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Personal security is a significant concern in today’s world, although ironically many surveys indicate that we are living in a safer world now than at any other time. Rather it is the nature of current security challenges that make them unique and require us to adopt new ways of dealing with them. Today, security challenges run the gamut from indiscriminate terrorist threats and bombings to robberies, abductions and other crimes against the individual.


Preparing for various contingencies often helps to ensure that they do not reach crisis proportions and even if they do, we are better able to deal with them. Start your preparation before leaving home by making sure that relevant people know how to contact you and you know how to contact them during emergencies. Secondly, make duplicate copies of important documents such as passports, important certificates (birth, marriage, etc.), bank account details, insurance documents, asset records and so on. Finally, ensure that your spouse, dependant or legal representative has access to all important information should the need arise.

Travel Safety

Read travel advisories and stay abreast of the news pertaining to your destination country. Before migrating conduct a thorough safety and security analysis of your destination country. This analysis should include information about the local crime rate, the effectiveness of law and order, and the general political and economic stability of the nation. Sometimes there are certain parts of a country that are considered high risk while the rest of the country is relatively safe.

Before you travel, ensure that your luggage, including hand luggage, meets current security requirements. Most airlines have very strict policies and are unwilling to compromise. There are new rules regarding carrying liquids in hand luggage and many airlines inspect or prohibit liquids and gels altogether. Check with your carrier for specific baggage requirements.

While travelling be cautious discussing the specifics of your itinerary when you might be overheard. Be wary of divulging personal information to strangers, even if they appear friendly. Always be alert to your environment and be suspicious of unattended packages in your vicinity. When on board an aircraft, know the exit routes and pass on that knowledge to any children travelling with you.

When you arrive at your destination, do not let jet lag, stress and culture shock affect your ability to stay alert and watchful. Many unsuspecting travellers are duped or exploited at this stage. Have someone you trust meet you and escort you to your place of stay if possible.

Look around you before getting in and out of a car, taxi or bus. Just the fact that you appear alert is a deterrent in itself to would-be thieves and carjackers as their main element of attack is surprise. Lock car doors while travelling in an unknown environment and stay in populated areas, on busy streets and well-lit roads whenever possible. Make sure someone knows where you are if you are about to drive into a new or isolated area.

Home Safety

Although it might sound excessive, a little reconnaissance conducted at and near your main living area will alert you to potential dangers and help you deal with a crisis situation should one arise. This advice applies whether you are living in a hotel, apartment building, condominium, house, or any other dwelling.

Become familiar with your surroundings. Talking to your neighbours, local shopkeepers, postman (mailman), concierge, landlord etc. is an effective way of getting to know about potential dangers. Make sure people know you (and like you!) but keep a fairly low profile outside your comfort zone. Avoid exaggerated displays of wealth or of security (e.g. personal bodyguards unless mandated by severe security threats). Discretion and caution are probably your most important tools. Try to blend in and stay relatively inconspicuous.

Domestic help is considered in some expat circles to be a potential risk; always ensure that personnel working for you are legally allowed to do so and keep photographs/ID information about them on file.

It is imperative to familiarize yourself with emergency phone numbers, such as those for police, ambulance, fire service etc. If you still retain citizenship rights to your country of origin then keep a note of the phone number and address of the nearest consulate and embassy (note: make sure you understand exactly what the role of consular staff is – there are many things they can help with but there are also many situations they do not cover). Write down all the important numbers and put the list up somewhere where other family members can see it.

Child Safety

Explain to children the importance of being wary of strangers and how to keep themselves safe. Children should be taught never to divulge that they are alone at home, even to someone on the phone. Make sure your children understand that they must never go anywhere with a stranger, must report any improper advances made towards them, and must keep parents abreast of their destination, routes and times. Make sure that children know their new address, home phone number (or other number to phone in an emergency) and in case of language differences, make sure that they know key phrases, such as how to ask for help.


The security situation in some countries may be so serious that the use of some form of protection is worth considering. This may include anything from self-defence classes, mace sprays or other security systems to firearms or round the clock security personnel. It is essential to take advice from a trustworthy, credible source when considering appropriate protection and to be aware of the legal situation surrounding such measures.

Emergency Planning

Armed with all of the above information, draw up plans on what to do in emergency situations. When discussing your plan avoid alarming family members, especially if there are young children involved, but ensure that everyone understands what they should do if the need arises to put the plan into action. Update and revise the plan at regular intervals.


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