Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Top Five Folding Knives
- Top Five Questions People Ask When They Find Out I Carry Concealed
- Top Five Ways to Secure Your Gun at the Office
- Top Five Reasons to Carry a Backup Gun
- Top Five Backup Guns
I’ve just returned from a business trip that took me out of state for several days. While I did not anticipate nor encounter any kind of situation that threatened my security, I still followed the same basic safety rules I follow when I’m at home. But because I was traveling by air and not checking any bags, I was without any kind of firearm or blade for self-defense. Yes, I could have checked a bag and thus allowed myself the opportunity to be better armed, but I chose instead to be as mobile as possible, able to get out of the airport and to my final destination quicker.
With that, here are my top five security measures to take while traveling. Interestingly enough, I still follow these when I’m in my hometown, carrying a concealed handgun and a good folding knife.
1. Carry a Tactical Pen and a Mini Flashlight
When traveling without a gun or knife, I still carry a tactical pen, sometimes two. One is in my shirt pocket, looking for all intents and purposes, like a pen. The other is nearby in a backpack or other carry-on bag. The pens I carry are typical black tactical pens. In other words, they look “tactical.” But not one of them has ever gotten so much as a blink from the TSA or any other law enforcement officer when they’re being X-rayed or when they are spotted in my pocket at an airport or other public places. And while they rank pretty low on the scale of self-defense tools, at least I’ve got something I can grab easily if needed. Tactical pens run the gamut of features and price ranges. My favorites are medium-weight, easy to hold and made from anodized aluminum or titanium, so they’re exceptionally strong. But you can turn a plastic pen into a self-defense tool if you have to. Whatever you do, have it with you all the time. As for the mini flashlight, even the simple keychain LED light can prove super useful in a variety of normal activities. In an emergency, they’re priceless.
2. Maintain a High Level of Situational Awareness
It’s easy with business travel — and even more so with travel for pleasure — to get so focused on getting from Point A to Point B that you forget that there’s a distance between those points that could contain threats to your safety. So, whether you are driving from your home to the airport or walking from a parking lot to the TSA checkpoint or from your hotel room to a restaurant, keep your eyes open and be aware of what — and who — is around you. Your heightened state of alert — head up, looking around — signals potential threats that you are in an active mode of self-defense and not a good target. But, even if a threat comes to you, at least you are potentially more aware and able to respond appropriately. Make sure to keep your situational awareness up when you are at a destination though too. In a restaurant, sit at a table that gives you a view of the doors and other patrons. In a parking lot, look around your car before getting into it. This is not a call to paranoia but to preparedness.
3. Carry Money or Important Documents on Your Person
And preferably strapped to your waist or otherwise deeply hidden under clothing. Bags and backpacks can be too easily left behind or snatched. Wallets can get lifted right out of pockets. Plenty of waist packs, zippered neck pouches and belts with hidden compartments exist today to help store away important documents and cash during a journey. Let’s face it: Anything can happen and certain emergencies might require you to immediately vacate an area, taking nothing with you except the clothes on your back. In such a situation, it won’t be long until you need a credit card or some cash to sustain life, establish communication with loved ones and more.
4. Have an Escape Plan
These days, virtually every building you enter will have posted escape routes in multiple locations. Do you ever look at these and note your location relative to the exits? If you don’t, now is the time to start paying attention. Hotels are usually very good at posting escape routes. Take note of where the stairs are located. Actually take the stairs at least once during your stay to get a basic understanding of the route and how the doors work. In a restaurant, think of the path you would take to leave quickly in an emergency. In a large convention center, exit signs are usually numerous, but note which direction they will take you. When you’re going to be walking in an unfamiliar downtown area, review a map well in advance and get a general understanding of how the city is laid out. When walking downtown, think through how you would escape danger if it showed up right in front of you. Is ducking down the alley a good idea? Could you run into the street and avoid traffic? Could you do a 180 and run?
5. Lock Your Doors
Getting into a rental car or into your hotel room offers a decent sanctuary from the outside world. But use the locks. Locking the car door as soon as you enter it — not waiting for the doors to automatically lock — could prevent an unseen thief or mugger from opening your door and attempting something. The two seconds of time you gain from this might be enough to start the engine and drive away. Same for hotel rooms. After you’re in your room, turn the lock and swing the secondary lock over to prevent anyone from entering even if they have a room key or the means to defeat the initial locking system. For added security, carry a door stopper audible alarm. This unit attaches to your door or jams under it and sounds a very loud alarm if the door opens at all.
There are other security measures to take while traveling. What are yours?
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