This article provides general guidelines for reducing risk when traveling for business. For corporations and high-risk individuals, it is important to engage the services of an expert professional security individual or company such as The Mohawk Group who will carry out detailed multi-day training themselves rather than sub-contract it out to a third party, as most other companies will do. When employing the personal resources and expertise of The Mohawk Group, you can rest assured of achieving the finest and most successful results the industry can provide.
The need for travel risk assessment
Risk exists everywhere especially when travelling out of secure and familiar surroundings, but with proper training, planning and execution, the level of risk can be greatly reduced.
Prepare before traveling
Spend time doing online research before the trip and know what to expect at your destination city and hotel. It is extremely important to become familiar with your surroundings.
If you are traveling internationally, always first check the U.S. Department of State Travel, and individual country information services where risk information will be available.
Avoid making your preparations obvious, and never mention your trip in social media posts. Limit the people you discuss your travel arrangements with to essential work and family members only.
Checking in at the airport – get there in plenty of time
Book a cab or drive to the airport well in time so that you are not rushed during check-in and bag drop off.
Travel light and avoid designer luggage that may draw attention. If you do use designer luggage, make sure that you purchase and use specially designed security tags to prevent tampering.
Avoid attaching home address labels to your cases. Criminals and their accomplices are active around airports and are extremely astute at identifying potential targets. A home address label is a sure give-away to burglars on the lookout for vacant homes to target.
Keep focused through security check-in
Make sure that carry-on bags are always kept close to you, and when going through security make sure not to forget your laptop in one of the trays. It is easy to get distracted if you are asked to open a bag for inspection. The number of times people walk away leaving a tray with some of their possessions at security is amazing. This is especially likely to happen if you are late for your flight and rushing to get to the gate.
Arriving at the hotel
The Mohawk Group’s training courses discuss in-depth about hotel recommendations. When you arrive at your hotel, make sure to stay with your luggage. It is difficult to maintain concentration when completing check-in, and thieves are aware of this, especially if the lobby is busy.
Request a room that’s not on the ground floor as the risk of burglars gaining access to them is much higher. Experts suggest staying between the third and sixth floors. At those levels you are high enough to prevent easy break-ins but are within the reach of fire engine ladders in the event of an emergency.
If possible, request a room away from the entry lobby side of the building. This is the area most likely to be targeted by attackers. Also avoid rooms close to the hotel restaurant and other public areas where non-residents have easy access and there is the risk that they could follow you to your room. Always be aware of your surroundings when entering or leaving your room.
Make sure that the check-in is completed securely
Keep your credit card details covered at the check-in desk. Never put your card face down on the desk so that your CVC numbers are exposed. Anyone with a phone can snap a picture of it. Also make sure that it is your card that is handed back to you if the staff require it during the check-in process.
Get a couple of the hotel’s business cards, so that you have their address in case you need to notify someone of your location in an emergency. It is always good practice to have one of these cards on your person, so that you can request directions if you are lost.
Finally, keep your room number private. Try and avoid having your room number being seen or overheard by anyone else during check-in.
At your room
When you reach your room, block the door open with a case while you make a quick search of the room before you shut and lock the door. Be sure to check the closet and bathroom also.
Make sure that the door is locking properly, and keep the deadbolt engaged while you are in the room. Never accept a room without a functioning deadbolt.
Avoid rooms with interleading doors as these present the risk of break-ins.
Bring an alarmed door wedge with you and use it to further secure the door. This is particularly important when you are sleeping or in the shower. There may be criminals on the staff of the hotel who have access to master room keys and have the tools to open the deadbolt from the outside.
Bring a flashlight or headlamp with you and keep it on your bedside table in the event of an emergency, or when hotel lighting may be out.
Leaving the room
Make sure your phone is fully charged and on you when leave the room, and always carry your passport. Lock other important items you won’t be carrying with you, such as your laptop or private papers, in the room safe. Safes that let you choose your own combination are the best.
If you are unhappy with the room safe, ask the hotel to lock your articles in their safe and obtain a written receipt.
If you lose your room key, report it immediately to the hotel and request that you be moved to another room. The key may in fact have been stolen, which leaves you at risk of a break in Never leave windows and doors open even if you are not on the ground floor. In the hot weather, it may be tempting to leave a window open while you sleep or are out. Don’t do it. Rather use the air conditioner. We do not recommend having your room service, but if you must, when you leave the room after it has been serviced, it is a good idea to leave the TV set and room light on. Leaving the bathroom light on, with the door closed could also scare off a thief who managed to get into the room.
Out and about
It is vitally important to keep alert and have your wits about you when you are out. Walk with assurance, and if you need to check your route on your phone, go into a store and do it inside. Never take a map out in the street to check your whereabouts as this is a sure give-away to criminals on the lookout for strangers.
Try not to dress too differently to the locals. Carrying a folded newspaper under your arm adds a good touch of anonymity.
If possible, travel in pairs or in groups. You are less likely to be targeted by criminals especially in risky areas.
If you need to withdraw money from an ATM machine, choose one inside a bank with a guard in attendance, and be extremely vigilant when stepping outside afterwards.
Always keep a constant look out to see if you are being followed. Double back occasionally and turn into a store keeping an eye on the entrance to check on this.
Avoid making eye contact with people lounging outside buildings or on street corners, and don’t get into conversations with strangers. Criminals may try to engage you in conversation to distract you while an accomplice comes up behind you. Pickpockets are extremely adept at locating and removing wallets and phones, so keep them in inside pockets.
Additional safety precautions
If you need to go into a restroom, find one in a well trafficked store. If you are in a shopping mall, never go down a long-deserted corridor to access a restroom as criminals are on the lookout for this behavior.
Try and blend in as much as possible to try and appear as a local. This reduces the likelihood that you will be targeted.
Always avoid walking around strange areas after dark. If you need to flag a cab, make sure that it displays proper licensed plates, and never accept a ride from any other vehicle. Install Uber and Lyft apps on your phone and use them to book cabs as this is generally a safe and secure way of travelling and your fare is known up front.
Resist offers by street salesmen or currency exchangers.
Finally keep an emergency contact number saved on your phone in the event of getting into any mishap so that you can immediately phone for assistance.
With some care you should have a trouble free and productive trip.
At The Mohawk Group, we have assembled an expert team trained to accomplish law enforcement, military, intelligence and business missions and training to the highest standards. When employing our resources and expertise, you can rest assured of achieving the finest and most successful results the industry can provide.
For more information about our security training and services, contact us and schedule a free consultation.