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Safe Travel - How to Improve Safety and Detect Surveillance

Updated on November 30, 2009

Taking preventative action while traveling abroad can greatly mitigate the risk of kidnap. Action can be taken while traveling in the air, walking in the streets, beaches and other areas. Counter measures can also be put in place in hotel rooms and restaurants.

While traveling by air, it is important to take a few precautions. To begin with it is best to avoid airlines with poor safety records. A poor safety record is an indicator that the airlines procedures and systems are faulty and could easily be breached by hijackers. Direct flights and day trips where possible should be sought. Further, where charter flights are involved, it is important to make sure that the pilot and owners of the plane have excellent references.

While walking on the streets, beaches or other places, one needs to be constantly aware of their surroundings. Common sense dictates that talking to strangers is to be avoided regardless of what the situation may be. It is important to avoid attracting attention of any kind. Unwanted attention may be created through; expensive jewelery, clothing and other personal effects such as expensive cell phones and laptops.

Most kidnappers will normally keep their target under surveillance to determine if their target is an easy or hard target. The terminology "hard target" arose from spying circles and is used to refer to a target that is constantly aware of their surroundings or one who employs counter surveillance tactics. A good example of a counter surveillance tactic is to walk round an office block a number of times if surveillance is suspected. The same could apply while driving or in a taxi cab. One could ask the driver to go up and down the same street a number of times and then observe any unusual behavior. In hotels one can make themselves a hard target by making it difficult for anyone to tell the floor they are residing on. For example, one could use the lift to two floors above their floor and then use the stairs to their floor. Requests for room service should always be confirmed with the hotel's reception before opening the hotel room door. It is important to avoid lonely stretches of beach and if one intends to go for a nature hike it is prudent to always be accompanied by a trusted guide from a well established tour firm. Some territories provide armed guides and it is good to make use of them despite the additional cost. The moment a potential kidnapper realizes that his target is a hard target; they immediately abandon their quest and begin to look for an alternative. If for any reason one suspects that they are about to be kidnapped, a good tactic would be to whip out the cell phone and call the local police. If the number to the local police is unknown or busy as in common in many third world countries, a make believe call can always be made, speaking audibly and deliberately for the would be attacker(s) to overhear.

Having a can of mace or using items such as keys as a weapon can help if the would be kidnapper attempts the kidnap in a public place. Fight like your life depended on it and fight dirty, kicking and scratching sensitive areas like the eyes, nose, ribs and crotch. Shout or scream to attract attention and grab the nearest person to make them pay attention. Run and put something between you and the kidnapper(s) such as a car, a busy street or a group of people. One may wonder at the logic of fighting a kidnapper who is probably already armed with a gun. Its simple, kidnappers abroad are after a ransom and a ransom cannot be paid for a corpse. They may also want to make political statements, such as the Iraqi insurgents and a dead body is of no use to them. Kidnappers understand this very well and that is why they must get their target alive.
However, if accosted in a secluded area by more than one armed kidnapper, it is pointless to try and fight. The best option would be to run if there appears to be a getaway chance, otherwise cooperation and immediate negotiation are the surest way to guarantee survival. You can read more on surviving a kidnapping at this article.

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