Whether you’re scuba diving off the coast of the Adriatic Sea or mountain climbing and bouldering in Norway, safety planning should extend beyond your leisure activities to all aspects of your trip. Fall is the opportune time to explore Europe, see the sights, meet local people and enjoy free time with friends and family. It’s also a time when people tend to congregate in public areas where extremist organizations are able to select targets of opportunity for seemingly random acts of violence.
Terror attacks may seem random but they are usually planned well in advance and specifically designed to affect the largest number of people with the least amount of effort. These recent attacks highlight the need for increased force protection measures by service members, dependents and civilians stationed in Europe while traveling throughout the region. Force protection is defined by the Department of Defense (DOD) as “preventative measures taken to mitigate hostile actions against DOD personnel to include family members, resources, facilities and critical information.”
Most service members and DOD civilians perform force protection and anti-terrorism measures at work every day; these skills have now become vital to everyday life whether you’re away on vacation or just downtown for the weekend shopping.
Take the time to explain force protection principles to your family, identify the person who’s in charge of your group in the event of an emergency, and establish simple procedures for staying together and avoiding potential threats.
The continuous threat of terrorism requires a team effort to minimize and deter possible future attacks. DOD personnel and their families need to be aware of their surroundings and remain alert for suspicious activity and report it. Reporting suspicious activity should be a prompt and detailed description of what happened, when and where the activity occurred, and who was involved. It’s recommended but not required to provide your contact information and current location when reporting suspicious activity.
While traveling throughout Europe or abroad, take the time to research your destination before you go. Websites such as travel.state.gov have up-to-date travel alerts and warnings for most countries around the world.
Try to keep up with current events about your destination by following local news coverage before traveling and during your stay. Most countries have an emergency phone number similar to 911 in the United States; be sure to share this information with those traveling with you in case of an emergency.
It’s impossible to plan for every situation, but there are a few things you can do when traveling to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of a terrorist attack. Foremost, you will need to be able to identify potential threats and be able to report any suspicious activity. You will also need to avoid taking unnecessary risks such as attending mass gatherings or protests where violence is likely to occur.
Finally, stay in constant communications with your assigned unit, family members and friends when traveling. Tell them where you’re going, what route you plan to travel and when to expect your return. Sharing your travel plans with someone you trust will provide authorities with the right information in case of an attack or disaster that involves your travel route or destination.
Traveling around Europe can be a rewarding endeavor if you take the time to properly prepare before you go. Don’t allow poor planning or lack of situational awareness to ruin your travels. Exercise your force protection training and be a sensor for suspicious activity. Remember “See Something, Say Something.”
For more information on travel safety, force protection and suspicious activity reporting, go to: