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Security Tips

  • Don't discuss personal matters such as travel plans, your job, or your family with people you don't know.
  • Learn the area, the culture, local customs, history of criminal activity and local laws.
  • Become familiar with the environment. You must know what is normal to be able to detect what is unusual.
  • Always have local coins or calling cards for pay phones. Know how to use the local phone system and the number for emergencies.
  • Keep a low profile. Don't advertise U.S. DoD affiliation.
  • Dress and behave conservatively. Avoid styles that don't fit in the local area and such as American items like cowboy boots and hats, or baseball caps - try to blend in.
  • Don't wear clothing with slogans or symbols that may be offensive. Remember, different cultures have different values and beliefs. When in doubt, be conservative.
  • Be polite and low key. Avoid loud conversations and arguments.
  • Don't flash large sums of money.
  • Never carry documents, credit cards, or large sums of money that you don't need to have on your person. For example, there is generally no reason to have your stateside drivers license or American department store credit cards in your wallet or purse.
  • Avoid going out alone, especially at night.
  • Avoid secluded areas, poorly lit streets and narrow alleys.
  • Stay away from known "trouble spots", demonstrations, and political rallies.
  • When shopping or in other contacts, remember "Deals too good to be true" usually are.
  • Criminals often target intoxicated people. Excessive consumption of alcohol is often the first step to becoming the victim of a crime or serious accident. Most importantly, many victims simply lose their ability to perceive and appreciate potential dangers. It lowers your awareness, rational decision making process, and physical coordination. If you drink, do so in moderation, especially when away from your residence. Staying sober may help you stay healthy and alive.

Several of these comments apply only to non-government residences, but most pertain to all situations.

  • If renting a home or apartment off a military installation, avoid one-way streets, dead ends and secluded areas
  • Select a well-lit neighborhood.
  • If located in a commercial setting, examine the type of clientele attracted to the area.
  • Check on availability of police, fire, and ambulance services.
  • If renting an apartment, try to obtain one on the 2nd to 5th floor. Ground floor apartments (and homes) are more susceptible to break-ins. Emergency equipment may have difficulty reaching higher floors.v
  • Ensure your home blends in with others in the neighborhood; don't display obviously U.S. or DoD affiliated decorations.
  • Locks should be on all gates, doors, and windows - and should be used.
  • Intercoms and entry door peepholes should be used. Don't open doors until you have identified persons desiring entry. Beware of unexpected deliveries or workers. Refuse them entry until you can ensure their authenticity. Check their identification and if necessary call their firm or your landlord, to verify.
  • Ask your landlord to tell you in advance of any expected workers or deliveries.
  • Use louvered windows, especially on the ground floor. Use curtains and window shades, especially in the evening.
  • Consider security grilles or bars on windows and doors (generally required in high threat countries); but be certain you allow for quick exit in an emergency.
  • Keep entrances, exits, and stairways well lit.
  • Exterior and entrance lighting that is controlled by a motion sensor is an inexpensive and effective crime prevention measure.
  • Don't hide a key. If you must, leave one with a trusted neighbor.
  • Don't mark your keys with your name, address, or other identifying information.
  • Have locks replaced if keys are lost.
  • Learn how to properly operate all locks. Many Americans simply close entrance doors without using a key. This may lock the door, but does not engage a deadbolt which provides much greater security.
  • Consider a safe or other heavy container for securing valuables. Bolt to the floor or secure to a fixed object.
  • When away, leave on a light, radio, etc. to make it appear that someone is home.
  • Don't release your address and phone number indiscriminately.
  • Answer your phone by simply saying "hello" or by a phrase frequently used in your area. Don't answer with your position or name. If you use an answering machine, record your phone number as part of the greeting. Again, don't use your position or name.
  • Have emergency telephone numbers readily available (police, fire department, ambulance, hospital, etc.).
  • Learn how to ask for help in the local language.
  • Having a dog can serve as an excellent deterrent to criminals.
  • Be prepared for everyday emergencies such as power outages, water main breaks, and injuries. Have flashlights, candles, water, and first aid supplies on hand. Learn basic first aid and CPR procedures.
  • Parking your vehicle in a locked, private garage is best. Avoid parking directly on the street, but if you must, get into the habit of checking your vehicle for tampering prior to entry and operation.
  • If you are going to be away for more than a day or two: 
    • Have someone collect your mail, newspapers, etc.
    • Automatic timers should be used for lights or radio.
    • Unplug or turn off the phone ringers if you do not use an answering machine
  • Report unusual or suspicious activity to the police or your security officer.
  • Keep your vehicle well maintained and your tank at least half full.
  • Walk to your vehicle with keys in your hand, ready to use.
  • Perform a quick check of your vehicle exterior and interior before unlocking. Look for any signs of tampering. If something appears suspicious, notify the police - stay away from the vehicle until it is determined to be safe.
  • Once you enter your vehicle, lock your doors immediately and put the key in the ignition. Keep doors locked at all times.
  • Keep your windows up until you are moving. It is best to keep your windows up when traveling in town. If you must lower them, do so only slightly.
  • Always lock your vehicle when unattended and safeguard keys.
  • When having your vehicle serviced, provide only vehicle keys.
  • Park in secured lots when possible. If unavailable, park in a well lit area that is not secluded.
  • Always be alert and aware of your surroundings while driving. Defensive driving is not only safety smart, but security smart. Always use your seat belt.
  • Be aware of vehicles in front, behind, and to the sides. Pay attention to the occupants.
  • In high threat areas (currently Bahrain and Turkey for DoDEA assignments), vary your travel routes and times. This makes you unpredictable and hard to target.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.
  • Avoid demonstrations or known "trouble" areas.
  • Know the location of police and fire stations, military installations, and hospitals (these are known as "safe havens"). Go to one if you think you are being followed - do not go home. Try to record the description of the vehicle, license number, and occupants.
  • In an emergency, drive on flat tires until reaching a well-lighted, well-traveled, safe area.
  • On the road: Set out warning triangle and/or flares; raise the hood; activate emergency flashers, lock the doors and stay inside. If someone stops to offer assistance, roll the window down slightly and ask them to notify the police or a road service agency. If you feel unsure of the situation, don't get out of the vehicle until the police or road service arrive.
  • Call boxes: In many western European countries, call boxes are located at regular intervals on major highways. Use these to call for help and then return to your vehicle.
  • While parked: Be wary of assistance offered by strangers. Telephone a friend or road service for assistance. If you feel threatened by strangers, stay in the vehicle with the doors locked. Use the vehicle horn if you need to attract attention.
  • Your U.S. drivers license, or if assigned overseas, the license issued by the U.S. military, is not valid in all countries; or may not be recognized by car rental agencies in remote areas of many countries in which it is valid. Obtaining an international license is always advisable, and is legally required to drive in some countries. Note: For official DoDEA HQ travelers, your valid U.S. drivers license is legally recognized in all countries in which DoDEA currently operates.
  • Check with your insurance company to make certain your policy covers you in the area to which you are traveling. Ask them about any special concerns. Carry proof of insurance. Note: Most rental cars rented in European countries in which DoDEA currently operates may not be legally operated in former Eastern Block countries.
  • Consider the use of a vehicle that will not identify you as a foreigner. Rent a vehicle if appropriate.
  • Tell only those who need to know that you will be away.
  • Call your local security office for information on the areas you plan to visit. They can advise you on the area or put you in contact with the responsible agency.
  • Carry the address and phone numbers of U.S. military facilities, U.S. Consulates, and U.S. Embassies in the area.
  • If you wear glasses or contact lenses, carry spares.
  • Bring a sufficient supply of required medication. Carry a copy of the prescription, and know the generic name.
  • Be discreet in revealing your DoD affiliation or home address. In some areas, sophisticated criminal rings attempt to learn the home addresses of vacationers and then report this information to colleagues in the home country or area who burglarize homes while people are away. By simply learning your name and city, they may be able to check a telephone book and learn your address. Some have even been known to steal house, apartment, and car keys and mail them to colleagues. Make a copy of the following and place in different pieces of luggage in case the originals are lost or stolen:
    • Passport pages with number, photograph, issue information, and any required visas
    • ID card, Leave, TDY papers and/or Border Crossing Documents
  • Use a money/document belt for copies of identification documents, a separate credit card and emergency funds. Consider what you will do if your wallet or purse is stolen.
  • Be wary of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas and major tourist attractions. Do not be distracted. Carry valuables and belongings in a secure manner (not in
  • handbags or coat/hip pockets). Handbags should be kept in front of you, closed, with the fastener towards your body. Wallets should be kept in front pants pocket.
  • Travel light. Pack only what you need. Don't use military style luggage like duffel or flight bags.
  • Avoid carrying potentially controversial materials such a gun magazines, military publications, religious books, pornography or magazines that can offend or antagonize. Watch your luggage at all times, especially in hotel lobbies, airports and train stations.
  • Try to book non-stop, direct flights to destinations. The fewer the stops and plane changes, the better.
  • Exchange a small amount of money before you leave for tips, snacks, taxis, etc.
  • Use military flights, MAC charters, or US Flag carriers whenever possible.
  • Hijackers usually direct their activities towards the aisle seats, especially the front and rear aisle area. Avoid sitting in these seats if possible.
  • Travel in conservative civilian clothing that does not make you stand out as a U.S. citizen.
  • Pack your own luggage. Never let it out of your sight until it has been checked through. Do not accept any packages or items for packing with your luggage or hand carried items.
  • Use civilian addresses for tickets, luggage tags, reservations and other travel documents.
  • Place your name and address inside each piece of luggage.
  • Don't loiter around the ticket counter, baggage check-in, or security screening area. Go through security as quickly as possible and to the boarding area. If you want to use shops, restaurants and lounges, do so in the security area, not the main terminal.
  • Beware of unattended baggage; report it immediately.
  • Use a tourist passport, with a plain cover, whenever possible.
  • If a hijacking or similar incident occurs:
    • Discreetly discard DoD identification. Do not volunteer your DoD affiliation; but if questioned, do not deny it. Simply state that traveling on a blue passport is routine.
    • Avoid doing anything that will draw attention to you.
    • Discreetly observe captors and get a physical description.
    • If a rescue attempt is made, get down and stay still until the situation is completely resolved and you are told to get up. Security forces will generally target anyone that is moving.
  • Use hotels that are reputable. Check with travel agencies or people familiar with the area.
  • Try to obtain a room on the 2nd through 5th floor. Ground floor rooms are more susceptible to break-ins. Higher floors may prevent access by rescue equipment like fire truck ladders.
  • Although not always so, presume all hotel rooms are monitored. Do not discuss classified, sensitive, or proprietary information.
  • Avoid the use of hotel paging.
  • Keep your passports and room key with you at all times.
  • Exercise care when inviting strangers to your room or disclosing the number and location of your room. Meet visitors in the lobby or other public area.
  • Be wary of pickpockets, prostitutes, or other criminal elements that may loiter in lobbies, restrooms, restaurants, bars, pools, or public phone booth areas.
  • Alternate use of elevators and stairs. If others are watching and you don‰t feel "comfortable", consider taking elevators to floors below or above yours and walk up or down.
  • Note emergency exits, fire alarms and fire extinguishers.
  • Always use door peepholes, and security chains when answering your door. Lock doors and windows when you leave the room.
  • At night, keep curtains closed. Consider setting up an "improvised" burglar alarm that will waken you if someone is trying to gain access to your room.
  • Try to sleep away from exterior walls and windows.
  • Keep your room neat and orderly. By doing so, it will be easier to notice if someone has been in your room.
  • Avoid leaving valuables in room. Use the hotel safe.
  • When leaving your room, turn out the lights first - then open door and check hallway before exiting.
  • Avoid hanging signs on doors requesting maid service. This telegraphs that your room is not occupied.
  • Mail letters and postcards yourself, don't use the hotel desk.
  • Beware of unexpected mail, parcels or solicitors.
  • Ensure children always carry some form of identification; and that they know their home address and telephone number.
  • As best as yon can, know where your children are. Day and Night.
  • Have identification documents (current photographs, fingerprints, etc.) available. Most MP and SP stations offer "Child Identification" packets, which include photographs, fingerprints, and identification tags.
  • Never leave young children alone or unattended - even for short periods.
  • Instruct children to keep doors and windows locked and to never admit strangers to the home.
  • Teach children how to contact the police or a neighbor. Show them how to use the phone in an emergency and let them practice by calling a friend.
  • Don't have children wear clothing or carry items with their names displayed on the outside.
  • At an appropriate age, teach your children how to safely cross streets.
  • Advise your children to:
    • Never leave home without telling you where they will be.
    • Travel and play with a friend or group.
    • Avoid isolated areas.
    • Refuse to go with strangers and never accompany strangers anywhere...even if the strangers say Mom or Dad sent them.
  • Establish a secret "codeword" that only you and your child knows which can be used by a friend if your child does need to be picked-up.
  • Make sure children know where to go if they feel threatened.
  • Teach them to report anything that makes them afraid or uncomfortable.

Children and Traveling

  • Children should always wear some type of identification.
  • Write down the name, address and phone number of your hotel. Have each child carry a copy. Most hotels have business cards or matchbooks. Of course, if matchbooks are used, remove the matches before giving them to children.
  • Explain the local police uniforms and where they may be able to find help if they become separated.
  • Give them coins to use pay phones and show them how to operate them. Let them practice.
  • Establish rendezvous points in the event someone gets separated. Make sure it is a place your children can find.
  • Keep a close eye on your children. Have them use the buddy system if practical.
  • If children are old enough to do things on their own, set meeting locations and times. Before they set out, remember what they are wearing. Check to ensure they have coins for pay phones.

REPORT ANY SUSPICIOUS LETTERS OR PACKAGES TO THE AUTHORITIES IMMEDIATELY TAMPERING OR OPENING A SUSPECT LETTER OR PACKAGE SHOULD BE LEFT TO EXPLOSIVE DISPOSAL EXPERTS.

  • Leave the letter or package alone.
  • Don't place inside a safe or other drawer and don't place in water
  • Leave room windows open to vent a possible detonation.
  • Leave the room, evacuate the area, and wait for a bomb disposal team

THE FOLLOWING MAY BE INDICATORS OF A LETTER OR PACKAGE BOMB:

  • No return address or incorrect Title.
  • Addressed to title, like Commanding General, but no name
  • Misspelling of common words or address.
  • Restrictive markings such as - "confidential" - or- "personal for".
  • Excessive postage.
  • Stains or strange odor.
  • Size is abnormal or unusual or parcel is unduly wrapped or sealed.
  • Wires, metal foil, or strings protruding.
  • Unusually heavy or unbalanced.
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope.
  • Very rigid envelope.
  • Springiness in the top, bottom or sides.