Terrorism in Paris: How to Stay Safe During a Terrorism Attack Abroad

I don’t claim to be a security expert but I’m often asked about the safety of visiting my new home with the abundance of terrorism in Paris.

The fact of the matter is that not only is Paris safe, but terrorism can happen anywhere. It’s important to stay safe wherever you travel and I’ve compiled a list from a variety of sources of what to do when terrorism strikes during your vacation get away.

Staying Safe During a Terrorism Attack

  • Staying safe starts before your trip. Use STEP.

    If you’re a US citizen, make sure you register all of your trips with the US State Department’s STEP program. Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, aka STEP keeps the State Department aware of your travel arrangements – what countries you’ll be visiting and where you’ll be staying.    
    There are plenty of benefits to registering for this program. You’ll receive alerts and important safety information about your destination prior to your trip and during your trip. I often receive emails from the US Embassy in France about upcoming protests and other situations of questionable safety. The program also helps the embassy to contact you directly in case of emergencies, whether natural disasters or civil unrest. They will also facilitate contact between you and your family in case of emergency.In a day and age where many people are distrustful of their government, this is still a good program to enroll in. You’d rather be in it and not need it than need it and not have it!

  • Stay informed with the SAIP or International SOS apps.

    If the idea of government agency tracking your travel makes you uncomfortable, there are other ways to stay abreast of what’s happening abroad. If you are traveling to France, download the SAIP app. The système d‘alerte et d’information des populations, aka SAIP is an app created by the French government to alert users to dangerous situations and terrorist attacks. The app is available for both iPhones and Android phones. Check out more information about SAIP here.  
    If you’re traveling outside of France, check out the International SOS app. The International SOS app isn’t free, but it’s worth it. In the app you set your location and you will receive alerts of suspected terrorist attacks in your area. In addition to security alerts, you’ll receive medical alerts and information as well. International SOS has centers around the world that you can call if you need help. The app is available for iPhones and Androids.

  • Run, Hide, Tell

    In the unfortunate event that a terrorist attack does happen while you’re traveling, the advised course of action is to:

    1) Run

    2) Find a hiding place and stay there 

    3) When safe to move, go tell authorities and others in the possible path of danger.

    Check out this video by the British authorities:                                                            
    In France, the message is similar: Escape, Hide and Alert.                                                     

  • If injured, go to your embassy. If in need to get out immediately, go to other embassies.

    This may come across as a bit controversial, but I am not the first person to say this and won’t be the last. If you are American and there is an attack on foreign soil – running to the American Embassy won’t help you. Have you seen the American Embassy in Paris? There are several armed guards, vehicles and a large gate all around the premises. And if there’s a large scale attack? You bet that the grounds are going under lockdown, which means you can’t get in and no one can get out. I doubt this embassy is an anomaly and that this is true for other countries as well.

    What I suggest and others such as Peter Greenberg and my sources within the embassy suggest is to go to the Canadian, British or Australian embassies. Have you ever seen the movie Argo? You are far more likely to be granted entry in the time of need to either of these embassies. Personally – my money is on the Canadian embassy!

    Despite this safety tip, you should still have the phone number and address of your embassy in all the countries you visit saved in your phone in case you need them. If you’re American, you can find the list of our embassies here.

In addition to these tips, I recommend a few smaller ones that are good for ANY trip.

  • Make color copies of your passport and get them laminated. The copies are helpful if you ever lose your passport abroad. They will NOT replace your passport but it makes it easier for the authorities to help you. You can get the duplication and lamination done at any FedEx/Kinko’s. I also keep a copy of my passport uploaded electronically, in case I need to pull it up when I don’t have it with me. Make sure wherever you are uploading it is secure – don’t get it stolen that way!
  • Share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member – or both! It’s always good to have someone back home that knows where you are.
  • As always, be sure to buy travel insurance and make sure it includes medical coverage. World Nomads, American Express and Allianz are a few highly rated travel insurers.

Despite recent events in the news, I find Europe a very safe place to vacation and live. As most places, things happen but you’re more likely to get pickpocketed on your vacation than suffer from a terrorist attack. If you’d like more information on how to stay safe on your vacation, check out the following links:

US State Department Travel Page

How to Travel Safely and Calm by the New York Times 

9 Travel Safety Tips by Conde Nast Traveler

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