Issue: March 2015

Security

Steps for Safer and More Efficient Train Travel - Recognizing Suspicious Objects or Potential Hidden Explosives While Traveling

Health

Recognizing Stroke and Heart Attack Symptoms When Traveling - From the Assist America Case Files

Travel

How to Escape Down an Airplane Slide - Take the Guesswork Out of Travel with These New Travel Apps

Regional Information

Africa - East Asia - Europe - Near East
South Asia - Western Hemisphere


Security

STEPS FOR SAFER AND MORE EFFICIENT TRAIN TRAVEL [Back to Top]

In many parts of the world, traveling by train is the most efficient way to get around. The frequency and/or accessibility of service varies from country to country, but here are some tips that will serve you well wherever you travel:

General Information

• The most frequently used rail systems in the world, especially those in Europe, have timetables available on the Internet. The International Union of Railways http://www.uic.org/applications/horaire/horaire-europe-carte.php has links to passenger rail timetables for Europe. 
• Train travel may be better than flying for getting to the center of a city. 
• If travel by train and/or transit is to be your regular mode of travel while in the country, obtain a pass permitting multiple trips and/or unlimited travel over a designated period of time. Some rail and transit systems have developed passes allowing you to use both services. 
• To avoid being misrouted, make sure the destination of your particular train car matches your ticketed destination. In some countries, the final destination of the train is not the same destination for all of its cars. 
• Consider traveling by train overnight to cover mileage while you rest and to reduce lodging costs. If you choose a sleeper car, consider the top bunk to get better sleep and more shelf space. 
• Verify that the price of the ticket includes all supplement charges for specialty cars or trains. Supplements are often marked in red ink.

Train Stations

• Whenever possible, book reservations to ensure getting tickets and avoid delays. Unfortunately, even with a reservation, you may not be guaranteed a seat. 
• To avoid scams, purchase tickets from an official ticket agent and pay only upon receiving an actual ticket. 
• Carry cash in small notes and change. Many rail systems, especially in small towns, require payment in exact change. 

On the Train

• Store your luggage within sight on the racks above the seat.
• Use the washroom facilities on the train to avoid fees for these facilities at some train stations. 
• Do not lean out windows. In many countries, train stations are very narrow, and the tracks are located next to buildings, trees, utility poles, etc. 

RECOGNIZING SUSPICIOUS OBJECTS OR POTENTIAL HIDDEN EXPLOSIVES [Back to Top]

Whatever method of transportation you’re using to travel, whether you are waiting in an airport terminal or train station for example, never touch or pick up a suspicious object and leave the area if you see one. Terrorists, organized crime figures, and others are skilled at hiding explosives in a variety of objects. Any item that cannot be identified as belonging to a specific person or in a particular place should be treated as suspicious.

Background

The age of miniaturization allows terrorists and organized crime groups to hide explosives in an endless array of objects. Some examples of everyday objects used by terrorists as bombs include:

• Sealed envelopes 
• Packages 
• Gifts 
• Suitcases 
• Briefcases 
• Purses 
• Backpacks 
• Sports bags 
• Trash 
• Lunch bags 
• Shopping bags 
• Toys 
• Books 
• Fruits and vegetables 
• Bread and pastries 
• Bolts of fabric 
• Baby carriages 
• Motorcycles 
• Bicycles 
• Scooters 
• Cars

Target Locations

The prime locations for terrorist bombs are:

• Public places frequented by targeted individuals.
• Public places that draw crowds, including public transport hubs, outdoor markets and festivals, shopping centers, nightclubs, and bars.
• Forums or gatherings where prominent individuals give speeches. Do not attend such events unless security forces have completed a sweep and have cordoned off the area.

Warnings

In many nations, signs are posted advising the public to be alert for such suspicious objects. If you are traveling with children, point out warning posters and reinforce the fact that they are in a different environment than back home. Impress upon them that they are not to touch any suspicious objects. Also tell them to:

•Report the object and its location to an adult. 
•Pay attention to announcements in public places advising of a suspicious object and follow instructions. Leave the area as soon as possible.

Letter and Package Bombs

One of the favored ways to hide explosives when specific individuals are targeted is in a letter or a package.
Follow these steps:

• While traveling, do not accept mail or unexpected deliveries unless you are sure of the source.
• Do not accept sealed envelopes or packages to your hotel room.
• If an unexpected package is in your room when you return, leave the room immediately, contact the front desk, and ask that it be removed.

Look for the following danger signs if you receive a sealed letter or package:

• Is it from an unknown (to you) place?
• Is there an excessive amount of postage?
• Do the return address and the postmark differ?
• Is the spelling on the item correct (especially check common words)?
• Is the item marked conspicuously with the receiver's name, such as "Personal for Mr. Smith," or "Confidential for Mr. Smith"? 
• Is the item unusually heavy or light for its size?
• Is the item uneven in balance or lopsided? 
• If an envelope, is it overly rigid? 
• Are there stains on the item?
• Does it smell peculiar, like shoe polish or almonds?
• Are wires or strings protruding from -- or attached to -- the item in an unusual way?
• Does the letter or package contain an inner letter or package addressed to a particular individual? Is there an inner letter tied with a string, tape, wire, aluminum foil, rubber band, or any other compression item? 

If the parcel is at all suspicious, do not touch it. If you are already holding it, place it down gently, leave the room or area, and call the police.


Health

RECOGNIZING STROKE OR HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS WHILE TRAVELING [Back to Top]

Being aware of the signs of stroke and heart attack is important any time, but especially so when you are traveling and away from your own physician and environment. If you happen to be on an airplane when symptoms start, it’s crucial to alert the staff so they can initiate proper medical protocol to help you. The more you know about recognizing symptoms, the quicker you can take action and minimize any potential damage to your health. 

Stroke
If you experience any of the symptoms below, the first thing to do is note the time that any initially appear. 

Symptoms
Common stroke symptoms often occur suddenly, and include:

• Numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Severe headache with no known cause

While men and women can experience the same symptoms for stroke, women typically report additional symptoms:

• Face and limb pain
• Hiccups
• Nausea
• General weakness
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Palpitations

If you think you are having a stroke, the key is to act FAST, says the National Stroke Association. Ask someone with whom you are traveling, or ask yourself the following:

F-FACE: Smile. Does one side of your face droop?
A-ARMS: Raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S-SPEECH: Repeat a simple phrase. Is your speech slurred or strange?
T-TIME: Seek emergency medical attention without delay if you observe any of these signs.  If taken within three hours of the first symptom, an FDA-approved clot-buster medication may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Heart Attack
When traveling it is especially important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack early and seek help as soon as possible.  The warning signs of a heart attack are not always sudden and intense, as depicted in movies. In fact, many heart attacks start slowly as a mild pain or discomfort.  Symptoms may even come
and go.

Symptoms

• Chest discomfort: It usually starts in the center of the chest, and lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
• Discomfort or pain in other areas of the upper body: This can include one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
• Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Even those who have experienced a heart attack before may not recognize symptoms because they can vary from one episode to the next. Women often mistakenly believe they are less vulnerable to heart attacks than men are. Because of this, women tend to delay seeking emergency treatment, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

If you experience these symptoms, seek emergency help within five minutes, advises the American Heart Association. Even if it turns out to be stress or anxiety, it’s better to rule out a heart attack than take a chance, and leave a condition untreated.

If you are on a trip but not actively traveling at the time symptoms occur, as a first course of action, contact the local emergency response number. Emergency medical services can begin treatment when they arrive, and save the time it would take to get to a hospital by car in an unfamiliar environment. Patients with chest pain who arrive at a hospital by ambulance typically receive faster treatment. 

FROM THE ASSIST AMERICA CASE FILES  [Back to Top]

Rare condition on a Baltic cruise

Christopher’s* daughter was studying abroad in Europe.  He decided to make the most of a visit out to see her by extending his trip with a Baltic cruise.  Christopher’s trip was cut short, however, when he began suffering from a hernia while on-board the cruise.  When the cruise ship docked in St. Petersburg, the crew brought him to a local hospital, where Christopher underwent surgery for the hernia.

Christopher’s wife called to advise Assist America of her husband’s hospitalization. Assist America’s coordinators began monitoring his care, only to find that Christopher’s condition seemed to be worsening. A second hernia emerged, as well as a bowel perforation, and he began to have difficulty breathing on his own while in recovery from subsequent surgeries.  

In speaking with Christopher’s wife, Assist America’s coordinators learned that Christopher had been born with a rare condition where his organs rested outside of his abdomen.  Although this had been repaired surgically when he was an infant, it was becoming clear that the hospital in Saint Petersburg was not equipped to treat his rare condition.  

Assist America intervened, arranging for Christopher to be evacuated via air ambulance to a hospital in Helsinki that was more familiar with his condition.  Assist America continued to monitor Christopher’s care for the following month, as his condition stabilized and he began to recover.

Once he was stable enough to make a long, cross-Atlantic journey, Assist America arranged for his safe transport to a rehabilitation facility near his home in Missouri.
 

*name changed for privacy

Member's comment:

"I can’t say enough about the Assist America coordinators that helped ensure I got the best care possible during this very scary ordeal far from home. They were outstanding!” 

Travel

HOW TO ESCAPE DOWN AN AIRPLANE SLIDE [Back to Top]

Emergency airplane evacuations happen more often than most people think: about once every 11 days in the U.S., according to a 2000 report by the National Transportation Safety Board. Some situations are more dire than others, of course, as when the plane is on fire, but in many cases, the biggest challenge of an evacuation can be the airplane slide.

In the event that you have to escape from a plane on an inflatable slide, here are some tips, compiled with assistance from Dan Johnson, an aviation safety expert who has worked for the airlines in various capacities for more than three decades.

Have a Plan: Don't wait until a flight attendant is shrieking at you to "Get out!" to decide what you're going to do. Aviation safety experts, even the most jaded ones, count the rows to their nearest exits whenever they sit down on a plane. They know that their brain will not work well under extreme duress, and their eyes will not see well in thick smoke, so they need to have a sense of their best escape routes before anything goes wrong.

Have Another Plan: Your fellow passengers often have trouble opening the exit hatches — it's not easy, for one thing, and even flight attendants often run into trouble. Plus, the slides malfunction more than you might expect. In a safety study, over one-third of the slide evacuations studied involved problems in the functioning of the slides. Smoke can also make your first-choice exit suddenly unusable. So instead of reading the Sky Mall catalog while you're waiting for the plane to take off, it would be wise to come up with two escape plans.

Get Out Fast: If all hell does break loose, remember that one of the deadliest mistakes passengers make is to lunge for their overhead luggage. This wastes precious time and clogs the aisle with obstacles. And yet, even if the cabin is full of smoke, passengers will almost invariably reach up to get their briefcases and garment bags. Video footage of emergency evacuations often shows people sailing down the slides clutching rolling suitcases. 

Jump:
Another big problem—especially among women and older passengers—happens at the top of the slide. People hesitate or try to sit down before sliding. If everyone would jump instead, as flight attendants will direct you to do, the evacuation could go 50% faster, Johnson says. Since a fire can burn through the fuselage on an airplane in 90 seconds, faster is much, much better. When everything works right, slides are built to handle 70 passengers per minute. Many now have two lanes. 

Keep It Together: To avoid burns and unintentional cartwheels on your way down the slide, keep your heels up and your arms crossed over your chest. A lot of injuries happen when people hit the ground and sprain an ankle or break a leg because they came in out of control. Also, women should avoid wearing spiked heels and pantyhose when they fly. Pantyhose can melt onto the skin in the heat of a plane fire.

Then, Get Out of the Way: Just like on the playground, the area below the slide is not a good place to hang out. If you are the first passenger out, then you should help other people get off. Otherwise, you should get out of the way. Pile-ups at the bottom of the slide can be brutal—and can also make the slide much steeper for everyone else coming down.

Stay Safe on the Ground: Avoid being hit accidentally by emergency vehicles. They will be moving fast, when they arrive at the sight, and may not see you amid the smoke and confusion.


TAKE THE GUESSWORK OUT OF TRAVEL WITH THESE NEW TRAVEL APPS [Back to Top]

With the world of technology changing and developing every day, it can often be difficult to stay up-to-date with the hottest new apps. To make it easier for you, we’ve rounded up a few different apps that might prove useful during your upcoming spring and summer travels. All of these apps are available for free.

Localeur
Localeur is an app that shows you what activities the locals recommend in their cities. Each local/virtual tour guide has a profile with a photo and description of their interests, so you can find the best recommendations for your personality. Looking for the best Merlot? How about a good bar? Localeur offers recommendations for entertainment, nightlife, art & culture, fitness & outdoor activities, food & dining, neighborhoods, and shopping. Don’t know what you want? You can scroll through the homepage for some recommendations and some inspiration. 

PackPoint Packing List Travel Companion
The PackPoint Packing List builder generates a customized list of items you should pack for your specific trip. Just enter some basic information such as destination, date, length of stay, and purpose of the trip, and it will give you a list of things you might need. You can then add a few details of your plans from “fancy dinner,” to “baby,” to “international,” and get a more personalized list. Even local weather is taken into consideration. 

WorldMate
Especially helpful for business travelers, WorldMate combines all your travel information into one organized place—from flights to hotels to car rentals and more—to create a personalized business itinerary. The app also provides world clocks, maps, hotel booking functions, the weather forecast, and even business utilities such as Outlook and LinkedIn. All this information can be shared with colleagues for your convenience. 

Xe Currency
Going on a multi-country vacation or simply traveling frequently abroad for business? Xe Currency provides real-time currency and conversion rates for up to 10 currencies at once. It also provides historic rates for currencies, so you can see how they have changed over time. Plus, you can check the rates for precious metals—all without Wi-Fi. 

Trover
Trover mixes photos and travel recommendations. You can post your own photos and notes from your travels to inspire others, and skim other user’s photos from a certain destination for some inspiration. You can share your travel stories, connect with a global travel community, and travel vicariously from home. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, it has general topics to peruse, such as “California Road Tripping,” “Best of Antarctica,” or “Family Fun.” It’s also a great way to see if a hotel, place, or entree actually matches the photo on a company’s website. 

iStone
Featuring a phrasebook of more than 300 daily phrases and native pronunciation in 12 different languages, iStone just might help make communication in other languages easier—particularly those you don’t know at all. Instead of having to laboriously type in every word and phrase you need to translate, there are quick-access icons for common phrases and needs—like “Thanks,” “Greeting,” and “Ask Direction.” For more specific needs, you can tap on “Hotel,” “Dining,” or “Shopping.” As an added bonus, iStone is another rare app that doesn’t require Wi-Fi. 


For the latest, up-to-date information regarding key regions, click on the links below:

AFRICA

EAST ASIA PACIFIC

EUROPE EURASIA

NEAREAST

SOUTH CENTRAL ASIA

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

 

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Sources for this document include, but are not limited to:  iJET International, ustia.org, content.time.com, petergreenberg.com
 

For pre-trip information: Assist America members may directly access travel information via the Assist America website, www.assistamerica.com. Log in using your Assist America ID/Reference number.

Interested in learning more about Assist America? Please visit us at www.assistamerica.com. Tell a fellow traveler about the newsletter and show them how to subscribe online! Interested in having your organization becoming a member of Assist America? Please e-mail us at sales@assistamerica.com.

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