A primer on personal safety
David Iwinski Jr.
A primer on personal safety
There is a famous Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”. Global opportunity for business is better than ever, and yet, it often means that we must travel to interesting places that might not reflect the security and stability of home. Whether exploring new markets in Brazil or putting together mineral deals in Kazakhstan, both developing world locales and crowded major cities all have their risks. Here are a few tips so you’ll be prepared if adversity comes your way.
In large densely populated cities, one of the greatest and most common risks is an extended power outage, because it will affect transportation and access to food and water. If you stay on a lower floor, your access to the street is much easier. If the lack of electricity causes the water pumps to stop, for a time the lower floor will get the gravity feed of water already in the higher pipes.
When you arrive at the hotel, most will offer complementary bottles of water. I suggest you ask for as many as they will give you and then ask the maid service to leave a few more. If there’s no power or water for three days, you can hole up in your room and get by with a dozen bottles.
On food, it’s a good idea to always have a box of energy bars handy. They are quite stable and will last a long time, and if you are suddenly in a situation where food sources are unreliable, they will keep you going.
You should talk to your family physician and get a prescription for a full bottle of broad-based antibiotics. Have your doctor explain their use, should you become ill in a place where local medical facilities are questionable. While indiscriminate use of antibiotics is never a good idea, if you should fall and scrape your leg in a small town on the edge of the jungle, taking a preventative dose until you’re back home might save your life. Of course, take an extra two weeks of your regular medicines, just in case flights are grounded and you get stuck away from home for an additional week.
In the front pocket of your shirt, carry a card with your name and with a request to call the hotel where you are staying, all written in local language. Typically the concierge at the hotel can easily prepare this card for you. If you should be incapacitated, someone assisting you can easily contact the hotel, where a copy of your passport and home contact list can be left with the hotel manager. In that same pocket, a plastic laminated card with any medical conditions and your current list of medicines can be very helpful.
I also suggest using a label maker to add, in local language, your name, hotel and hotel phone number to the back of your cell phone, tablet and laptop. I have left all three in seatbacks of trains and while most disappear forever, often people will call to say they have found your device, but only if they can read the message and have a local number. Adding a note that there is a reward will be an incentive!
Should you end up in a hotspot where personal safety is an issue, here are two final suggestions. First, skip the local taxis and have the hotel provide a car for your use all day. Then you have a consistent driver and you also know, at all times, the safety of the vehicle you are entering. Finally, if hotel security is lax (and for a while I traveled in the “kidnap for ransom” capital of the world) order three cans of soda from room service, drink them or dump them out and stack the cans on top of the doorknob. You have an instant intrusion alarm that will often scare anyone trying to slip into your room. I had a few nights when the cans went tumbling but nobody ever tried to come in.
Sometimes the most exciting business takes place in the most risky locales, so don’t pass up the opportunity, but these tips can make your trip more secure.