How to Travel Safe in the Age of Terrorism

08/20/2017 01:47 pm ET

Last week, a van plowed into a crowd of pedestrians in Barcelona, killing 13 people and injuring 100 more. In what is becoming an all too familiar scenario, the immediate shock was followed by an outpouring of love for Spain and the faultless victims who unnecessarily lost their lives.

According to A Story Map—which keeps track of terrorist attacks and fatalities worldwide—more than 866 attacks, resulting in 5,224 fatalities have occurred in 2017 alone. Many, like the recent Barcelona attack, snag international headlines while others in Africa and the Middle East often go unnoticed.

Terrorist attacks in popular tourist destinations like Paris, Brussels and Barcelona are, predictably, impacting local tourism, which in turn can cause ripple effects to that country’s economy.

“In France, growth in nightly hotel room bookings after the Paris attacks fell to single digits from 20 percent. After the Brussels bombings, bookings went negative, and after Nice, bookings fell by double digits,” Mark Okerstrom, the chief financial officer of Expedia, told The New York Times.

Recently, I was invited on Cheddar—a live post cable network filmed here in New York City—to discuss tourism and terrorism and ways travelers can stay safe when abroad. The truth is that the unpredictable nature of terrorist attacks is what makes them so downright terrifying; and the best a traveler can do is be armed with resources in the event of an emergency.

Travel Safety Tips

Technology is key in staying safe during emergency situations, particularly while abroad. The U.S. Department of State has an app called Smart Traveler, which offers on-the-go information about the nearest U.S. embassy and safety warnings for specific countries.

Jennifer Paquette | Pixabay
Jennifer Paquette | Pixabay
Jennifer Paquette | Pixabay

While abroad, there are an array of mobile apps that every traveler should download to use in case of an emergency. Around Me is a great app for identifying hospitals, police stations, and other venues in your immediate vicinity. TripLingo is another great app that can help overcome language barriers should you require immediate assistance. TripLingo offers useful phrases, image translation and can even connect you to a live translator on the go, to help communicate your needs in realtime.

Another great app for travelers is SirenGPS, which pulls up the necessary emergency numbers for a specific country and—with the click of a button—can easily connect you to the local police, fire department or an ambulance. In case of a medical emergency for either yourself or others around you, the American Red Cross offers an app for basic first aid.

In the event of a terrorist attack...

In the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, your priority should be getting to safety. Unfortunately, follow-up attacks can happen so sticking around the area is ill advised. Once safe, social media is key to letting friends and family know you’re safe.

Beyond Facebook’s useful check-in service and apps like Whatsapp, social groups—such as Girls Love Travel—are great for connecting with an international community who can help spread the word if you’re looking for someone, connect you to people on the ground who are offering a safe haven, or simply lend emotional support.

As scary as terrorist attacks can be, the odds of being caught in one are very slim. According to Business Insider, the lifetime odds of death due to foreign-born terrorists is 1 in 45,808, compared to the 1 in 7 odds of death related to heart disease in the United States. In other words, as terrifying as attacks are, heart disease is a greater threat to your daily life.

In short, while the odds of being in a terrorist attack are reassuringly slim, travelers can use technology to arm themselves with resources in the event of an emergency, to assure they are able to get the help they need, when they need it.

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