Times have changed. While this may be the most wonderful time of the year, recent headlines have carried more misfortune and tragedy than any of us care to see.
Terrorism is a real and present danger in the world today, and the threat persists even here in our homeland.
History has taught us to associate terrorism with travel and days of significance. Indeed, the national terror threat level often rises during periods of peak travel, including the winter holiday season. That makes December a time for not only celebration but also the exercise of caution.
Frightening as the nightly news cycle can seem, we all owe it to ourselves to live a free and fulfilling life. We must cast off the shackles of fear and embrace the world for all the wonder and kindness it offers. Of course, common wisdom dictates that we keep a level head on our shoulders.
Vigilance is a virtue. As our leaders have reminded us on recent occasions, we should take note of suspicious behavior and alert the authorities about our concerns. As the saying goes, “If you see something, say something.”
While none of us can single-handedly stop the threat of terrorism in the world, we can at least do our part by staying alert and being prepared to take preventative action. Indeed, several planned attacks have been thwarted in the past because ordinary citizens exercised due caution.
Tips for Staying Alert to the Threat of Terrorism While Celebrating the Holidays
The United States government issued a newly heightened terror warning on Monday, November 23, 2015. It reads, in part:
“U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.”
That particular alert is in effect for three months and will expire on February 24, 2016.
As part of that call for awareness, experts offer the following advice for those who plan to celebrate the holiday season:
• Keep an eye open for suspicious activity while in public places or in big crowds.
• Exercise extra caution in theaters, sporting venues, hotel parties, bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, open markets, airports, and while using public transportation or aviation services. The government has advised avoiding these areas as much as possible.
• Remember that people who might attempt to carry out attacks can look and act like any other “average American.”
• Don’t doubt your instincts. If you see something suspicious, alert the authorities right away.
• Keep your cell phones charged and on your person when possible (if safe and allowed).
• Stay in touch with your family members and close friends. Make sure they know where you plan to be and how they can contact you. Share your travel itinerary with them in advance.
• Monitor local and national media. Know what’s going on in the world.
• Be prepared for additional security measures, longer waits, and unexpected interruptions while traveling.
• Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Stay Safe. Have Fun.
Remember: there is a difference between awareness and paranoia. Don’t allow fear to overtake you. Even amid the elevated risk, incidents of terrorism are incredibly rare. The odds are in favor of your safety this season, so take comfort in that fact. Simply commit to staying alert while otherwise enjoying the happiest time of the year.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!