Are you an overseas business traveler, missionary, NGO worker, journalist, study abroad student, adventure traveler, college student, or manager of an organization that handles any of those previously mentioned? This post may be relevant for you.
Today I researched violent crimes, rapes, murders, kidnappings, terrorist incidents, and other violent crimes perpetrated against the group of travelers I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The internet results and case studies are staggering and slightly worrisome. Some of the data bases I saw were the Aid Worker Security Data Base and UMUC’s Start Terrorism Database. I also just sat and read the stories. It is hard to place a percentage of safe travel to travel incidents for the above categories. However, the bad incidents are truly bad and likely could have been avoided had the travelers been trained before their overseas travel.
The most common argument we hear (mostly from men) is that “I travel all the time and nothing has ever happened to me.” Or my personal favorite “I know everything I need to know about travel safety and security.” Women tend to gravitate to hands-on training more than men, and disproportionately fill our courses. I credit it to self-awareness and lack of ego. Unfortunately these incidents do not discriminate based on age, sex, skin color, occupation, or pursuit. In truth, the best way to avoid an incident is to be trained.
Why hands-on versus on-line? Many argue that on-line training in anti-kidnapping and hostage survival is enough. In my former corporate and government life I had to take similar courses, and quickly figured out how to keep clicking to pass the course. I could not have cared less about the content. Why? Because the online training requirements conflicted with my work requirements. If I didn’t get my work done I would get behind and would miss deadlines, but if I didn’t complete the online training, I ended up on a non-compliance list. In the cases of on-line training which I did try to take seriously, they were still no substitute for the real thing. Hands-on training provides the students with the skills required to absorb the material and do the tasks they are taught with proficiency. In an Anti-Kidnapping and Hostage Survival Course, doing these skills correctly could save your life and that of your fellow traveler/s. It is hard to teach self-defense skills, escape skills, and safe travel skills in the virtual world. It only checks the compliance block and shows that the company, organization, or church met their travel insurance requirements.
In so many victim interviews, case studies, and news stories, the common theme is simply that the travelers were caught by surprise, lacked situational awareness, did not believe they would be targeted, and did not have the tools to avoid the incident, escape from the incident, or simply survive the incident. In many cases, the organizations or families to which these travelers belonged did not have a crisis action plan or know where to go for resources.
In other cases, our missionary friends were completely caught by surprise as the incidents unfolded. While I am a Christian and support all those who spend time in the mission field, I can’t help but wonder what Paul’s advice would be after the long list of assaults, shipwrecks, stoning’s, and escapes he endured during his service. I would hope that those going out to serve would be able to have the ability to survive as he did. While walking by faith is required, training makes the faith go a lot further. It is one thing to pour your heart into service, but with situational awareness and common sense, your faith can help you finish the race. It may help you keep those around you safe as well. There is no substitute for hands-on training.
We still have slots available for our June 20th-22d Anti Kidnapping and Hostage Survival Course in Ellenville, NY. If you are interested, have questions, or may not have the resources to attend, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We may have an appropriate scholarship for you. We want to get this knowledge into your hands and help you travel safely and return home with photos and great stories instead of years of therapy and inner conflict. Please check out the REGISTRATION SITE.