Growing up in Southern California, “duck and cover” earthquake drills were part of our school year reality. At least once a month, the bells would sound off while our teachers would instruct us to take cover underneath our tables with our hands protecting our heads. We would stay there, trying to muffle our giggles, until the all-clear was given. It was exciting, a bit unnerving, but mostly a chance to take a break from our school work and to goof off with our friends. While life in San Diego did provide me with plenty of earthquake scares, none of them were at school fortunately.
Years later, as a Spanish Teacher for San Diego City schools, having to guide my students through not only earthquake drills, but also the emergency procedures to follow in the event that a crazed shooter came on campus (sadly, these were far more common than earthquakes), was part of my job as a teacher in charge of over 200 students a day.
The administration provided us with extra large trash bags in case we were in lock down for hours and the children needed to use the restroom. Not fun and something I had never envisioned as being a part of my professional reality during my teacher training and graduate studies.
Now, as a mother, I am acutely aware of the many other dangers of the world—terrorism being one of them. It is a balancing act indeed to stay both informed and yet not “overexposed” to the cruelties of humankind, and of course, always trying to determine how much to share with the little ones.
In the beginning of October, I came across the work of Mapping Megan and shared her very informative post about countries which won’t let you in without health insurance here on Los O’Gradys in Mexico.
Today, I share with you all another guest post by Megan that is timely, informative, practical and applicable.
*As originally seen on Mapping Megan:
“Traveling is not dangerous – LIFE is dangerous.”
This year has been a frightening year for those who travel – terrorism appears to be on the rise, governments have been issuing overblown safety advice, and travelers are becoming more and more paranoid about whether or not it is safe to travel (it is).
We have seen separate attacks this year in Belguim, Kuwait, and Turkey, and most recently as last week, there were double ISIS bombings in Beirut, terror bombings in Iraq, and the appalling attack which occurred in France.
Tourists were among those killed in Tunisia when a gunman started shooting in a museum in May, and a car bomb injured seven people in March on a tourist island in Thailand. Two explosives were uncovered in Belfast in June, mosques were bombed Yemen, and there was the horrific Peshawar school massacre – when militants from the Pakistani Taliban entered a school and opened fire on the students, detonating multiple explosive devices at the same time. 132 children and nine staff members were killed.
Though one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in history happened in January of this year, a multi day attack of villages in northern Nigeria leading to the deaths of almost 2,000 at the hands of Boko Haram – the same group responsible for abducting over 200 girls from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2013.
Each of these were horrific events, and we pray for the victims and their families of all involved. We pray that hatred will be eventually stamped out, and that the delusional cowards who aim to spread terror and fear in the name of false religions will find themselves cut down.
But despite the horror and tragedy of each individual situation, and despite the overblown daily paranoia instigated by our media through sensational stories which only promote fear, each of these were isolated events, and your chances of actually being caught in a terrorist attack while overseas are very slim. More likely to be crushed to death by a vending machine kind of slim.
Realistically, cities like London, Prague and New York have some of the highest crime rates in the world, though no government agency advises against travel here. And you have just as much chance of being caught up in an attack on your own country as you do while traveling abroad, yet no-one lives permanently in a bunker underneath their home for fear of coming out.
So many New Yorkers are cancelling their plans to go to Paris, but think about what occurred right in their own backyard on 9/11. You can’t let extremist activities stop you from traveling and you can’t live in fear.
Because the truth of the matter is that it’s not travel which is dangerous – it’s LIFE. And if you stop traveling, the terrorists win.
So don’t stop traveling, just travel smart. Here’s how to travel safely in the face of terrorism.
How to Travel Safely in the Face of Terrorism
Register your travel with your government and maintain contact with your consulate or embassy in the event of a terrorist attack. Many countries have a smart traveler program where you can lodge your travel plans and this is especially important if you’re heading to an area where you’re worried about terrorism or unrest.
Doing this means the government knows which of its citizens are at risk in an emergency event, and is the only way they can contact you. You should always travel with the phone number and address of your local embassy as a matter of routine.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone you trust. No matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone at home know where you will be. Leave the names, address and numbers of your hotels, information about your transport, and names of anyone you have pre-arranged to meet. In the event that things go south you’ll have someone who can act immediately to aid and assist, or even attempt to locate you.
Get your bearings as soon as you arrive in a new city, as this will help you navigate an emergency situation with less confusion and stress should one occur.
You don’t want to be wandering aimlessly around the streets of a new city if a terrorist attack has just occurred, so make sure you are aware of your surroundings and know, for instance, a route back to your hotel so you can remain calm and leave the incident as quickly as possible. It’s always a good idea to keep a business card from your hotel on you. Worst case you can jump in a cab and present the driver with the card.
Travel with a phone. While international roaming charges are the reason many leave their phones at home, in the event of an emergency you need a way to communicate with others. So even if you switch your phone to a constant state of flight mode while overseas, having it with you at least allows you the option of a more immediate form of communication than email if it’s required.
If you’re in one location for a prolonged period of time, consider buying a local SIM. And make sure you save the numbers of your embassy and hotel.
Make sure you recognize the uniforms of local police and learn a few basic phrases in the local language of where you will be.
Should something happen, local police and military are have more up to date information about what’s happening on the ground and they’ll know best course of action to ensure your safety. Always follow their directions.
Travel with Insurance Which Covers Terrorism
Traveling with adequate health insurance which covers you in the event of terrorism is essential these days, but too many insurers have a blanket exclusion for all terrorist activities, refusing to pay out on emergencies or injuries related to terrorist attacks. The majority of insurers refuse to cover medical expenses or last minute trip cancellations in the event of riots, terrorism and civil unrest. Tourists caught in these situations are left to rely on their governments to assist. Terrorism health insurance.
So read the small print of any policy before you purchase a plan, and when you start looking for a global option for your health insurance cover you need to make sure that Terrorism Coverage will be part of your policy.
With so many small scale attacks popping up all over the world, terrorism is now a fact of life, and understandably you want to know that you’re covered in case the worst should happen. There are simply too many examples out there where people have been injured as the result of a terrorist event and require medical attention to be covered when it’s not.
Pro Tip: We highly recommend policies through GeoBlue. A worldwide insurer, their plans do not restrict illness or injuries resulting from a terror attack, and travelers are eligible for coverage post departure if your trip is shortened or interrupted for medical reasons, a terrorist event or imminent threat to personal safety.
So, if you travel to a country where there are no Government warnings and are caught up in a terrorist activity, you will be covered under all the relevant sections including medical and baggage. If you have already paid for your travel and travel insurance and then the Government issues a warning against travel to that destination, you will be covered to cancel your trip. Compare that with other travel insurance policies.
In today’s political and economic climate, acts of war and terrorism remain a constant threat, and unless you are a member of a terrorist organization yourself, there is not one person on this planet who can confirm that they won’t strike somewhere.
Still make plans to travel – the world is a phenomenal place; but before you leave make sure you have taken the time to familiarize yourself with tips for staying safe abroad, and explored your options for coverage with a health insurance plan that (a) best meets your individual needs; and (b) covers you in the event that a terrorist does attack.
Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been traveling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.
It is a sad reality that we live in a time when this type of “stuff” even needs to be considered! It is not the world vision I have for myself, my children, my family, my fellow earth brothers and sisters. As Megan says, “the world is a phenomenal place” and “in general a very safe place despite these threats. Common sense for safety is one of our biggest assets to get us through.”
Thank you Megan for sharing such valuable insight and applicable tools.
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