The Business of Travel Safety

By Tzviel Blankchtein

Self-defense. While the best defense is avoiding trouble in the first place, self-defense skills are essential. Basic surveillance and countersurveillance tactics are valuable skills that should be taught to traveling executives or employees. Looking for indicators of “tailing,” although subtle, is not as complicated as one would imagine, and will allow the executive to immediately recognize when he or she is being targeted. This will allow the executive to address the situation before it escalates.

Defensive driving may be a life-saving skill for the traveling executive. If the executive is likely to drive, as typically is the case with long-term assignments where renting or leasing vehicles is more cost-effective than hiring a driving service, traveling executives must know how to use the vehicle to their advantage, whether as a hardened target or for defensive purposes.

Defensive driving skills should include tactics to avoid carjacking, countersurveillance techniques, and driving maneuvers to evade possible attacks. Several reputable schools provide such training.

When training executives in self-defense, the security team should gear the training toward the specific risks associated with the country or region of destination. For example, executives traveling to Africa may face street-level crime accompanied by edged weapons. As a result, they should learn how to defend against knives, machetes, and other weapons of opportunity.

It is imperative that self-defense training include lessons on the psychology of an attack, the differences between a primary and secondary crime scene, and the decision of whether to comply, fight, or flee. Lastly, the legal aspect of using self-defense skills, no matter how justified one feels, must also be addressed in this training, with an eye toward how the local laws apply to travelers’ rights to protect themselves. Many times, foreigners are treated with the “guilty until proven innocent” approach.

An example of this was a former Israeli soldier who was traveling to Thailand. He was approached aggressively by gang members and, in self-defense, knocked them out. Responding police arrested the Israeli and held him for many months before he was released and cleared of any wrongdoing.

Including family members of the executives in the training is critical. This tactic proved valuable in one case when the wife of an executive of a multimillion dollar IT company was shopping in London while her husband attended business meetings. A robber attempted to mug her, but because of her training in self-defense, she was able to kick her attacker and get away. This example goes to show the value of preparing not only the executives who are conducting business, but anyone accompanying them. These family members or companions may be in different locations from the executive. The fellow travelers may be attacked independently or used as leverage against the executive, such as for ransom.



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