Terrorist attacks overseas: Tips on what to do if you get caught up in one

People leave the area with their hands up after an incident near London Bridge in London, Britain on June 4, 2017.
People leave the area with their hands up after an incident near London Bridge in London, Britain on June 4, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Before going on your trip

• When deciding on a travel destination, consider whether or not it is a consistent target for terrorists and if it is within a conflict zone, such as Mindanao in the Philippines or the border region of southern Thailand. Dr Rohan Gunaratna, professor of security studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University and head of International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore, says one should never travel to an active conflict zone, where the risk of getting injured, killed or kidnapped is high.

• Stay up to date on current events in the region and check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) website (www.mfa.gov.sg) for travel warnings or notices for your destination. The United States' State Department also has useful, up-to-date information on every country (tinyurl.com/ jmc25up) and travel warnings (tinyurl.com/jcshc4p) on its website.

• Register with the MFA via its eRegister system at eregister.mfa.gov.sg so you can be contacted in the event of an emergency. Download the free MFA@SG mobile app. Travellers can register themselves on the app to receive real-time updates of consular information and travel notices. The app also has a geo-location feature to help travellers locate the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission.

• Buy comprehensive travel insurance. Review the terms and conditions that your policy will and will not cover. Check the stipulations regarding the postponement or cancellation of a trip due to an unforeseen attack or political event in the destination. This will determine if you are partially or fully reimbursed for your travel expenses in the event of a cancellation, or not at all. Check for age and travel restrictions, as some ages and countries may not be covered by the policy. If you have bought a year-long travel insurance plan, check how many trips are covered.


• Print out all important travel documents, including a copy of your passport information and visa page, travel-insurance details, identification cards, flight-booking details and hotel reservations. Keep a paper copy of these items and a digital copy easily accessible in a cloud or on a thumb drive, in case you lose the physical copies.

• Share your itinerary with family and friends and stay in touch with them when you travel so they are aware of your location should an emergency occur.

• Information provided by Dr Rohan Gunaratna; Mr Robin Yap, president of The Travel Corporation (Asia); and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

While you are away

• Stay up to date on the news in the region so you are aware of any events, demonstrations or attacks in your location.

• Stay alert and vigilant on the trip. Be conscious of the behaviour of the people around you. Take the time to find out where your emergency exit routes are in your hotel or at popular tourist destinations.

• If you can, avoid large venues such as concert halls and iconic buildings of strategic importance. Mr Robin Yap, president of The Travel Corporation (Asia), adds that travellers should exercise caution around large gatherings of people and should avoid locations known to be gathering spots for demonstrations, such as symbolic buildings, which are key targets for terrorists.

• Keep emergency contacts handy. Know the numbers of the local police or emergency services. Have a map with the address and telephone number of your hotel, as well as the contact details of anyone you know in the destination whom you can call in an emergency.

• If you are caught up in a terrorist attack, run. Quickly consider the safest route and run quietly to safety, drawing as little attention to yourself as possible and leaving your belongings behind. Insist that others run with you to a safe location which is not likely to be a terrorist target, such as a residential building. Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, says travellers should react immediately. "In every terrorist attack, there are only a few seconds to a minute to escape and, if you are well-orientated, you can hopefully get away," he says. "Do not waste even a second. Do not surrender. People must never think that a terrorist will free them. If necessary, fight and confront, but your main aim must be to escape."

• If you cannot run, hide, says the Ministry of Home Affairs on its website. Find cover from gunfire and stay out of sight. Turn your phone to silent mode and be quiet. Lock or block the entrance using tables, desks and chairs and stay away from the doors, but do not trap yourself. Stay alert for a chance to escape.

• When you can, call the authorities and give details about your location, where you last saw the attackers, their numbers, the weapons they have and where they were going.

• Once you have made your way to a safe location, monitor the news and stay aware of the situation as it develops. Contact the nearest Singapore Mission if you need help.

• Information provided by Dr Rohan Gunaratna and the Ministry of Home Affairs