Since the 2001 September 11 attacks in New York shocked the world, terror-related incidents have sadly become a frequent fixture in the media and an understandable fear for many international travellers.
Widely publicised bombings and shootings in popular tourist destinations like Paris, London, Brussels, Barcelona and Berlin have understandably made many Australian travellers reconsider their overseas travel plans.
The Sydney Hostage Crisis at the Lindt Café also hammered home that we’re never completely safe, even travelling domestically in Australia.
If you’re concerned about an upcoming trip, or already travelling, knowing what to do in the event of a terror attack may provide some peace of mind and help you have a safe and happy holiday.
We've compiled tips from several foreign government sources and experts such as Ian Reed, a British military instructor and chief executive of the Formative Group security firm, to create this step-by-step terrorist attack survival guide.
Read on to learn what you should do to increase your chances of survival if you do ever find yourself in a terror attack or crisis.
6 Steps to Survive* a Terror Attack
Be prepared to act.
Ask yourself what your first response should be if the worst case scenario does happen.
Know where the exits or nearest safe points to shelter are located.
Discuss an emergency plan with your family or travel companions in case you get separated.
If something does happen, act quickly and decisively.
Most people become confused when an attack first occurs and may waste precious time deliberating what to do.
If in doubt, always consider choosing action over inaction.
Assess the situation.
Assess the environment and safest available options as these situations can be very dynamic.
- If you can safely evacuate the area, do so as quickly as possible.
- If running would put you in the line of fire, find a safe place to hide. Hard cover such as a concrete wall is the best option if you’re out in the open.
- If you’re trapped indoors try to find a safe room with a lockable door or barricade yourself in. Keep clear of doors and windows and try to stay as calm and quiet as possible.
- Put your mobile phone in silent mode, and switch off the vibrate function.
- Even if you think the attackers have left, stay hidden until authorities arrive and physically escort you to safety.
Sound the alarm.
After you have evacuated the area or made it to a safe hiding location, call the local authorities as soon as possible and alert them to the situation.
Provide as much information as you can. This may include details such as:
- Your location
- The last known location of the attackers
- How many attackers there are
- What the attackers look like and what they’re wearing (uniforms, body armor, etc.)
- Any weapons the attackers have
- Any threats or demands the attackers made
- If there are any casualties or injured victims
- If there are any hostages
Cooperating with each other has been shown to increase chances of survival.
Assist others if you can do so safely. Try to keep everyone calm and prevent anyone else from acting recklessly or endangering themselves or others.
In a crisis situation it may be hard for authorities to tell victims and attackers apart, so it’s important to not make any sudden movements, keep your hands in plain sight, and follow instructions.
The police or authorities who respond may seem aggressive, but remember they’re there to do a job and their priority is to nullify the threat and get as many people to safety as quickly as possible.
The best way to help the situation and keep yourself safe is to remain calm, stay out of their way, and follow instructions.
It goes without saying that the best survival advice is to reduce your chances of being involved in a terrorist attack altogether. However, even if you do stick to ‘safe’ destinations, it doesn’t mean you can completely avoid being involved in a terrorist-related incident.
The shootings in Paris and the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice, the Christmas market attack in Germany, and the airport bombings in Belgium are proof that attacks can happen anytime and anywhere.
Some of the most popular destinations that Australian travellers love to visit like Bali, France, the United Kingdom and the United States have all been targeted at some point.
However, we believe that a fear of terrorism shouldn't deter you from travelling if you want to see the world.
Knowing what to do in the event of a terror attack can at least provide some peace of mind and help to keep yourself and your family safe if an emergency situation does arise.
There's also a few things you can do before you leave home, such as:
- Register your trip with Smartraveller. They will be able to contact and also account for you in the event of a terrorist attack. They can also contact your family for you to let them know where you are.
- Stay up to date with travel bulletins issued on Smartraveller.gov.au and avoid regions that have a ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ and ‘Do Not Travel’ warning issued.
- Read more about the Australian Government travel advisories in our Travel Warnings guide.
For more information about terrorism and how it affects your travel insurance policy, read our Terrorist Attacks and Travel Insurance guide.
*Note, these steps are suggestions only which may not be suitable for every situation. Appropriate steps and safest actions to take will depend on the facts and circumstances of each situation. Consider obtaining professional security advice and ensure strict adherence to security procedures. Fast Cover travel insurance does not provide cover for Trip Cancellation Expenses, Delayed Travel Expenses or Alternate Transport Expenses in the event of a threat or act of terrorism.