This article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 28th Sept 2014
As a security professional it would be impossible to give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer or ‘do this’ or ‘that’ without probing further to find out the reason for your predicament. Therefore while answering your questions the aim is to provide simple commonsense advice. As always if you have major security concerns then seek out a security professional for a more detailed understanding and assessment, and contact law enforcement wherever needed.
Scenario: While leaving late from office the car parking is mostly isolated. How do I ensure both me and my vehicle remain secure?
Advice: Things you or your organisation can do are:
Think, be aware and sharpen your natural instinct to stay safe inside and outside your home
— Institute a security escort (if the parking is at a short distance from the building) — Enforce a cut off time to avail the facility — Introduce a valet (if parking is far from the facility) — Maintain a shuttle van with a security guard — Have a buddy system (always go in pairs or larger groups)
Rationale: Strength in numbers does actually work 9/10 times. However, more important is that parking lots are generally unprotected and unkempt. Often vehicle owners return to find a tyre deflated and changing it alone in the dark while being a nuisance only adds to your exposure.
Scenario: Should I have an escort guard in my car?
The most asked question!
Advice: The most important consideration is to assess if you are a person at risk? (If you have received threats or your personal engagements are risky)
If you are: Then first you need to fully assess your security at home, when out of the house (work, socialising) and on the road and get a complete security plan. This will dictate not just the need for an escort in the vehicle; it could also mean that you need a dedicated follow up vehicle.
If you are not: Then are you worried about petty crime such as car snatching, mobile grabbing or vehicle safety when parked.
In this case think about the following:
A guard in your vehicle draws attention to yourself wherever you go
— The guard will take space in the car which means less space for you and the family — The guard must be a qualified personal protection person which isn’t any and every guard and will be at a significantly higher cost than an ordinary one
— Personal protection guards are there for your security and not to be your gopher to carry your briefcase, the family’s shopping or opening the gates
— Most important, if protecting your car and personal effects are the major concern then doing so by means of insurance while maintaining a lower profile are at times more effective.
Rationale: If you must have a security guard then understand his role and more importantly his ability to protect you while seated in the same vehicle as you. If you are undecided or it’s not mandatory then think about what value is he providing along the lines of what he’s protecting: assets vs people?
Scenario: As an independent woman who has moved to a different city for work, what security measures should I consider for my home?
Advice: While choosing a home it’s important to find an area where you don’t stand out. Therefore:
— Ask your colleagues, friends, relatives for recommendations — Look for something as close to your workspace as possible — Ensure that the property has regular supply of utilities, preferably a parking within the facility and 24/7 security (either a shared watchman or dedicated resource)
— If deciding on an apartment, understand the visitor policy that is practiced. While who and when people visit you is your personal matter, it is not unheard of for females residing on their own to be hounded out of the area by neighbours who infer wrongly.
While at home:
— Only personally accept mail/parcel delivery by uniformed delivery men. Ideally get your mail delivered to the office address
— Domestic help should ideally be present only when you are home — If you must have repairmen over for work then ensure you call someone who has been referred by someone you know and trust. Also lock up valuables and don’t leave the workmen unattended — Ensure you have a working phone line
— Provide family/friends/employer (immediate manager or colleague) contact number of a neighbour or someone who lives nearby and who can check on you if there was concern
Rationale: The most important consideration while choosing where to live is to ask yourself: do you stand out or not? A woman living on her own in a neighbourhood that doesn’t have more people like you brings unwanted attention. You can also consider taking up residence with another female colleague or friend until you get comfortable in the new city.
Scenario: If I lose my passport while travelling abroad, what should I do?
Advice: The most obvious thing to do is to report the loss to the local authorities and to your embassy. However, for both the law and your embassy the primary question is to establish that you are legally in their country.
Therefore always secure (locker, office, residence, etc.) a copy of the documents that proves you indeed are legally in the country in a safe place.
Saving your documents online prior to arriving in the country or even immediately after arrival will help avert the worry of having lost all the documents.
If travelling on a holiday: then ensure that copies of your ticket, hotel reservations, etc. can be produced.
If this is for business: then either engage your local office to provide you copies or letters to prove your presence was warranted or then provide copies of documents submitted at time of visa application.
Rationale: It is upon you to prove to the authorities that you are legally present in their country and to your own embassy that you are their national. Once convinced they’ll provide you temporary documents to enable you to travel to your home country. Remember that you will only be sent back to the country of your nationality, which is not necessarily the same as your country of residence or origin.