Business travel requires its own set of safety rules


January 16, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

This is the season of short days and long, dark nights -- a dangerous season for working women.

By now we all know the safety rules on home ground -- look around before we hit the street, check who's coming into our work areas, keep our cars carefully maintained and parked in well-lighted areas, make sure locks and bolts are secure and properly used.

But more and more of us travel out of town on business nowadays, and if you travel, here are 14 safety rules to keep in mind:

* Don't be caught by surprise. Know at all times what's happening around you. Experienced travelers advise that the more you anticipate every situation, the better prepared you'll be if something happens.

* Avoid layovers in airline terminals and train or bus stations at times when few people travel. If possible, schedule flights, trains and drives during commonly traveled times of the day.

* Take the time to learn the direct route from your point of arrival to your destination before you arrive in a strange city. As recent news stories confirm, people who get lost are vulnerable, especially if they wander into dangerous areas.

* Inform the manager of your hotel that you're traveling alone and expect no company. Instruct him or her not to give your room number to anyone, and don't give your room number to anyone you meet during the day's business, either -- this may be taken as an invitation for the kind of attention you don't want.

* Take full advantage of your hotel's concierge or guest-services department. These experts can arrange for theater tickets, tours, etc., advise you about procuring safe transportation, supply you with maps and brochures, and let you know if there are areas or neighborhoods you should avoid as unsafe.

* If someone bothers you in a public place, take action immediately; simply ignoring him or her can be misinterpreted as acquiescence on your part. Summon the manager, head waiter, flight attendant or other appropriate person and complain.

LTC Don't worry about being polite. Don't be afraid to cause a scene. If the person persists, insist that the establishment give you protection from the harassment and an escort to your car or taxi when you leave.

* Never get into an elevator with someone you don't trust; wait for another car. And leave a restroom immediately if you see, hear or sense anything that causes you concern.

* Never drive alone at night if you can avoid it. Take a cab and leave the rental car in the hotel garage.

* If you get involved in a traffic accident, especially if you're struck from behind, drive to a lighted, well-populated site before dealing with the other person(s) involved. Or lock yourself inside your car and don't open the door until the police arrive.

* Don't walk alone at night unless it's absolutely necessary. If you must walk, use the outer part of the sidewalk, away from buildings, and walk facing oncoming traffic so that a car can't approach you from behind.

* If a suspicious-looking pedestrian follows you, go into the nearest public place where you can find people and a telephone. Don't be afraid to knock on a door and ask for help, and in a real emergency don't be afraid to break a window. The object is to get attention, and that certainly will!

* Always carry a police whistle or shriek alarm and either Mace or pepper spray. These devices are relatively inexpensive and far safer than a weapon that can be turned against you.

* If the worst happens and you are confronted by an assailant, stay calm; you'll minimize your chances of injury if you appear self-confident and composed, and most criminals are more interested in your valuables than in attacking you, anyway.

* Finally, never question your own intuition. If a situation feels wrong to you, don't doubt yourself for a second; take action.

In the final analysis, each of us must be responsible for her own safety and well-being, and our common sense and good instincts are our best ammunition.

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