By Juan A. Garcia Jr.
Do overseas travelers and expatriates really need personal security training prior to traveling or residing overseas? Is it vital to learn about attack recognition, residential security, emergency planning, surveillance detection, defensive driving, and personal protective measures? Far too many individuals will answer this question with a resounding, NO. Their belief is that nothing will happen, it never does. Many travelers and expatriates think that all the security precaution they need is to glance at an embassy or online web-site once in a while.
When I talk to individuals that reside or travel overseas their usual attitude is that they know enough about personal security. It is a common trait that I observe once an individual has traveled or lived overseas and nothing has happened complacency usually sets in. I often attempt to remind people that what they should train for is the one to five percent chance of being attacked. It is easy to fall into the psychological trap of why spend money when nothing happens. It is far simpler to read a web-site or brochure and believe that you know it all or enough.
But would you know how to recognize a serious criminal pre-threat indicator? What happens if that one to five percent of trouble finds you? I am not talking about the silly Hollywood type pre-threat indicators that we see in the movies, but real hardcore professional criminal targeting of a potential victim. Why take a chance on being that small percentile that will forever live with a bad overseas experience.
For the past year and a half I tried to reach out to educate expatriates and travelers to Northern Baja, but no one really wanted to give up a day and a few hundred dollars for a comprehensive personal security seminar. What amazed me was the fact that these same citizens would pay thousands of dollars for a home, car, or vacation package but frowned on paying for a one-day class. Eventually several expatriates and travelers were brutally attacked in their homes, cars, camp sites, beaches, you name it and now many have left or refuse to travel down to Baja. The problem stemmed from the idea that the growing violence was between Mexicans and not aimed at Americans so everything was okay, but now unfortunately several citizens will live with the physical and mental scars for not being more prudent.
The best advice that I can give anyone considering traveling or moving overseas, or even currently residing aboard is take a course or two on personal security. There are several countries throughout the world where the political climate has or is changing. These transitional periods can have adverse effects on the safety / security situation on the ground for unprepared expatriates. Even if the country you are traveling or residing in has a semi-stable political climate it does not mean that spill-over its neighbor that is undergoing social and political instability will not have an impact on personal security. It is imperative to mitigate the risks before a violent incident occurs. Why wait until you, a family member, or employee has been victimized? Living with the aftermath of being a victim of crime is traumatizing for many citizens to handle.
I recently returned from conducting a kidnapping / personal security class where an Iraq War style firefight occurred a few hours and miles from where I gave a class that resulted in thirteen individuals (drug / gang members) being killed and many more wounded. I am still amazed when I see those few remaining travelers and expats strolling around without any situational awareness of what is happening around them.
I recommend that every traveler and expatriate learn about several security skills before and while living overseas:
1) survival mindset
2) threat / risk assessments
3) attack recognition
4) recognizing hostile surveillance
5) conducting route surveys
6) emergency / contingency planning
7) street awareness (using taxi's, atm's)
8) vehicle security measures
9) residential security
With many countries going through transitional periods whether it be the Middle East, Asia, or Latin America, the option of doing nothing or very little has become increasingly dangerous. Ask yourself this, what is more important a few hundred dollars on training, or a lifetime of nightmares from a violent criminal attack such as a kidnapping, armed robbery, or being caught in the middle of a civil breakdown of law and order.
Is spending a day or two going through a training course really going to make a difference, you bet it is. Nothing beats training! When that one to five percent chance comes, you'll be in a greater tactical position to mitigate the effects of a violent encounter.
Remember security is your responsibility. Be prepared for the unexpected!