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Northwestern University

Terrorism and Travel

Terror attacks occur at home and abroad, but there is no evidence to suggest that Americans are less safe abroad than they are here in the U.S. In fact, the leading cause of death for college-age individuals in the States is the same abroad: a motor-vehicle accident.

According to the latest figures available from the State Department, 250 Americans died abroad in car, bus or motorcycle accidents between June 2016 and June 2017. Only 10 of the 899 total deaths that occurred during that period were the result of terrorist action. (For more information visit the U.S. Department of State (DOS): Reports and Statistics: U.S. Citizens Deaths Overseas).

Nonetheless, we recognize that Northwestern travelers have real concerns about their security abroad, especially in Europe, where we have seen terrorist attacks at major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation hubs.

To reduce one’s chances of being exposed to such risks and in keeping with best travel practices, Northwestern travelers are encouraged to:

  1. Exercise vigilance in public places – identify multiple exits, monitor your possessions and alert authorities to unaccompanied bags or suspicious individuals
  2. Exit and enter buses, trains and subways quickly (do not loiter)
  3. Keep abreast of local news; follow the guidance of local authorities
  4. Have your cell phone fully charged and with you at all times
  5. Memorize local emergency contact information (names and telephone numbers)
  6. Read all electronic messages you receive from the U.S. DOS Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) – registration is strongly encouraged (and even required for certain types of traveler)
  7. Stay in regular contact with your family members or loved ones at home
  8. Limit your patronage of American-owned or branded shops and restaurants (after all, you didn’t go halfway around the world to have another Starbucks!)
  9. Pay attention to all messages from your team leader, faculty director, host institution/provider or Northwestern regarding health or safety
  10. Respond immediately to any check-in requests from Northwestern

Also keep in mind that as a result of increased security abroad, travelers may notice additional police or members of the military on patrol. Government buildings may add metal detectors or bag checkpoints at all entrances. Overall security will be tightened at train and subway stations, bus stops and airports. While these acts can contribute to an atmosphere of anxiety, they are meant to help residents and visitors feel more secure.

Any Northwestern traveler with questions or concerns should contact the unit sponsoring their travel or the OGSS (globalsafety@northwestern.edu). In an emergency, travelers should inform their local contact or phone the Northwestern police (24/7) at (847) 491-3456.

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