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Personal Safety Ashore - Aide Memoire

In light of the increased incidence of terrorist attacks upon civilians, Securewest International has produced an aide memoire based on incident response procedures, offering practical advice on how to protect yourself if you are caught in the midst of a terror attack, civil unrest, organised or opportunistic crime. 

Applied properly, incident response procedures help to:

Prepare staff and dependants for a range of security events that have occurred frequently in the past and are likely to occur again in the future.

Stay calm under adverse conditions and in times of heightened stress and immediate threat to health, life and assets.

Set appropriate actions when affected by a security incident.

The subsequent chapters outline concise steps of how to behave during a security incident. However, it must be noted that  situations can  differ widely and not all steps below might be applicable. This document should therefore be seen as a best-practise guide to help increase personal security awareness of staff and dependants.

Incident response procedures

Response to gunfire

Know the difference between fireworks and gunfire…If you come under direct fire when on foot:

  • Lie flat on the ground with your face down.

  • Try to identify an area of solid cover, such as a building, concrete wall or ditch.

  • Attempt to determine the direction of the firing and the likely target.

  • If safe to do so, remove yourself from immediate danger.

  • If moving when firing is ongoing, do not break cover for more than a few seconds.

  • Note that even when firing has stopped it may not be the end of the attack.

  • Upon reaching a safe area try to make contact with local authorities and follow their instructions.

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If you come under direct fire when inside a building:

  • Stay away from windows and doors and move to the interior of the building.

  • Take shelter in areas that offer protection against bullets and shrapnel. These can include stairwells, the basement or the bathroom.

  • Notify your dependants that you are well and be available for answering questions of the local authorities.

  • Follow instructions of building security or try to make contact with the local authorities.

  • Do not leave your secure shelter unless it becomes an unsafe place to stay.

If you come under fire whilst in a vehicle:

  • Keep the vehicle moving and immediately look for a way out.
  • Attempt to force your way through traffic, providing the vehicle is not likely to become immobilised.
  • If in traffic and there is no opportunity for escape, exit the vehicle and lay flat on the ground with your face down (and follow the ‘Reacting to gunfire on foot’ instructions).

Remember vehicles provide little to no cover against small arms fire and that you are an easy target when remaining inside the vehicle.

Response to explosive devices

If you find what appears to be an improvised explosive device (ie. an unconventional explosive weapon)

  • Immediately move away from the location of the device and take cover behind a solid concrete wall or within a building.

  • Inform anyone else around you of your suspicion.

  • Notify the local authorities and/or building security and give them a short brief about the device and its location.

  • Follow the instructions given by security personnel.

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If you find unattended luggage at a public space such as an airport, seaport, hotel or conference facility:

  • Treat unattended luggage as a potential improvised explosive device and move away from it.

  • Immediately report your finding to the area security forces and inform others to stay away from it.

  • Follow the instructions given by the security forces.

If you find yourself in the aftermath of a detonation in your immediate vicinity:

  • Get flat on the ground facing away from the direction of the explosion.

  • Check yourself for injuries and be aware of falling debris.

  • Move to a solid cover away from the detonation such as a reinforced concrete wall, building or ditch.

  • Once in cover assess the situation and be aware that small blasts can be used to funnel people into exit routes which are targeted by secondary devices or other weapons.

  • If possible stay in your cover and try to contact the local authorities.

  • When moving away from the scene, avoid crowds and chokepoints.

If you are injured by a blast, do the following:

  • If you can, look for cover and attempt to crawl there.

  • Keep calling for help and take deep, long breaths.

  • If you are bleeding, put pressure on the wound and try to stop the bleeding.

  • Try to remain conscious and remain in the safe location until help arrives.

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Response to civil unrest

Monitor signs that could develop into civil unrest. These can include:

  • Respective news articles on local and international media.

  • Increased dissatisfaction of the local population with the economic or political situation.

  • Censorship of non-state media.

  • The death of a notable politician or cleric.

  • Increased sectarian tensions.

  • Reprisals from security forces.

If you are caught up in civil unrest whilst on foot or in a vehicle:

  • Remain calm and immediately leave the area and seek refuge in safe haven. This could be your home, a police station, hospital or hotel.

  • Always get out of a crowd at right angles to their direction of movement.

  • Try to put as much distance to you and the crowd as possible.

  • Notify your dependants and working colleagues of the situation and instruct them to stay away from this area.

  • If in a vehicle approaching a crowd, don’t assume that you will be safe inside, so turn around immediately and leave the area.

  • If you are driving within a crowd, close the doors and windows and try to turn around to leave the scene.

  • If you can’t leave the scene, pull over and let the crowd pass.

  • Have your doors and windows locked at all times and keep the engine running.

Response to carjacking

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If you are in a vehicle and armed individuals attempt to seize your car:

  • Stop immediately and surrender the vehicle and any possessions.

  • Be non-threating and compliant. Your life and health is more important than your personal belongings.

  • Do not make any sudden movements and avoid eye contact.

  • Keep your hands visible to the attackers.

  • Once the attackers are gone, immediately remove yourself from the area and make contact with the local authorities.

  • Follow the instructions of the local authorities.

Response to a violent theft

If you are on foot and threatened with violence by another individual:

  • Do not argue and make any sudden movements.

  • Remain calm and hand over your possessions.

  • Avoid eye contact and keep your hands in full view.

  • Be non-threatening and compliant.

  • Once the attacker has left the scene, immediately contact the local authorities and follow their instructions.

General security and safety advice

When driving with a car you should always:

  • Use the seat belt (except when driving around the unprotected edges of docks and marinas).

  • Lock  all  doors  whether  you  are  stationary  or  moving  (except  when  driving  around  the unprotected edges of docks and marinas).

  • Leave  only  a  two  finger  gap  when  opening  the  windows  (dependent  on  the  security situation).

  • Refuel the vehicle if you have less than a quarter of the tank left.

  • Stick to speed limits and keep a distance from other cars no less than two car-lengths.

  • Be especially aware when driving at night and during adverse weather conditions.

  • Make sure to have a first aid kit ready and checked in the car.

  • If stopping at a street light in areas known for criminal activities always leave a car-length between you and the car in front.

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When travelling with a taxi:

  • Sit in the rear on the curb side of the vehicle.

  • Do not discuss personal details with the driver.

  • Ensure that the driver knows the location prior to departure.

  • Avoid displaying large amounts of cash when paying the driver.

  • Agree on a price prior to departure if the taxi is unmetered.

  • Instruct the driver to stop at a busy location if you feel uneasy.

When parking or returning to the vehicle:

  • Always leave the vehicle in a secure parking location.

  • Lock all doors and close windows.

  • Reverse-park your car where possible, so you can leave the location quickly if necessary.

Grab bag

If you are travelling to countries with a history of economic and political instability or a record of security incidents (extremism, social unrest, crime, etc.) consider to have a “Grab bag” ready at all times. A grab bag will enable you to leave/evacuate from a hotel, accommodation, tourist site or country with little to no notice. Note, that the bag should not weigh more than 20kg and should be easy to carry (rucksack, shoulder bag, etc.) Typical content should include:

Personal documents stored in a water resistant container:

  • Passport plus a photocopy of it

  • Visa documentation

  • Prescriptions

  • Contact lists

  • Other personal documents such as insurance certificates, financial records, etc.

Essential equipment if on an overnight excursion or similar:

  • 2 litres of water (dependent on situation)
  • 2 days of lightweight, high-energy food
  • Weatherproof jacket, hat, cap and sunglasses (dependent on weather conditions)
  • Flashlight, spare batteries and charging cable for your mobile devices
  • Notebook and pen
  • Toiletries and sanitary items
  • Toilet paper

Personal information security

Potential adversaries are frequently using social media to identify targets for burglaries, theft and blackmailing. In addition, social media can be used to obtain passwords, personal details of wealth and other sensitive information. In this regard, the following best-practice advice should be considered:

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General security advice:

  • Refrain from using public WIFI hotspots as these are vulnerable to penetration attacks.

  • Use Bluetooth only when making a deliberate file transfer and keep it turned off otherwise.

  • Change your personal passwords at least every six months.

  • Avoid using the same password for multiple sites.

  • Do not click on any suspicious links on websites and emails.

  • Do not provide any personal details in response to requests from strangers or companies.

  • Do not post sensitive data and personal information on social media sites.

  • Do not accept friendship requests from people you do not know.

  • Do not post information about holidays or times of absence from your home.

  • Ensure that all your social media sites have strict security settings.

Facebook security settings:

  • Enable recognised devices.

  • Enable login notifications via email.

  • Search engine timeline linking should be “Off”.

  • Future and old posts should be limited to “Friends”.

  • Limit the “Who can look me up?” section to “Friends of friends”.

  • Limit the “Timeline and tagging” settings to “Friends”.

Twitter usage:

  • Familiarise yourself with the Twitter private policy.
  • Do not post any personal information via Twitter.
  • Do not use a personal picture for the account.
  • Use a public and private account if necessary.

YouTube usage:

  • Do not post any personal videos on YouTube.
  • Do not provide any personal details on your YouTube profile.
  • Consider using a “Throw away email address” for your account.

Travel security

When travelling always consider the following:

  • Book an accommodation or hotel in secure areas only.

  • Know your  travel timings and  routes  in  advance and  carry  a print out of  all  important locations with you.

  • Pre-arrange a meet and greet service at the airport if you are unfamiliar with the destination.

  • Have your passport, mobile phone and petty cash with you at all times.

  • Ensure you have relevant emergency contact details saved on your mobile phone.  If necessary, carry a back-up list with you.

  • Rent cars only from a reputable car rental company.

  • Book excursions only with a reputable travel company.

  • Adhere to the local customs and regulations.

  • Do not display any unnecessary signs of wealth such as watches, mobile phones and large amounts of cash.

Accommodation and hotel security

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When staying in an accommodation or hotel consider the following:

  • Familiarise yourself with the fire exit routes and evacuation procedure.

  • Always utilise the viewer before opening the door.

  • If you feel uncomfortable, do not open the door and call reception.

  • Secure valuables and confidential information in the safe deposit box.

  • Always lock the door and secure it with the deadlock and chain.

  • Ensure that you keep your passport when checking into a hotel. If necessary let them keep a copy.

  • Keep vigilant when checking-in and keep your luggage in sight at all times.

  • Close the windows and shutters when leaving the room, especially if your room has shared balconies.

  • Leave the “Do not disturb” sign when leaving the room.

Health precautions and insurance

Before travelling, especially for long-term deployments to a number of countries, make sure that you:

  • Are physically fit for travelling.

  • Refresh your vaccinations.

  • Know what kind of additional vaccinations are required for each country.

  • Complete any routine dental treatment.

  • Familiarise yourself with your private and company health and accident insurance policy, especially in regards to medical repatriation and emergency treatment in foreign countries.

  • Know what your insurance covers and what it does not.

  • Take a first-aid kit with you.

  • Familiarise yourself with which drugs that are banned in the countries you will visit.

This article was updated on 9th December 2020. First published in March 2017 by OnboardOnline.
This document is supplied in confidence by Securewest International to the public for informational purposes. The document contains information proprietary to Securewest International and whose unauthorised disclosure would cause damage to the interests of Securewest International. Securewest International reserves the right to require at any time return of the document and destruction of any copies or extracts of it made by the recipient.

The right to copy and use this document is restricted to the described purpose and it must not otherwise be used or disseminated without the prior written consent of Securewest International. Requests for permission for wider use or dissemination should be made to Securewest International.

Copyright © Securewest International 2016, Riverford House, 43 Estover Close, Plymouth PL6 7PL, United Kingdom.

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