Christmas is just around the corner – crazy, we know! – and of course, security is on everyone’s mind. The popularity of short City Breaks is still soaring and Christmas markets are a great opportunity to visit a city, whether that’s here in the UK or further afield.
There have been far fewer news reports about terrorism than we saw a year ago… does that mean the threat has decreased, or perhaps it’s just because there have been so many other pressing issues in the news and terrorism warnings just don’t sell papers or make the news broadcasts?
Here are some points to help you put safety into perspective.
Many 2017 Christmas markets stepped up their security, and it looks like most will be continuing with those measures, if not increasing them further.
Manchester Evening News, for example, has reported that there will be a strong presence of armed uniformed and plainclothes police at this season’s festive venues. It has also been confirmed that barriers put up to prevent vehicle attacks, have and will remain in place.
Terrorism Threat Levels
Within the UK, the threat of terrorism is still classified as severe. Levels for European destinations are generally moderate to high, according to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), with terrorism in countries such as Germany and France being ranked as ‘very likely’. Even Copenhagen has had terrorist incidents in recent years.
Iceland, which most travellers wouldn’t consider a terrorist target, carries a cautionary note on the FCO website: “Attacks in Iceland can’t be ruled out. You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.”
Some publications have printed lists of “safer” and “more dangerous” destinations in the past, but we believe these are irresponsible and give travellers a very skewed perspective. It’s impossible to predict what will or won’t happen, especially considering ‘lone wolf’ attacks have taken place in previously untargeted areas, such as Barcelona.
We believe the threat of terrorism is high enough that we need to be aware and alert, but not so high that we should stay home in fear. Statistically, chances of being injured or killed in an act of terrorism are still extremely remote, but the likelihood of being indirectly affected is significantly higher – those indirect effects could be cancelled flights, travel delays, having to change hotels or even curtail or cancel a trip. That’s why we help deal with those concerns by offering comprehensive, cost-effective cover for acts of terrorism – including the option to choose to cancel if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your destination, up to 6 weeks before your departure. Cover for a short City break won’t break the bank; at £5.17pp* we think its worth it.
An encouraging statistic that we told you about earlier this year is the increased number of arrests of terrorism suspects.
While it’s a huge relief that more terrorism is being prevented, it has also shown that terrorist groups and networks are still operating in Europe, despite the reports of ISIL’s defeat in Syria.
What To Look Out For
It has been suggested that some recent arrests stemmed from reports by members of the public who noticed that something didn’t seem right. Whether it’s a suspicious object or behaviour, it’s so important to report these things to the police immediately. Wherever you travel, make sure you know that country’s equivalent of 999.
In a guide to safety in London, BT quotes the Metropolitan Police’s tips for spotting suspicious activity:
“Look for anything that seems out of the ordinary, such as:
- People in stationary vehicles watching a building or structure
- Vehicles moving slowly near public buildings, structures or bridges, or parked in suspicious circumstances
- People using recording equipment, including camera phones, or seen making notes or sketches of security details
- Someone suspicious paying close attention to specific entry and exit points, stairwells, hallways or fire escapes
- People loitering at or near premises for long periods and watching staff, visitors and deliveries for no apparent reason.”
Taking Control of Your Safety
Of course, the usual safety guidelines are as important as ever. When there are large crowds at markets and other holiday events, it’s essential to keep these in mind:
- Check the layout of the venue and surrounding area before you get there – know where entrances and exits are, including fire escapes.
- Walk behind bollards/barriers on pavements if you can. Remember that concrete benches and street art are highly effective defensive barriers too.
- Set a meeting place away from the venue with your family/friends in case you’re separated in an emergency.
- Remember the simple yet extremely useful Run, Hide, Tell guidelines in case of an attack:
Run – Get as far away from the danger as you can, if it is safe to go. Do not stop to take photos or videos!
Hide – Find a secure room/area and remain quiet and out of sight. Barricade the door if you can, and make sure your mobile is on silent.
Tell – Inform police/security as soon as it is safe to do so. Give them as many details as possible, e.g. location of the incident/threat, number of people involved, descriptions, and the direction they were headed in.
Last, but certainly not least, enjoy yourself! With the right preparation your Christmas holidays can include all the peace of mind and goodwill that we love about this time of year.
*£5.17pp refers to a single trip of up to 8 days. Please visit our Policy Wording for full terms, conditions and exclusions.