Strategies to avoiding danger

Nobody wants to be a victim of a crime or other nasty incidents. While most people are still honest in that you don’t have to be constantly on high alert, some crime avoidance strategies are in order especially when you’re traveling in some unfamiliar areas. But when you start thinking about what you need to look out for, the strategies for crime avoidance are surprisingly different depending on where you’re going.

“Common sense”-advice such as being careful with your belongings, not going in dark alleys flashing lots of jewerly, not keeping all your money in one place, using safety deposit boxes when available, not carrying lots of cash and so on and so on are appropriate all around the world. But that’s just the obvious stuff and in many places you don’t really need to be that careful about pickpockets. For example:

  • In the US one can, in most cities, avoid 95% of the crime by simply avoiding certain neighborhoods of the city. That’s usually not a very difficult thing to do and crime generally is really not as common as people often believe.
  • In Finland, you should withdraw all the cash you’ll need before getting wasted in a bar and then wobbling to an ATM after a dozen beers. That’s begging for trouble. Or you could also maybe try not to get wasted… Similarly, night-time food or taxi queues are good places to pick a fight.
  • In many crowded countries/places, pickpockets are your biggest concern. So no loose handbags or wallets in the back pockets.
  • In very crowded places, the crowd itself is dangerous. Masses of people often behave seemingly irrationally and it’s happened more than once that stampedes kill people when panic ensues. Not long ago, a thousand people died in Iraq when a simple rumor of a suicide bomber panicked a crowd and people jumped off of a bridge and trampled each other.
  • Then we have the so-called natural disasters that have been dominating the news lately. The good news is that weather-related phenomena are usually rather easy to avoid: when the time comes, leave the area. When warned, protect yourself. Earthquakes are a bit trickier than that, but who forces you to live directly on top of a fault line?
  • The most dangerous places like your home, driving in traffic and other everyday things can also be made safer by some simple decisions; don’t smoke in bed (better yet, at all!), take care of your electrical appliances, have a working fire alarm + an extuingisher, get a safe car, don’t drive tired or when drinking, eating, using a phone or doing any other stupid activity etc etc. Basically things that should be common knowledge but surprisingly often aren’t.
  • When flying, check the airline’s safety record. You don’t want to be flying on an airline that is black-listed somewhere; the EU-wide black list should be a good resource soon. Also, do not leave your baggage unattended – something we hear at airports ad nauseam. Essentially it’s good advice though: not because somebody would slip a bomb there or steal it, but because the security personnel is likely to take it away and you’ll end up with all kinds of hassle trying to get your own things back.
  • Some interesting tips that I ran across in the Finnish Turvallisuus-magazine dealt with violent people and more specifically, type II alcoholics of whom Finland sometimes seems half-filled with. People of this type behave erratically and violently when their blood sugar levels crash after the spike caused by drinking – if you work in e.g. a customer service, it might be good to have some fruit juice readily available on the desk that you can offer people. This will get their blood sugar levels back on track. Another good tip was to keep your hands visible at all times as a delusional person may think you’re reaching for a weapon even if you reach for the mentioned fruit juice.

And just as an additional thought, practically nowhere – and I repeat nowhere, with the possible exception of Iraq – is terrorism your number one safety concern.

Finally, not all things are avoidable no matter what you do – so a healthy attitude to take is probably to assume that eventually you will be a victim of a crime, small or large. One should also understand that possessions can be replaced, life cannot – and that panicking is no good whatever happens. What you can do is some minor prevention: take two-sided copies of all your credit cards, passports and such items and keep the copies in a safe place. Having the copies makes the act of cancelling and re-ordering everything much easier.

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