by Andrew Bard
Concepts & Thoughts
Growing up in Southern Indiana, I dreamt of traveling the world, because I knew it was a vast place full of beauty, adventure, and possibility. I was unaware, however, of the extent of the risks and dangers one faces when traveling abroad. To provide context, 1.2 billion people traveled abroad in 2015, and so far there have been 400 terrorist attacks in 2016 alone. This are alarming trends, to put it mildly.
Now, as General Manager and Senior Vice President of the Americas for Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group, a leading provider of international travel medical insurance, my job requires me to travel both domestically and internationally. As an experienced traveler, I want to provide other international travelers with the three tips I live by when I travel abroad. These tips will help you prepare for and stay safe in the event of a terrorist attack.
Know the lay of the land
In light of recent attacks in France, Belgium, and Turkey, it’s more important than ever that you enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) before you depart your home country. This free service sends you real-time travel alerts for your destination country and enables the U.S. Embassy, your friends, and your family to contact you in case of an emergency.
Before you arrive, also research your destination. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of the challenges you may face during your stay. Look for things such as how to safely get around and what to pack in the event of a terrorist attack, which can include a first aid kit with things like bandages, gauze, adhesives, and materials to make a splint.
Once you arrive, walk around the neighborhood and learn its layout. This will ensure you rely on GPS as little as possible and allow you to visually map the area. Look for local police stations and touristy locations and note your proximity to hospitals or clinics. Remain cautious in areas that seem less secure and stay away from large gatherings and demonstrations. In buildings, note things like emergency exits and report suspicious activity or unattended luggage.
Finally, remain hyper-alert of your surroundings, as this is the best practice for leaving a life-threatening situation unharmed.
Get Travel Medical Insurance
Some travel medical insurance policies include benefits like Terrorism Coverage. This is not a standard benefit, so you will want to read the policy document carefully to make sure you understand what is and is not covered. Policies like Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group’s Atlas Premium offer coverage for eligible medical expenses for treatment of injuries and illnesses resulting from an act of terrorism up to $50,000. With the purchase of a travel medical policy, you will be afforded benefits like emergency medical evacuation, repatriation of remains, local burial or cremation services, and emergency reunion plus $50,000 for terrorism-related injuries, providing extra peace of mind. Ensuring you have these coverages in place is paramount. If you don’t, you run the risk of astronomical medical bills, as medical bills for travelers without travel medical insurance can exceed $12,000.
Under Atlas Travel Plans, Terrorism Benefit does not apply in countries where a U.S. State Department travel warning has been in effect within the 6 months immediately prior to your arrival. However, the benefit can prove invaluable in other countries where there is a chance of an occurrence, but no travel warning in place.
Lastly, Crisis Response Coverage is a must. Crisis Response may cover expenses related to an express kidnapping or kidnapping, such as ransom, personal belongings surrendered, and other related fees. So, if you are kidnapped during a terrorist attack while abroad, Crisis Response Coverage will put an experienced Crisis Response team on your case to provide 24/7 assistance and negotiate your return.
If you are hurt
Since acts of terror are usually unexpected, they can be incredibly stressful, but remaining as calm as possible and getting to safety should remain your top priorities. If you are hurt in an act of terror and are well enough to assess your injuries, do so. Then, look for the nearest emergency personnel and ask for assistance.
Notify someone about your safety
The whole world is interconnected and news of an attack travels faster now than ever before (i.e. Twitter). So, if a terrorist attack occurs, ease the worry by informing your friends and loved ones that you are safe. Call from a safe location, text updates as frequently as possible, or mark yourself “safe” using Facebook’s safety check –-a feature created after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku—to inform friends and family back home of your safety.
Every foreign country has its own unique set of risks. For me, these risks are outweighed by the memories and experiences of international travel. Taking the proper precautions can help ensure your safety as you travel abroad, so use these tips to protect yourself in case an unexpected act of terror occurs.
Andrew Bard is a senior healthcare executive in the United States. He is a General Manager & Senior Vice President of the Americas at Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group, a leader in travel medical and international student insurance headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind. Tokio Marine HCC – MIS Group is a member of the Tokio Marine HCC group of companies.