No information-waste in this article. My own philosophy is that applied information is a force multiplier. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; this part of a series of 8 articles exploring unthinkable events which are becoming more comment in our world today has got it right. Invest a bit of time and read on. Afterwards browse over to the National Geographic site for more information.
Caught in Bandit Cross Fire
By Damon Tabor (National Geographic Adventure)
There’s a fine line between off the beaten path and out of control. Sometimes you find it.
How it Could Happen
“You can still travel pretty much anywhere so long as you stay out of the tourist ruts, trust the locals, and don’t advertise your movements,” says adventure contributing editor Robert Young Pelton, author of The World’s Most Dangerous Places. A few notable exceptions: Yemen, where as many as nine foreigners were executed in June; bandit-and-pirate-beset Somalia; Sudan; and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Then there’s Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The real risk here is being kidnapped, held for ransom, or possibly murdered,” says Robb Maxwell, iJET regional analyst.
How to Survive
Before traveling to an unstable country, engage in what security pros call “journey management.” Set up prearranged times to call a friend who’ll alert authorities if you don’t arrive at a destination. If possible, arrange a fixer or, on the cheap, find a local university student looking to practice English. You’ll need someone who knows the terrain intimately and can get you to safe locations. “You want lily pads in the sea of hostility,” says Ed Daly, director of watch operations for iJET, a risk management company. Monitor the State Department’s website for travel warnings and find regional blogs that give a more nuanced sense of the ground scene. Wear drab clothes—no ball caps or sunglasses—and carry small gifts like cigarettes or candy that can smooth tense situations. (!!) Should a serious conflict erupt, head immediately to the airport, but remember that everyone else will too. If commercial options are no longer available, go to the closest U.S. Embassy, which will evac citizens for a price (you’ll pay the going rate for the last commercial flight out). If possible, attach yourself to a friendly military force. On the road, be prepared to encounter checkpoints: Stay calm and move slowly if stopped. Should you get kidnapped for ransom, relax. According to Clayton Consultants, a crisis management consultancy, some 95 percent of kidnappings can be resolved with a payoff. In the meantime, don’t volunteer unnecessary information. Escape attempts should be exercised only as a last resort. “If you feel like you’re going to get murdered anyway, I would try to escape—steal some food, study the guards, and look for an opportunity, since the worst-case outcome would be just as fatal as staying,” says Tim Crockett, a former British special forces soldier and executive director of AKE, an international security company.
The State Department’s travel alerts aren’t foolproof, but they do offer a good bird’s-eye view of the global security situation. Traveling anyway? Get insurance. Journalist Robert Young Pelton uses adventure travel specialist Ingle (ingle-international.com).