October 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October 1998 Current Issue
October 1998 Jonathan HowePLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

The Law & the Planner


Safety on the Road

A personal-security reminder for you and your attendees

The August embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania remind us to put traveling safety on center stage. In getting ready for a recent international trip to one of the world's safest destinations, I realized I needed to review my basic personal-security and safety measures before setting out.

Such precautions need to be taken for domestic trips, too, since retaliation - not to mention thefts and other crimes - can happen anywhere. Most planners put safety information in the attendee registration packet, but that may be too late. I suggest including the information in pre-meeting materials. While compiling the packet, contact the hotel's convention services manager to see if there are any materials to add concerning the property and the neighborhood. Also, meet with the director of security of each venue for more dos and don'ts.

Use the following to remind attendees of precautions they can take. The suggestions may seem basic, but many times we overlook the most simple things that can make a difference.


  • Make sure someone has the phone numbers where you can be reached and the name and address of the place where you'll be staying. If you use e-mail on the road, share that address as well. Carry with you - in your pocket or purse - the name, address and phone number of the person who should be contacted in case of an emergency involving you. Put your medical information, including allergies and other conditions, and a copy of the emergency information in one of your bags.
  • Carry your passport and put a copy in a different place from where you keep the original; leave a copy at the office so it can be faxed to you in case of need.
  • Don't carry a lot of cash. Unless you're visiting the North Pole, an ATM nearby will accept your bank card. (It will also give you an advantageous exchange rate.) It's good, though, to have a small amount of cash tucked away for an emergency.
  • Luggage is always a target. The airlines are enforcing carry-on limitations, so we can't bring as much on board anymore. Still, the more you keep with you, the better. Whether you tote your bags or check them, put identification (business address only) inside and out. Use a covered address tag, and use a lock.

  • Hire only authorized airport porters and licensed means of transportation.
  • Be discreet when checking in at the hotel. You don't want your name and room number announced to everyone in line.
  • Have a bell person take you and your luggage to your room. Avoid taking your bags up alone.
  • If there's a room safe, use it. If your laptop or other valuables won't fit, use the hotel safe.
  • Look through the peephole before opening your door. Demand identification if you don't recognize your visitor or if he isn't wearing a hotel uniform. If you're not expecting service, call the front desk to confirm the staffer's identity and purpose.
  • Don't rely on the room's automatic lock. Use the deadbolt and the chain, too. Be aware: In many hotels outside the United States, the doors don't lock on their own. When you leave the room, test the knob after you've closed the door.
  • Before exploring, find out about the neighborhood and places you will be visiting. Carry a matchbook or something else with the hotel name, address and phone number. Overseas, it may be the only way a cabbie will know how to get you home.
  • Don't travel alone at night.
  • Pickpockets use many diversionary tactics to get to you - and they love wallets in rear pants pockets. So carry only what you'll need for the moment in your front pocket. Leave the rest in the safe.
  • Always be suspicious of strangers. Common sense and gut feelings should rule.
  • Never wear your name badge outside the hotel. Put it in your pocket instead, especially if you've copied your emergency numbers and key medical information on the back side, which I think planners should encourage attendees to do.
  • In case of emergency, always call security and the police.
  • Jonathan T. Howe, Esq., is a senior partner in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., law firm of Howe & Hutton, Ltd., which specializes in meetings, travel and hospitality law.

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