The following article was written by Kathleen Burke and was published on July 16, 2016 on Market Watch.
What the Nice attack means for travel
Nice is part of a depressing trend: 28,000 people died in terror attacks in 2015
The attack in Nice, France, that left 84 dead (including two Americans) and more than 50 in critical condition is just the latest instance of random attacks that have become more frequent.
“It feels like we’re seeing this on a weekly basis,” says Daniel Zaffran, vice president of global accounts at Interfor International, a world-wide security consulting firm. “It’s the world we now live in.”
More than 28,000 people died in about 11,700 international terror attacks in 2015, up from about 5,000 deaths world-wide in 2005, according to the U.S. State Department and the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, an annual report from the nonprofit organization Institute for Economics and Peace. Nearly half of the attacks in 2015 took place in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, according to the State Department. In 2016, 32 people were killed in an attack on Brussels’ airport, 49 were killed in a shooting in an Orlando nightclub, 36 were killed by suicide bombings at an Istanbul airport and 20 hostages were killed at a cafe in Bangladesh.
While travelers tend to change their plans in the wake of terror attacks abroad, experts recommend that people continue to travel, but take necessary precautions. “The actual probability of being involved in a terror attack is still very, very low,” Zaffran says. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t take precautions and be careful.”
Airports have long been targets of attacks, Zaffran says — citing the recent attacks in Istanbul and Brussels, as well as multiple shootings at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002 and 2013 — and spending unnecessary time outside of the security checkpoint can increase your risk of being at the center of an attack. “Get in, check in and go past the security checks,” he says. “It’s the best way to lower your exposure.”
Travelers should also frequently check advisories and warnings from the State Department, which identify areas that are at higher risk of dangerous events, and register with the department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which allows the agency to track U.S. citizens in emergency situations abroad, said Jim Hutton, chief security officer at On Call International, a travel risk management company, in an email.
Cases like Nice, where a large crowd is targeted with “low-tech” weaponry, are nearly impossible to predict, Zaffran says. However, by identifying exits when entering a new place and avoiding being in the middle of the crowd, the risk of being trapped or caught off-guard can be reduced, he says.
If you are traveling in a country where an attack has occurred, you should immediately contact the U.S. Consulate to determine how to proceed, Zaffran says. If you’re in the vicinity of an attack, always heed law enforcement and avoid hunkering in place if you don’t know what’s going on, he says.
Being aware and alert must now be the highest priority when traveling, Hutton said. “Travelers, and their employees, should absolutely adapt their travel habits,” he says. “The security environment remains very fluid in Europe and across the world.”
In the long term, travel protocols are also likely to change, Zaffran says. “Security companies and law enforcement agencies are evolving with the threat as well,” he says. “Building access, train transportation and mass gatherings are going to be more tightly secured.”
Though travel habits and safety measures may change, travel plans shouldn’t, Zaffran says. “This is not going to stop people from traveling, I hope it doesn’t.”