Des Conway has over 20 years' experience in police and commercial security. He uses his additional research and commercial security experience to ensure his own and his family's safety while planning and taking holiday and business trips. Through this and his other security handbooks he is committed to helping people keep themselves and their loved ones safe, wherever they are.
We all know that society is less than perfect and that crime could touch us all. Almost anyone can tell you tales of crime and disorder. People fear crime and other threats, they feel helpless because they think that there is nothing they can do to protect themselves, but that is wrong! There is a lot that the average person can do to protect themselves, their family and their property at home and abroad. This Holiday & Travel Security Handbook will teach you how to make your journey as safe as it can be.
Origins of This Book
Discussing what friends would buy if they won the lottery, there were dreams of fast cars and big houses, but almost all of them dreamed of using their fortune to buy a ‘secure and safe lifestyle.’
They were ordinary people, leading ordinary lives who should have had no real security worries. I asked what special threats they thought they faced and how they thought sudden wealth would give them security? Most of their concerns could be listed under two main classifications:
- 1.Aspects of their lifestyle that 1 thought were already within their control.
- 2.Headline-grabbing crimes, which they were very unlikely to encounter.
In other words, they were worrying about nothing, because with the right information, preparation and guidance they could easily make significant improvements to their security at minimal cost.
Lack of understanding and knowledge
Statistics can be worrying, but they can help us too. Look at these statistics:
- Complaints about holiday crime have more than doubled in the last couple of years.
- Poor holiday resort hygiene leaves about one in five holidaymakers and travellers with food poisoning or gastric infections.
- Among younger male travellers, violent attacks have increased by 30% over the last year, usually when both victim and attacker were intoxicated.
These might worry you, but I want to train you to view this sort of information differently – I want you to use it to identify opportunities! When looking at the information above, this is how I read them:
- Complaints about holidays have doubled. If the quality of holiday arrangements or destinations is falling, acquaint yourself with the formal complaint procedure before you go. Forewarned is forearmed.
- One in five become sick through poor hygiene. If poor resort hygiene is leaving holidaymakers and travellers sick, learn how to identify questionable hygiene or suspect food and drink to protect yourself and your family.
- Attacks on young men up 30%. If drunken young men on holiday become involved in fights, they should adopt a more mature outlook and view alcohol as a pleasurable drink, not a cheap and quick way to get drunk. More importantly, you should avoid clubs and bars full of drunken young men.
By learning how to look, and picking up the messages behind those statistics and news stories and acting on them, you and your family will be significantly safer. As you work through this book, you will identify a number of risks, threats and vulnerabilities then decide how to remove, reduce or avoid them.
You may for example adopt the following countermeasures to the problems above.
- Read the complaints procedure for your holiday company, knowing it will help you to get problems resolved quickly. Be ready to take pictures or video footage of problems as evidence in case you need to take things further when you get home. Take the name and address of other travellers affected by the problem; a group of people will have more impact on your holiday company and have a better chance of interesting the media than one individual voice.
- Do some research on food hygiene. Find out what is good practice and make sure that your resort is following best practice. Don’t be afraid to ask to sec the kitchens; if they have nothing to hide they should not mind showing you. Keep an eye out for rats and mice, droppings, insects, poorly stored food. rubbish and a lack of cleanliness and personal hygiene among staff. If you see it, complain about it. Know what foods and drinks are safest, and know what to avoid (covered later in this book).
- If you are a young man, learn the lesson about drunken fights and assaults (see The Personal Security Handbook). A holiday is supposed to be a relaxing break, not a series of vague memories hidden in an alcoholic haze, all of which seem to be associated with a range of mysterious battle injuries! If you want a holiday and not a one-way ticket to a foreign hospital or the local jail. drink sociably but don’t drink yourself into a fight.
If you introduce these countermeasures, you will probably make yourself at least 50% less likely to become the victim of holiday problems, which isn’t a bad result considering you have only read a few pages!
Do you have to have a high IQ? Do you have to be wealthy? Do you have to speak multiple languages or be a trained travel agent to improve your holiday security? No – and that’s as hard as it gets.
As you review different aspects of your security, you will need to record any problems you identify. You may develop your own style and method of recording the vulnerabilities, threats and risks, but until then you may want to use the suggested ‘form’ below.
Use a new form to record each vulnerability, threat or risk that you identify. (From this point on. for clarity I will call any vulnerability, threat or risk a ‘problem’.) Making a record of any problems will help you to control and manage them as you gradually resolve them and improve your security.
Fill in the title, and the identified ‘problem’, with any necessary explanation in the next box. Lastly, add any possible countermeasures you have identified. You may take them from the examples I list in the book if they are relevant to you, or
you may add countermeasures that are appropriate to you and your unique circumstances and lifestyle.
Recording each problem on a new form allows you to:
- Keep a record of all vulnerabilities, threats and risks identified.
- Gradually review and refine your understanding of the problems as you research them.
- As you better understand the problems, you will be able to add to and refine the proposed countermeasures. For example, you may find that due to staff sickness, anyone who arrives at the passport office after 2pm will not be seen.
- Review and sort the forms, which will enable you to place the counter-measures in priority order.
- With additional analysis you can select the countermeasures you wish to implement to resolve any problem. By crossing out the discarded counter-measures you will arrive at a record that shows the problem and the selected countermeasure(s).
Work through this book, reading each section until you understand the problems and the process you will be asked to follow. When you are sure you fully understand it, work through and compile a list of problems and counter-measures specific to you and your lifestyle and circumstances. Make a note of any additional problems you spot that may be unique and appropriate to your lifestyle, holiday or travel plans. When you identify an additional threat or risk, record it then use the same common sense process to define a counter-measure.
If we have a common understanding and definition of some basic terms, we will be able to make better progress.
In the Security Handbook series of books, security is the application of methods and procedures that are used to make our lifestyle secure against any vulnerability. threat or risk. By applying security appropriately, we will achieve safety.
A ‘vulnerability’ is the avenue that a threat uses to reach you and cause you harm. If you are careless with your passport and traveller’s cheques they may be stolen, but if you take care of them they will be safe.
A threat is any occurrence that could cause you harm, loss or distress. Threats may be imposed on us by crimes such as theft, robbery, accident or illness. Though most people tend to think of threats from criminal activity or accident, we will also address other threats, for example earthquake, fire, flood and disease.
Risk is the extent of our exposure to the threats to which we are vulnerable. Risk can be measured in two ways: the impact of the threat or the likelihood of falling victim to that threat.
The impact of a threat is a measure of the damage, injury or loss it could inflict if we fell victim to that threat. For example, the impact of somebody stealing my passport at home is that I will have to get a new one. If they steal it the day I am due to go on holiday, the impact increases because I cannot go on holiday without a passport. If it is stolen while I am abroad, the impact could be greater still. I may be put in prison for illegally entering that country because I cannot prove who I am, and I may not be able to get back into the UK because I have no passport to prove my nationality.
The likelihood of a threat is a measure of the frequency with which we are exposed to it and may become a victim of it. For example, being targeted by an international gang of terrorists, who plan to kidnap somebody and demand ten million pounds in ransom, would be a major threat. However, the likelihood of that happening to me is so low that I won’t be losing any sleep over it. I don’t have ten million pounds and any international terrorist would know that. I am of no significance to them, so though kidnapping and murder are decidedly serious and unwelcome, because I am not a senior politician, president of a huge corporation or national leader, I am pretty sure they won’t be looking for me.
A countermeasure is something that you can do to improve your safety and security. My aim is to teach you how to identify problems, then how to propose solutions that are appropriate to you and your problems. To do that I will discuss potential problems, then suggest a range of possible countermeasures. None of the lists I produce is exhaustive – they simply illustrate some possible solutions. The lists will be a guide for you when considering your unique circumstances and lifestyle, but you will need to spend some time identifying your vulnerabilities, threats and risks, then finding a countermeasure that is appropriate to your lifestyle and circumstances.
Generally when you identify a threat, there are four things that you can do about it:
- Ignore it and hope it goes away.
- Take action to reduce the risk.
- Take action to avoid the risk.
- Take action to remove it – without taking new and unnecessary risks.
For any given vulnerability, threat and risk some options might not be acceptable because of the intrusive impact they will have on your lifestyle. By understanding the threat, recognising the options and making use of your skill. experience and knowledge, you can amend a proposed countermeasure or introduce a new one to suit your circumstances. Throughout this book, that will be your primary objective.
- To recognise the sort of problems that are out there and how they can affect you and your lifestyle.
- To look beyond the examples listed, to recognise additional or modified problems to which you are vulnerable due to your unusual 01 unique circumstances
- To study those problems and to identify how you can avoid, remove or reduce them.
- To compile an action plan that sets out the actions you have to take or preparations and plans you have to complete to avoid, reduce or remove the risks
- To continually monitor your life, so that you can recognise change which will be a trigger to performing another security review, to ensure that your lifestvle remains as safe and secure as it can.
Safety is the status we all want to achieve. Safety can be defined as a circumstance in which vulnerabilities have been removed or reduced to insignificant levels, and threats and risks have been removed by the application of sensible, achievable and affordable countermeasures.
While performing a security review people often identify problems that are not security related. For example, while checking your hotel in the holiday brochure you may see that fire alarms and fire escapes are not mentioned.
Obviously you should not ignore these problems. They are not strictly security related, but they are a potential threat to us so we have to take action. In this case, call the tour operator or travel agent and ask them to confirm the presence of fire alarms, sprinklers and fire escapes in the resort hotel.
The method I propose is easy to follow. The book is broken down into chapters and sections, where each one concentrates on a different aspect of your holiday and travel security. A security review is completed in simple stages.
Stage 1: Review security
You will review an aspect of your security during which you will identify and record any problems that you find.
Stage 2: Prioritise problems
When you have finished the review, you will need to prioritise the problems that you have identified and recorded. When completed, you will have listed them in order of severity, putting those that present the greatest threat to you and your lifestyle at the top of the list, and those that present the least threat at the bottom of the list. This prioritisation process allows you to concentrate on resolving the problems that will give you the greatest possible reward for your efforts, making best use of your limited resources.
Stage 3: Define countermeasures
In stage 2 you prioritised the problems to allow you to concentrate on those that offer the greatest threat to your security. In this stage, you take each problem and attempt to identify and define sensible, achievable and affordable counter-measures that will resolve the problem to your satisfaction. You may come up with only one possible countermeasure, or a list of three alternative counter-measures. Record them all.
Stage 4: Adopt and prioritise countermeasures
For each problem you should consider the possible countermeasures that you identified and recorded. Look at the options and decide which counter-measure(s) you want to introduce. That decision will be based on a range of considerations, including:
- Benefit – try to decide by how much any proposed countermeasure will improve your security and safety. A countermeasure that delivers marginal benefits should possibly be shelved while you concentrate on a counter-measure that will deliver greater benefits. However, if you have ten minutes free and can easily introduce that simple countermeasure delivering that marginal benefit, you may as well do it, as long as it is not diverting effort away from a higher priority countermeasure that will significantly improve your security when delivered.
- Cost – try to identify the financial cost of introducing each countermeasure. The cost may be easy to identify. For example, ‘paying for a good-quality hire car from an international company while at home’ will cost £35 per day. Sometimes there are hidden costs, which have to be identified and included. For example, insuring the car for all adults in the party who have agreed to take it in turns to drive may cost £50 per week per person. So there is a hidden cost of an extra £250 to include all drivers.
- Resources – you may not have the skills to introduce the selected counter-measure. If you are paying somebody to do it you will get three independent quotes, and pick the quote that offers best value – which may not be the cheapest. As with any purchase, you should also consider reputation and recommendation, quality, availability and your feelings. When dealing with people, I always consider my ‘gut feelings’ about them. No matter how well he may be recommended, no matter how low he may bid, if I just don’t trust him or I feel there is something not quite right, I won’t use him.
- Degree of risk – you should also consider the level of risk you will be taking by not introducing a countermeasure. For example, if you don’t bother checking for a fire alarm and sprinkler system at the hotel, you could lose your whole family.
Stage 5: Implement
When all of the decisions have been made, you have to implement the selected countermeasures in the order you decided upon. That countermeasure may be simple, such as renewing your passport. It may be more involved, such as investigating the symptoms of malaria and putting together a holiday first-aid kit.
This is the most vital stage of the process, the time when you act to protect yourself against the vulnerabilities, threats and risks that you have identified during the lifestyle security review process.
The sooner you review your security and implement countermeasures, the safer you will be, but don’t rush the process. Take your time to read each section of this book carefully. Think about each problem that is discussed and consider how that problem or others like it could affect you. When you fully understand them, you will have a valuable insight into the way apparently inconsequential, innocent acts, omissions and decisions could put your security and safety at risk.
When you have finished reading this book, using the examples and descriptions given and your intimate knowledge of your unique lifestyle, you will be able to identify and prioritise the specific problems that could turn you into a victim. More importantly, you will have learned to look at everyday situations in a new way. You will be able to identify where new risks and threats lie, which will allow you to take steps to avoid them. Knowing that not only allows you to make changes to reduce or remove your exposure, it also allows you to continually review your life, identifying and avoiding new threats as they occur.
What You Will Need
To understand and be able to undertake an effective security review, you will need:
- This book and the methodology and explanations contained in it.
- Constant access to, and a close and detailed understanding of, the person and lifestyle of the subject of the review. Which means you can easily review your own lifestyle, you could review a close family member but almost certainly couldn’t effectively review the lifestyle of a total stranger.
- Time to read the book, to consider the range and type of problems discussed and to take more time to think through and identify how any of the issues raised could affect your particular lifestyle.
- The ability to decide on the relevance and threat level to your lifestyle of the risks discussed, while taking a broader view to decide if you are subject to other more specific and unique threats and risks.
- A notepad and pencil or other means of recording problems as you discover them as well as assigning appropriate and possible countermeasures.
- The time, knowledge, skill, finances and resources to implement any counter-measure that you select.
Other than that there are no specialist skills or knowledge required to be able to perform a security review. But you must:
- Recognise and understand that there are threats and risks all around us.
- Accept that some of your activities will make you more vulnerable and hence at a greater risk of becoming a victim.
- Learn how to identify potential threats and risks in ‘your world’.
- Learn how to identify acceptable and possible countermeasures that you can use to reduce or remove your exposure to those threats and risks.
- Remain alert to your surroundings, particularly in relation to some of your activities and actions.
- Become equally aware of the activities and behaviour of the people around you, and be prepared to take action to avoid developing or potential risks.
When To Do It
If you have never reviewed your holiday and travel security, do it now. After that, you should perform a formal security review before any foreign holiday or business trip, and before any lengthy UK absence. You should also review your plans if there is a significant change to them, for example if there are reports of a typhoid epidemic or hurricane at your proposed destination.