This week while traveling OCONUS, I was staying in a majority non-Caucasian and heavily Muslim area of the city; an alarm at 0-dark-30 proved that having an EDC kit, pre-staging your gear and performing rehearsal works. As the other sleep-deprived guests emerged from the hotel and began to cluster and loiter, waiting for the fire department to arrive, my situational awareness was heightened. I observed that I was one of the few only people dressed in dark-colored comfortable clothing, I was in the minority that had a backpack, and every Muslim woman was in full-dress and the western women were in pajamas with bathrobes. This is interesting as the evacuation area was located near many shisha bars that were lively and full.
Do you know where the evacuation place is and the area surrounding it? What should you have with you when you leave your room? What should you do prior to going to sleep to reduce potential threats that might be lurking once you leave your room? Why is it consequential regarding your skin color and why is a religious understanding of the area important? An alarm or occurrences that forced you to leave your hotel room under duress put your mind into an animalistic survival activity, and unless you have a plan, practice, and test it, you could be putting yourself at risk.
“Business and government travelers have reported their hotel rooms, and belongings were searched while they were away. Sometimes there was no effort to conceal the search”. – FBI’s Business Travel Brochure
The scene this past week could have gone wrong for many reasons. First, the fire alarm could have been a plan to get westerners out of the rooms for kidnapping, or as a ploy to get to their electronic equipment left behind; many of us have sensitive data or information of value on our computers and cellular phones. Second, the alarm may have been a rouse to get everyone into a collective area to inflict mass casualties. Third, the women, who appeared to be of western origin, were out of dress and could have incited a problem with the men in the shisha bar and could have escalated the threat to all western residents. Fourth, had the evacuation continued for an extended period or forced the occupants to another part of the city the stuff you have will be your life line and potentially a great morale booster.
“Corporate espionage is an increasingly serious threat for a business traveler. The perpetrator may be a competitor, opportunist, or foreign intelligence officer. In many countries, domestic corporations collect competitive intelligence with the help and support of their government. To mitigate this risk, your organization’s critical information and technologies should not reside on any hard copy or electronic device you take unless it is absolutely necessary, and if so, then you must safeguard the physical access to the information by using encryption and keeping the material on your person at all times. Hotel safes are not adequate protection”. – FBI’s Business Traveler Brochure
What preparation & gear should you follow:
The May 2016 Predator Lesson by Clint Emmerson’s Escape the Wolf- THE ESSENTIAL SAFETY CHECKLIST FOR HOSTILE ENVIRONMENTS ABROAD is a must read. Many of his points are covered here, but you should visit Escape the Wolf for other ideas. You should be of the mindset that you are not coming back to your room. These are my preparations every evening before going to sleep:
- Back-pack is loaded with computer and other electronics I would never leave behind. I also add a bottle of water to the pack in the event of staying outside for hours.
- Suitcases are loaded with essentials and locked; An app like photo trap is used to take “before and after” photos to determine tampering or if anything was moved.
- For those that live out of a suitcase, you are probably like me and never take anything out except the toiletries and maybe your suits to hang.
- I also place a wedge under the door. A fire-alarm or others can disorient when in a heavy sleep. It could also be used as a method to hide the sound of a breach on your hotel room door. The wedge makes it a bit more difficult should they attempt to kick it in, or surreptitiously disarm the other mechanisms used to secure your door.
- Stage clothes in layered order that be my transition too quickly as you leave the room. Put things in the pockets, like your wallet and passport. If you do have an EDC kit, make sure it’s packed, ready and available.
- Always have a flashlight. I use the StrikeBright Executive Precision Lighting Instrument (EPLI) perfect to blend when wearing a suit and slim enough to fit into any front pocket.
What to do:
- To start, as an American you should be filing your travel plans with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By providing your destinations, local residence, and a phone number, when things go wrong in the country you at, they can potentially come and get you. We rehearsed the evacuation of US Citizens many times under different scenarios when I was a Marine Security Guard, of course each country has their own evacuation plans, so you may not be saved. You should be prepared.
- Visit The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) to get the latest overseas threats
- Download the FBI’s Business Travel Brochure
- Read Clint’s other book Risk Mitigation, Personal Security Handbook for the Traveling Professional. Join the Predator notices from Escape the Wolf; note, if you are a member of the SOFREP Team Room, you will get a discount, and access to updated training, planning, and threat notices.
- Take an hour when you arrive at your hotel and walk the escape route, go into the evacuation location (if possible) to observe the surroundings, and when you leave your room have a plan in the event you cannot go back. Be vigilant, be cautious, be prepared, and never quit.
Gear seen in this article
- Backpack and EDC loadout – purchased here for $199.95
- Triple Aught Design Intercept PD Pant – purchased here for $135.00
- PhotoTrap – purchased for $.99 at the Apple appstore
- Arcteryx Skyline LS shirt – purchased here for $99.00
- BriteStrike EPLI – purchased here for $45.99
- Wedge IT, the Ultimate Door Stopper – purchased here for $8.50
- Escape the Wolf – The personal security handbook for the traveling professional – purchased here for $15.99
*Featured image courtesy of fbi.gov