Living in Europe means having the advantage of being near numerous popular tourist destinations and the opportunity to travel during the summer months.
However, tourist attractions and peak travel seasons can create ideal conditions for a potential terrorist attack.
Community members can help protect themselves and their families by arming themselves with knowledge and preparing before they set out on their next European vacation.
• Research travel destinations on the U.S. Department of State website, www.travel.state.gov. Read any travel warnings or travel alerts for that country, and then read about common criminal and terrorist activity in the area.
• Register the passport numbers of family members. This will help the U.S. Department of State evacuate U.S. personnel in the event of a natural disaster or social unrest. Additionally, this will expedite the process of replacing a lost passport.
• Write down the emergency numbers for medical, fire, and police departments at the travel destination. For many countries within the European Union, 112 is the designated number for all of these services.
• Write down the address for the nearest emergency room or hospital. In some places, the fastest way to get help may be driving to the hospital.
• When waiting in an airport or train station, stay on the edges of large crowds of people, near an emergency exit. Many active shooters focus on firing shots into the main body of a group because they are most likely to hit someone.
• Avoid people who appear to be talking or praying to themselves, or in a trance — many active shooters and suicide bombers exhibit these traits. Alert security personnel if these people are detected.
• After arriving at the airport, go to the departure gate as soon as possible. The areas of the airport closer to the departure gates are more secure than the ticket counters and baggage check areas.
• While traveling and at a travel destination, maintain situational awareness. Avoid boxes, bags, or backpacks that are left unattended, as these could easily conceal explosives.
• In parking lots, avoid cars that are parked especially close to buildings, cars parked illegally, cars sagging low to the ground, and cars that have containers of gasoline, propane, or bags of fertilizer in them, as they could contain explosives.
• If traveling by car, be aware that police in Germany sometimes pull people over in unmarked police cars and plain clothes to catch drug runners. When this occurs, the police vehicle should have an LED marquis screen in the back, telling the driver to pull over or follow. Drivers who have any doubts regarding the legitimacy of an event should pull over at the next well-populated rest stop and find a police officer to report what has happened, or dial 112.
• Book a hotel room on the third, fourth or fifth floor near an emergency exit, to avoid shootings at street level and be able to evacuate quickly in the event of a fire.
• Avoid eating meals in hotel restaurants, as they could become a terrorist target.
• Don’t discuss classified topics, even if speaking in a low voice. Intelligence services around the world have the capability to listen in on almost any conversation, regardless of whether or not the participants are whispering.
• Avoid visiting night clubs or bars where Americans or tourists are known to congregate.
For more information on how to make a vacation more safe, visit the Department of Defense Antiterrorism Awareness website at www.at-awareness.org.