If you’re planning to attend the Olympics in Sochi keep reading for tips to avoid becoming a victim while you’re there.
Several weeks ago I posted an article about rising crime in Venezuela and how armored cars provide exceptional security value. In the interim former Ms. Venezuela, Monica Spear, and her ex-husband, Thomas Henry Berry, were murdered by bandits after their car was disabled by flat tires. Although an armored car may not have prevented this outcome, the run-flat feature alone would have given them time to distance themselves from the road-block and may have saved them. Their five-year old daughter was also in the car, but survived the attack with a bullet wound to her leg.
Ms. Spear’s tragic death occured the same week I was planning a trip to El Salvador – a dangerous place adjacent to Honduras and relatively close to Venezuela. Although security is always part of my pre-trip planning, I decided to compare medical evacuation, legal, and security support providers. I contacted Travel Guard, International SOS and the Anvil Group to compare their products.
What I asked about – What they offer- What I need
When I think about support…I don’t mean a check to replace a lost ipad, or missing luggage. Insurance is not a substitute for 9-1-1, and most of the time travelers must be their own first responders. When I think about support I mean the lawyer who appears at the local police station after an impaired driver destroyed my rental car and shoved it onto a crowded sidewalk after running a red light. I mean the paramedic who runs into the local clinic to have my co-worker moved to a private clinic in the capital before someone makes a life-changing decision about his or her treatment. I am not interested in insurance coverage that pairs me with someone who met the minimimum standards for their profession. When it counts I want an expert. Money is not the limiting factor in the types of situations I want to avoid. I want Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction.
The providers (click to enlarge):
All three provide medical advice and support evacuation in an emergency. International SOS is the clear leader in this category globally, while Travel Guard seemed to have a stronger focus on insurance than as a care provider. The Anvil Group is the clear front-runner if you are looking for personal protection – from a driver through a VIP security detail. Medical care is integral to Executive Protection so the Anvil Group offers a range of products that fit my ideas about security.
At a minimum, travelers who don’t want to shell out cash before departure should be knowledgable about the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It offers many of the benefits available through for-profit providers, but emergencies that drive high contact volume (terrorism, typhoons, Earthquakes, Volcanoes) will put you in a long que so the private provider double your odds for support – and they’ll discuss your needs if you find a need for their services in-transit.
Back to the Olympics. Sochi offers a very real threat from extremist groups. Follow a few steps and you’ll minimize your exposure to that risk.
Extremists are drawn towards newsworthy, soft targets – western hotels, the main entrance to public transportation hubs, and any open-air venue where people are concentrated before they are funneled through security checkpoints.
- Use taxis and cars, but avoid buses and trains.
- Stay in a locally-branded hotel; if you must stay in a globally recognized hotel, always use a side entrance.
- When you leave your hotel leave a note to yourself at the front desk. Include your plans for the day and contact details for anyone else you may be traveling with.
- If you are staying at a globally branded hotel, avoid the hotel restaraunt.
- At sporting events, use less-crowded, side-entrances.
- Avoid spending more time than necessary in high-profile public spaces. Arrive to events well before the crowds or after they have subsided.
- Be alert.
Have fun and enjoy the games.
If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and enjoy your trips check out these posts on related topics:
- Trip Planning for India
- Travel Risk Management and Trip Safety
- The Safest Room in Every Hotel
- Vehicles are Deadly
You can follow me on twitter @paul_laherty, or find me on Linkedin.