Jason Dury is in charge of international security for a Fortune 500 company and has dedicated his life to improving people’s personal security. He has been to almost every continent in the world, spending the majority of his career abroad and noticed the extreme personal insecurity that exists in international locations.
Many development professionals who are sent abroad are so focused on the task or job at hand that security measures are often forgotten. Jason has made it his life mission to better prepare individuals for protecting themselves.
What was your first international experience that made security issues real for you?
In 1993, I decided to travel through Eastern Europe for the winter holidays with my brother. We planned to travel from Budapest to Moldova without researching or preparing our travel. Needless to say, things didn’t quite go as planned. When we arrived at the border of Moldova, they wouldn’t let us in. We didn’t think about the fact that how at that time the countries of the former Soviet Bloc were developing their governments – including their own national border laws. After realizing that we were stuck at the border with no phone, knowledge of the language or a way to contact a friend, it became apparent that with a little preparation and research this all could have been avoided. After a 48 hour period of chaos – 1) being placed on a bus to another random other border point; 2) being in a cab with a driver who didn’t speak English driving us to who knows where in the dark (he ended up taking us to his apartment and his family fed us and put us up for the night); 3) finding ourselves at the Bucharest train station with no idea how to get out of the country; and 4) finally getting not quite to the border with Hungary and having to walk across – that solidified my choice to focus on personal security, something that is especially important for those choosing to work abroad, especially in insecure contexts.
What are the main themes you emphasize with individuals who are working abroad?
The primary thing that I remind people who travel internationally is that not being home doesn’t mean you don’t have to behave. I have received phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night describing situations of issues that at home, they would never be involved in. For some reason, when people leave the country, they feel like they are free from normal rules. . I really emphasize cultural awareness, which can be easily forgotten in various situations. For example, when a group of ex-pats are together, it is easy to forget behavioral norms of the country you are in. Also, and very importantly, one must realize that they always stand out. It doesn’t matter where you are, but there is some “thing” that can always make you stand out, which potentially puts you at risk in many situations. It could be your clothes, shoes, jewelry, or your demeanor. If you walk out of a hotel and are staring around, whether taking in the scenery or looking at a map and deciding on directions, that can make you more vulnerable. If you are walking, it is better to know your route before you leave the hotel. In terms of street safety and common sense, you have to go with your feelings, like if a person is staring and making you uncomfortable, it is better to be wrong and have acted to get to safety, than to be right and have not.
Examples of acting on your intuition include walking down the street and crossing the road instead of continuing on the side you are on, or not completing a transaction at an ATM.
One of my personal safety mentors, Tony Blauer, often comments that “experience is something you get shortly after you need it.” I find this to be all too true for those who take jobs abroad and run into sticky situations, especially when it relates to personal safety. We’re willing to put in the time to read up on the area we are going to travel (if possible), get vaccinations, make sure we pick a decent hotel, have a good rental car, or line up an insurance plan or a great side trip. But when it comes to taking the time to look at crime issues, safety and security, or even take training to help ensure personal safety, I’m surprised by people’s hesitancy towards taking a class, and organizations to provide one, or even recommend it as a possibility.
As someone who works with people and with organizations in regards to security situations, what advice and insight can you give on this topic?
There is not one single, or a simple, answer to that question. But the most common offered advice that I could give an individual is to understand all the issues of where they will be travelling. This should include the laws, culture, political situation, travel restrictions, behavioral expectations, crime trends…really everything about the country to which you are travelling. It can be things as big as knowing about demonstrations and protests to avoid in a country to as little as what kind of plugs you will need for the outlet. On a professional level, it is always good to ask the sponsoring organization what they will do in regards to security measures and any training they offer or recommend, and to understand what it is that you should know to ask of them before travelling.
All too often though, I see a gap between security advice, training, and implementation. Many companies will inform their employees of local issues where the person will travel but will not give necessary training on any skills that one would need to help themselves rather than attempt to reach out for help to law enforcement. It needs to be realized that police and other first responders don’t stop crimes, they are there to investigate crimes that were already committed, so when it comes to personal safety and security, each individual needs their own skill set to better protect themselves.
The best insight I can give is simple: the greatest tool you have is the 6 inches between your ears.
For information on personal safety, self-defense, pre-deployment training, and other services that Jason provides, visit: prevailservicesgroup.com