Increasing Situational Awareness While Travelling Abroad
December 17, 2021
Whether you’re travelling abroad for business or leisure, understanding and anticipating potential risks you could face is crucial. Being aware of all travel safety threats and risks whilst following the up-to-date recommendations and travel advice will help to increase your personal safety, security and peace of mind, as well as that of your friends and family.
Knowing the risks involved in travelling abroad to a potentially hostile environment is a huge consideration, with more severe threats like terrorism and civil unrest present in these areas. The most effective way to anticipate threats and increase your safety while abroad is to adopt full situational awareness.
Situational Awareness While Travelling
The definition of situational awareness differs slightly depending on who you ask, but in general terms, situational awareness’ meaning is constantly monitoring and being aware of your surroundings.
There has been considerable research conducted on how to increase situational awareness and how to practice it and develop it. The premise is simple; by monitoring your surroundings, you will make better and quicker informed decisions based on the situation. Whether in a crowded shopping centre (see urban situational awareness) or a hostile or complex environment, real-life situation awareness will help you mitigate potential threats and make good decisions.
Principles of Situational Awareness in Travel Safety
Through practice and repeated exposure, you’ll soon be able to develop the thought processes and skills to spot the absence of the normal and the presence of the abnormal.
Think back to this when you’re abroad, and you’ll be on your way to becoming better prepared for the unexpected.
Consider the mental models of situation awareness as it pertains to travel security:
- Training - If you’re travelling to a dangerous, unstable or hostile country, you should consider requesting your organisation to enrol you onto a structured travel safety training course. This will equip you with recommended skills, from self-defence training and close protection to situational awareness and decision-making.
- Observation - During scenario-based training exercises, you’ll learn to be continuously aware, read situations correctly and thus plan an appropriate course of action within seconds.
- Reaction - Your response will either be passive, soft or hard. Passive responses involve removing yourself from the situation, soft reactions involve diluting a dangerous situation to a far less one, and hard reactions are when you use maximum force to save yourself or others. Whichever one you choose will require commitment. Progressing your response is preferable as this is easier than reducing it.
- Control - Your actions require confidence; any indecisiveness could prove costly. Furthermore, establishing control may instil fear or doubt into a perpetrator’s mind, preventing a situation from worsening.
- Safety - It’s possible that one situation could develop into numerous others. A situation can be classed as ‘over’ only once a target has been neutralised or a threat has left the vicinity.
General Travel Safety Tips
Here are some tips to stay safe while abroad:
- Research your destination and follow current UK Government travel advice.
- Write down all emergency contact numbers.
- Keep valuable contacts of anyone you know locally.
- Scope out exit routes in any accommodation.
- Use your senses and trust your gut feeling; move away or leave if something doesn’t feel right.
- If possible, avoid travelling alone and use trusted modes of transport.
- Be discreet - don’t flash your phone or money, and avoid telling everyone your plans.
- Listen to travel safety advice from trustworthy people.
Travel Safety Risks of Hostile Environments
In unfamiliar environments, it’s possible to encounter some of the following extreme threats:
- Express kidnapping
- Hostage situations
- Terrorist attacks
You’ll need to take precautions to avoid becoming the victim of any of the above crimes. For example, don’t carry large sums of cash, wear flashy designer suits or carry high-value branded items as these could attract attention towards you. Consider hiring personal security or Close Protection Officers, maintain a low profile, ensure personal devices are encrypted, and GPS is active, and be wary of who you speak to.
Most Dangerous Countries to Visit in 2022
There are a handful of “extreme” risk destinations at this time of writing. These are (in no particular order):
- South Sudan
- The Central African Republic
Also, parts of:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
Travel Awareness Training Courses
Most people are aware of the inherent risks of travelling abroad, and it’s surprising how few business travellers engage in any form of situational awareness training to mitigate any potential risk.
Travel safety training courses from Advanced Tactical Resources provide specific knowledge and scenario-based exercises to enable travellers to recognise and avoid potential problems, while giving them the skills to handle situations better if they arise. Anyone travelling abroad in 2022 with some situational awareness training is at lower risk in an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable world.