On November 13, 2015 an unimaginable and gruesome scene unfolded in the city of Paris, France. It was a beautiful and calm Friday evening. Heavy metal fans  were enjoying a night of music at the Bataclan concert hall while soccer fans showed their patriotism as they cheered for France at Stade de France. Diners were sharing conversation and food. Then, camaraderie abruptly ended when multiple orchestrated terror attacks shook Paris ending hundreds of innocent lives and leaving hundreds more injured. Survivors and bystanders were in shock and scared to death for their lives.

An act of terrorism is ruthless. France and the rest of the world rallied for victims and counter positions. One was American, a California State University Long Beach student Nohemi Gonzalez lost her life. Nohemi was studying design in Paris and was killed while having dinner with friends at one of the targeted restaurants. One of her professors described Ms. Gonzalez, “A shining star.” Her death and all those who lost their lives in Paris will be remembered.

Sixty minutes caused havoc in Paris.  Scott Pelley of CBS news reported, “Witnesses to the assault on Paris recount their experiences, painting a picture of the day darkness fell on the city of light.” He reported 129 dead, with ISIS owning responsibility.  

France resounded with a wave of bombs in counter attacks against Jihadists’ Syrian capital. ISIS has infiltrated countries around the world.  

Citizens are concerned about personal safety and national security.  What should you know and do as American citizens in foreign countries? Homeland Security is on task:

Protecting the American people from terrorist threats is the reason the Department of Homeland Security was created, and remains our highest priority. Our vision is a secure and resilient nation that effectively prevents terrorism in ways that preserve our freedom and prosperity.

Understanding Evolving and Emerging Threats

Terrorist tactics continue to evolve, and we must keep pace.  Terrorists seek sophisticated means of attack, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive weapons, and cyber attacks.  Threats may come from abroad or be homegrown.  

We must be vigilant against new types of terrorist recruitment as well, by engaging communities at risk being targeted by terrorist recruiters.

Improving Terrorism Prevention

The Department’s efforts to prevent terrorism are centered on a risk-based layered, approach to security in our passenger and cargo transportation systems and at our borders and ports of entry.  It includes new technologies to:

 

  • Detect explosives and other weapons
  • Help protecting critical infrastructure and cyber networks from attack
  • Build information-sharing partnerships

 

We do this work cooperatively with other federal, state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement as well as international partners.

During attacks and the aftermath of the upheaval, your survival depends on your course of action. Each decision you make could be life or death. What can you do to protect yourself? What should you do?

The Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin Combined Statistical Areas’ Regional Catastrophic Planning Team published information to help you prepare before, during and after a terrorism attack: Gear up. Get ready. It can happen.

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times and report suspicious activities.
  • If you encounter an uncomfortable situation or things don’t seem to make sense, move or leave the area.
  • Take precautions when you are traveling – get country alerts from the  state department.  
  • Never accept packages from someone you don’t know and don’t leave your personal belongings unattended when you are at the airport.
  • Learn where emergency exits are located especially in buildings you often go to and how to leave when an emergency arises.

When a terror attack occurs:

  • At all times try to remain calm and patient, but judge quickly and move fast.
  • When a local emergency official is present, follow their orders.
  • If you are unharmed, if possible give aid to those around you who need it.
  • If the attack is near your place of residence, check for damages with a flashlight. Never use lighters, matches or candles to check your electricity. Sniff your home for gas leaks. Also check for other hazardous materials.
  • If possible, contact your loved ones.


Here is what you can expect after a terror attack:

  • There will be numerous casualties and buildings destroyed.
  • A large number of law enforcement will be present.
  • It may be difficult for you to locate medical services.
  • All businesses and schools may be closed.
  • The city could be put on lockdown.
  • Flights could possibly be restricted.
  • You may never be the same. It takes a lifetime to recover from a traumatic event like a terror attack. Many years of counseling may be needed.

After the attack, Paris was put on lockdown. Curfew was enforced and no one was able to leave or enter the city. The U.S. Department of State has issued a Worldwide Caution and updated the section with this message:

Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or

individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of
vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. This replaces the
Worldwide Caution dated January 9, 2015.

They also updated their list of areas which may potentially be threatened  by terroristic activities:

  • Europe
  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Africa
  • Central Asia
  • East Asia and Pacific

Make sure your trip is registered with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). They will contact you when a crisis arises and provide important safety information. Make sure to keep an eye on the “Safety & Security” tab. There you can find advice cautioning you to be vigilant against terrorist threats.   

Emergency evacuation insurance during civil unrest is no longer an option, it is a necessity. 
Our thoughts and prayers go to Paris, France. All the darkness in the world cannot diminish the light of a single flame!