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Book Review: Personal Security: A Guide for International Travelers

​Covering the wide range of security concerns for a diverse group of travelers is no easy task. In this book, Tanya Spencer relates anecdotal stories and advice from 62 contributors to inform the international traveler. She offers strategies for protection throughout the book—some of these are excellent; but others are inconsistent with best practices. The author´s passion and well-meaning intentions are obvious, but she missed the chance to write a definitive work for travelers headed to risky destinations.

Personal Security is full of great examples and sound advice from numerous experts; however, the text is also mired by confusing advice that could prove problematic for the untrained reader. For example, two contributors suggest “carrying your passport at all times” and justify their advice based on their specific situations. Carrying a copy of it will suffice in most cases and avoid the situation more travelers face—losing it or having it stolen.

The section on “Extreme Risks” is troubling in a couple of different areas. In discussing a bomb scenario, it advises, “turn away from it and lie down,” rather than simply get away—which is stated later. Even more dangerous, it says, “you could kick the device away but you don´t know how long you have before it explodes.” This statement could be misconstrued by some and cost them their lives. The text also fails to adequately address shooting incidents.

Extensive cross-referencing makes the text cumbersome to read, although some may find it helpful if seeking a specific topic. Also, the reader would benefit from checklists that could be easily implemented, rather than countless references to websites and other resources. The references would have been better served by quality over quantity—most references are credible, but they are diluted by countless references from unreliable, peer-based Web resources.

Future editions of the book would be well-served by separating the traveling precautions from those addressing destination issues, including a post-travel process to elicit lessons learned, and clearly distinguishing actionable steps specific to business travelers as opposed to tourists.

The key to good advice is practicality and brevity. Most casual or professional travelers will not take the time to read an entire text before embarking on a trip. This book is best reserved as a resource guide for experienced security managers charged with administering travel programs. Given the high stakes involved with international travel, it is best to look beyond this for additional resources and expert advice.

Reviewer: Jay Martin, CPP, CFI (Certified Forensic Interviewer), CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), is the regional security manager for Goldcorp, Central & South America, based in Santiago, Chile. He served with the U.S. Marines, including embassy duty in Mexico and Egypt, and he has developed and managed travel security programs for high-risk environments. Martin serves as the chair of the ASIS Petrochemical, Chemical, and Extractive Industries Security Council.