State Department link for travel advisories.
All countries will be assigned a Travel Advisory Level and there will be a summary of the concerns for that country. These are the levels: Level 1: Exercise normal precautions, Level 2: Exercise increased caution, Level 3: Reconsider travel, and Level 4: Do not travel.
Someone you know who has recently traveled to your destination is a great resource. Talking with someone who has recently traveled to an area is a great help.
You can also pick up a few hints by reading a travel blog or travel guide for the destination country. Just be aware these sources tend to be more positive about the area than the true situation of the location.
In most international destinations, it is rare to have aggressive people confronting or threatening you as most people are friendly and respectable. However, it is possible, and some places are prone to trouble than others so knowing a few techniques could lessen your danger.
The best defense is to avoid any situation that would put you in harm’s way. It is important to know as much as you can about where you are going and what to expect. If something spontaneous pops up, exit the area immediately, if possible.
Anger is a hyper emotion. Emotionally charged people do not use reason and logic, so do not attempt to reason with them. It is best to try to avoid them and exit a situation as soon as you can. Keep your emotions in check, if you show anger, you are only making the situation worse. If you need to defuse the anger, use empathetic language, like, “I can understand why you are angry.” Try to de-escalate the situation; throw sand on the fire not gasoline.
When walking past a potentially threatening person, casually acknowledge their presence without looking confrontational, walk confidently, do not engage them in conversation, and keep walking until you are at a safe place.
If confronted while standing, move slightly to your left. Stand to the left of them at an angle (about forty-five degrees). This puts you in a less aggressive stance rather than squared off in their face and it also gives you an advantage. About ninety percent of people are right-handed so this puts the other person off centered to you making you less exposed for a right hook.
If you are confronted while seated, you are in a vulnerable position. Do not stand up directly in front of them as if to challenge them. Slide a little to the left, if possible, then stand confidently without being aggressive taking the position mentioned above.
The least amount of engagement is the best, so exit as soon as you can. Acknowledge them and then excuse yourself. You might say something like, “Hey man, we’re not looking for any trouble. We’ve got to meet some friends just around the corner here so have a good day.” You do not need his permission to leave!! This will tell him you are not looking for a fight and you have others nearby.
A mob will do together what an individual would never do alone. In other words, the psychology of a mob is different than an individual. A mob takes on another collective mindset. People get hyped up with emotion and fervor and will do things they would not normally do. Avoid any mob scene, as they could turn their anger on you. When in a dangerous situation, get out as soon as possible.
If you find yourself unintentionally in the middle of a large mob or riot, look like part of the mob until you can safely get out. Do not do anything illegal like throwing rocks but act like them until you are at a safe exit. Fake it until you can make it out. If they are screaming some slogan, scream it with them. You could even pick up a discarded protest sign and carry it. The main thing is to get out safely and not get into any trouble with the authorities or the mob.
The world is safer than some think. Most people are courteous and respectable. If you find yourself in an odd predicament, many strangers will help you if they can and are asked.
We talked about some difficult scenarios yet the chances of them happening are slim. Do not be afraid, explore the world and travel. Perhaps some of the things we discussed will prevent you getting into a difficult situation. You need to take sensible precautions, listen to your instincts, use common sense, and enjoy your travels.
I am not a security professional, nor have I had any professional security training. My experience in this area is only as an international traveler, who has had about fifty plus international journeys. My advice should not be taken as a security professional but as a fellow traveler. We suggest you seek advice and guidance from a security professional.
Harry L. Whitt, Pathway Outreach Ministries