For the vast majority of my RTW planning, spending a month in Istanbul has been one of my biggest safety worries. That concern was slightly mitigated by the fact that ISIS activity was primarily in other regions of Turkey. Keeping an eye on the news and state department warnings would be enough to assess the capital’s safety, and if I felt uncomfortable as October approached, I would simply re-route to avoid the risk of a terrorist attack.
In the wake of a springtime terrorist attack on Brussels, however, I couldn’t help feeling naive. Reading the news and making a judgment call on a single city in my year-long itinerary isn’t enough. Because nothing is enough. Terrorism is a worldwide threat. Did anyone in Brussels expect to be caught in that nightmare? Of course not. No one ever could. Days like this will always catch us by surprise, on some level.
So what do we do? What do I do, when nowhere in the world is safe and I still can’t wait to be out in that world?
Knowledge is power, and the best I can do is treat the threat of terrorism like any other emergency preparedness.
I have an app on my phone (TravelSafe) which stores emergency numbers for every country, so I don’t have to look that information up in advance and memorize it. Staying aware of my surroundings, noting emergency exits, and knowing where to find police stations and hospitals are all good preparatory steps.
Most of the information I can find about what to do when in the midst of an actual attack relies on the UK’s protocol: Run, hide, tell.
In the event of an attack, if there’s a safe route out, I should take it. If not, I should get behind the most heavily reinforced cover I can find, and once I’m safe and have notified friends and family, go straight to the authorities.
All sounds like common sense, but if you haven’t devoted brainpower to stuff like this in advance, common sense can go right out the window.
A few more specific points about attacks I hadn’t really thought about before undertaking this mini-research project:
Stay away from windows, especially large plate glass storefronts. Those would be incredibly dangerous in a bomb blast.
If you’re in a crowd, stay on the fringes. A bullet can do a lot more damage when people are packed together.
Know the number of a local transport or hire car company. I do this at home so I don’t wind up with a disreputable taxi driver. Why wouldn’t I do the same while traveling?
Silence your cell phone! I never would have thought of this on my own, but hiding doesn’t do much good if my mobile’s going to give away my location.
Don’t run or make sudden movements when leaving the scene, especially in the event of a bomb. Quick, calm, and orderly is the ticket to keep authorities from treating you with suspicion. On a similar note, keep hands in view at all times.
I’m a big proponent of caution, not paranoia. That’s why no terrorist attack can stop me from seeing the world. But I’ll never say no to seeing it more safely.
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