• United States



by Simone Kaplan

Alon Stivi on Travel Safety

Jan 09, 20034 mins

CSOs are responsible for more than the corporate information assets and office buildings; they must also ensure the ultimate safety of the company’s executives when business travel takes them into dangerous regions. Alon Stivi, a former Israeli special forces commando turned security consultant, is president of Direct Measures International in Costa Mesa, Calif. He trains CSOs and corporate executives like Warren Buffet on the safety measures that executives can take to reduce the risk of being targeted by terrorists and criminals.

CSO: Have the dangers of travel really escalated in the past year or is there simply more awareness?

Alon Stivi: Both. Since 9/11, the government invested money to fortify the security in airports and public facilities. But that leaves the private sector as the most vulnerable and valuable target. Terrorists are looking for the soft, unprotected targets — the maximum result for the least tactical and financial effort. Terrorists still want visibility for their attacks. My experience with the corporate world is that businesses are really unprepared for this kind of threat. Terrorism and travel safety are new fields for security directors.

CSO: Which geographic hot spots should business travelers be wary of?

Alon Stivi: There’s a growing threat in the Far East. There’s a fundamentalist, anti-Western, anti-American [sentiment]. But, it’s not Christian versus Muslim, it’s mostly a political issue. These countries have no democracy, no freedom, and there is much more protection there for terrorists. [Some high-risk countries] are the Philippines, Indonesia, Angola, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Columbia, Peru, Venezuela and certain areas of Mexicothe kidnapping capital of the world.

People would like to think it’s only a [geographic] issue, but terrorists nowadays are international. They are mobile; they can strike anywhere, at any time.

CSO: What advice do you give on safe airline travel?

Alon Stivi: I teach executives to make reservations at the last minute possible and to use their initials as opposed to their full name or company name. The itinerary should be known to very few people.

On a plane, the first-class section is the most visible and most at risk for an attack. My personal preference is to sit in the middle of the plane one row behind an exit and not on the aisle. If there’s a kidnapping or hijacking, there’s going to be a rescue attempt, and they’ll be running down the aisle shooting. There’s less likelihood of getting shot close to a window.

Also the first thing I do when I board a plane is walk all the way down the aisle. I examine the passengers, make eye contact, and if there’s somebody I deem to be suspicious, I start up a conversation. Within the first two minutes, I will know by how they interact whether they are really suspicious. If I suspect something, I notify the flight crew.

CSO: Are there tips on selecting a hotel abroad?

Alon Stivi: We recommend selecting a second- or third-story room, because the first floor is too easy to break into. But never go higher than the seventh floor because no fire department ladder makes it that high.

Also, do not use the main lobby for all your entrances and exits, and familiarize yourself with various emergency exits and escape routes.

CSO: What dangerous traveling behaviors should executives avoid?

Alon Stivi: Some executives flash their cash, status and nationality—that’s counterproductive. Executives also often frequent tourist spots. If there’s going to be an attack against foreign nationals, it usually happens at those locations, like the recent event in Bali. On the flip side, hotels that are frequented by Americans usually have better security, so it’s a balancing act. Carefully select a hotel that is security-conscious and caters to Americans.