"Do you know what the number one rule is for ensuring your personal safety?" he asked me.
"Always maintain an awareness of your surroundings," I replied taking a stab at it.
"No, but that’s good," he said with a smile, "that’s the second rule. The number one rule is to keep a low profile."
I nodded, as it was one of those statements that had the instant ring of truth. You might be the wealthiest person in the world, but as long as you walk down the street in a old pair of blue jeans and a battered baseball cap, chances are, nobody’s going to bother you.
The concept of security is an interesting one as it requires cultivating a state of readiness for virtually any potential situation. Everyone is aware of the common threats of robbery or assault, but most likely, few people have considered exactly what is the best thing to do in scenarios such as earthquakes, building fires, or even for something as simple as having your car break down while in the middle of a long journey.
"If you’re on your way to Machu Picchu and the train stops, what do you do?" Walter asked.
I didn’t have an answer, but I got the impression that these were the types of scenarios Walter thought about all day long. In short, he thinks about it so that we don’t have to.
As we enjoyed our coffee, Walter gave me a brief summary of his professional life; from his training with the Peruvian military, to the courses he took in America at Washington D.C. and Alabama. At the embassy, his duties involved such things as inspecting apartments to insure they were safe against earthquakes, had adequate fire response equipment and safety zones, and that there would be no electrical problems. He also managed a group of professionally trained drivers who he still maintains contact with today.
"When we had international visitors," he said, "I was responsible for them. Nothing could happen, and nothing ever did."
A change in US policy was responsible for Walter leaving the embassy, but he is currently enjoying working as a security specialist in the private sector. The more I talked to him, the more he opened my eyes to events and scenarios I never otherwise would have considered.
"Do you know where the best place to stand is during an earthquake?"
By now I’d given up guessing.
"The doorways," he said, "or next to the elevator, the elevator shaft is extremely well-constructed, but if you stand by the elevator, remember that the doors can open during an earthquake, and that too can be dangerous."
Again, it made sense, but I found my head had started to spin slightly. When you look at the world in terms of threats, it seems that one always follows another. As we finished our coffee, Walter graciously agreed to offer LivinginPeru two monthly articles. One will be a short "do’s and don’ts" piece (that will appear in our newsletter), and the other will be a short article explaining the best way to act in a given situation.
And as for what to do in case the train stops on the way to Machu Picchu? I guess you’ll have to contact Walter directly for the answer to that:
Walter Raffo A. International Security Consultant
Advisory professional services
Consulting on general safety and security issues
Trip advisory related to domestic traveling within Peru
Security studies and/or audits