I’ll never forget the image of the Londoner running from a pub under attack with his cold pint of beer still in hand. It may seem silly and even a little crass, but that’s how people deal with things in this city. They really do keep calm, carry on, and let the authorities take care of elevated dangerous situation with swift action.
Another attack occurred this morning on the District line of the London tube, this time in the west part of the city. It wasn’t as central and seemed to rattle the locals a little more than usual, as it was in a more residential area and not where tons of tourists are. It hit a bit closer to home. But as always, it was quickly contained and life is moving on, while we all stay mindful of the victims and ways we can help elevate the impact of such a terrible attack on their lives.
Tons of potential visitors often ask us what they should be thinking about on their trips to Europe. Specifically, they want to know is London is safe? Is anywhere is safe? How should I should plan my travels accordingly?
It’s alright. You’ll be fine.
Do Terror Attacks Happen a Lot in London?
In a word, no. This year has seemed particularly fraught with bad things happening all over the world, but statistically speaking there has not been a lot of casualties in the UK at all. This year has not been good compared to the last five or so, but compared to the 1970s, 80s and before, the UK has been doing much better.
Civilians are not allowed to have firearms in the UK except in special situations. Even the police generally do not have guns. This may make some people feel nervous or exposed, but in reality, the laws keep guns out of the hands of criminals too. There have been a few ‘terror’ attacks in public transport that only resulted in injures – mostly because the attacker could only get their hands on blades. The police easily take down suspects with knives too, using tasters or other (mostly) non-lethal weapons.
If something is a bigger situation then they do bring out special forces, which are always readily available. Whole sections of London are being updated to make sure safety is at the utmost of importance when it comes to blockades and building design.
Also, terror attacks are widely reported because of something simpler – they primarily speak English in the UK. Other incidents in various European and Middle Eastern countries that are on a small scale are not as public, because reports are happening in various languages. It’s easier for US news outlets to pick up a story when it doesn’t need translation.
As someone with a journalism background, reporters have an incredible job to make sure the public is well informed, but overexposure to incidences can make them seem worse or more frequent than they are. This doesn’t mean they’re not happening, but it also means that large, trendy cities will be getting the most coverage when things go wrong, because the most eyeballs are watching.
What Can You Do to Stay Safe in London?
A couple tangible steps you can take to sty mindful and be prepared when traveling anywhere. I sue these all the time no matter if I’m going for a weekend away to the coast or to the other side of the planet.
Don’t walk around drooling out the side of your mouth staring at fuzzy-hat guards all the time. Obviously relax and take in the sights, but keep your wits about you. This goes for ANYWHERE you travel, but especially big cities with crowds prone to panic if something goes awry. Be aware of your surroundings while taking photos or selfies to avoid theft, and check to see where the nearest exits are on public transport and in public buildings. Make a mental note, then go about your day.
Report Anything Suspicious
Going overboard is never helpful. That plastic bag near your feet that looks suspiciously full and isn’t yours usually isn’t reason to raise an alarm. If you really are concerned, calmly talk to a police person or something of authority so not as to raise alarm with others. Be wary of profiling or stereotyping situations too – London is a massive melting pot of people from all over the world – and the very vast majority of them are there to just see Big Ben like you.
Go About Your Business
Terror serves one purpose – to cause chaos. Chaos that often means pain and suffering. Chaos feels like you’re out of control and can lead to further rash decisions. Sharing news stories to people who might not travel often or who are emotional is not always helpful. Sharing information that has not been verified or could only be fearmongering is not good either. Take heed to facts, don’t do anything rash like cancel plans for a trip if it’s an isolated incident. Talk to the American Embassy in London if you’re ever concerned, they are happy to ease your mind with the reality that London is a very safe place overall.
I am a huge advocate of travel insurance. You can purchase a basic plan just for the days you’re abroad for a few dollars. There are also comprehensive plans that may cover you in the event of a terror attack and any damages you could suffer. Obviously, the chances of this happening are slim, but it will be the last thing you have to worry about if something does.
If you want to avoid terrorism at all costs, then you might as well stay away from heatwaves, any police interaction, motorcycles, walking and electrical objects too. Those are all dangers that will most likely kill you way before an international terrorism incident.
Live and let live – don’t stop exploring because some seriously bad eggs are trying to ruin life for everyone. Stay alert, be cautious and stay educated – the only way we can combat these issues is to further learn about other cultures and stay open minded about the world.
What do you think about terrorism? Does it stop you from taking vacations or trips abroad?