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Foreign Urban Environment Survival for Expats

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#1 VaticanOps

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 04:47 AM

'Morning ITS'ers:

 

I'm an American, with prior military experience,  who finds himself living in the capital of Italy for the next 4 years for studies and work.

 

I've already lived here 1+ years, but recent attack in Paris, and the threats that ISIS has made against the West and Rome have put me on edge.

 

I would appreciate your tips, suggestions, etc., for living abroad in major urban areas and keeping an alert mindset with a focus on preparedness and physical security overseas.  Thanks.

 

 

For all those back home in the ol' US of A, enjoy a big cup of 'Merica for me.  

 

 

 

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#2 pira114

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 06:47 AM

I noticed your location from the thread on riots.

I know squat about Italy and it's laws.

First thing I'd do is harden my dwelling. Doors are crappy barriers. Windows are not barriers at all. Steel door. Steel door frame. Window covers that can be secured and prevent entry.

That's if you can. If you don't own it (which I'm guessing since it's only for 4 years), then I'd start by planning escape. Start small and work your way out. Escape from a personal attack on you and your dwelling. Basically, just planning a way to get out and having a go bag that has basic needs in it. Sometimes this is nothing more than wallet, car keys, and maybe a side arm if you're allowed that there.

Then plan what you're escape would be if you need to leave the neighborhood. And what you'll need. Add a few items to the bag maybe.

Then plan for escape from city.

Then plan escape from country.

That's how I do it. I plan in "rings." Start with the center (you/family) and work your way out. Adding bare essential stuff to the bag as is needed for each escape. By the time you're done, you'll have a full pack. Then figure out if that pack is realistic, and refine.

If you have family, they need to be on board with it in case you're not together when whatever goes down so you can meet somewhere.

Other than that, I'd need to know laws and basic geographic location info to advise further. But that's a start.

Also, don't get hung up on "bug out" survival plans. A good many times it better to shelter in place. That's a whole new plan. In this case, I plan inward from the rings. Start with worst case scenario and it'll cover most events. Figure natural disaster. You need water, food, heat. Cover that, and you're good for a while. Then think longer term. Maybe a stockpile of meds your family needs. A way to filter water that may be accessed but is questionable. If you can't garden, long term food means larger stockpiles.

You can go crazy with this stuff. There's just no way to plan and supply for everything. Unless you're filthy rich I guess.

Those are just my thoughts. Hope it at least gives you an idea of where to start
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#3 spenceman

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 10:23 AM

When you hear dudes shouting aloha snackbar, GTFO! Otherwise I would take shelter at home and pack a bag of essentials. Escape Plan A should be to head for your local consulate or embassy. It's worth going to check the place out ahead of time and ask what you need to do if things get bad. Escape Plans  B and C should be to get to an embassy or consulate in a neighboring city or country. Just map it out so you know where to head. Other options are to find friends who live in the countryside, life is almost always calm in rural areas.


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#4 DirtyTrigger

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 02:10 PM

Gain local intel.

You may have to go through several people, but find people from your area and chat with them make friends. Neighbors, store clerks, bar tenders, waiters, etc. When I have travled, here and abroad, I've never hidden that I am "not from around here." People will know anyway most likely. Some will blow you off, but you will find some that are genuinly good folks and love to talk.

You can learn the history, demographics of the area. Can offer you a baseline of what belongs/doesn't so you have more guidance if something doesn't feel right. Plus, having local freinds is always bonus.
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#5 stoddy9311

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 03:26 PM

loose the 511 pants, grow your hair, dress like a native, including euro satchel



#6 Jersey0311

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 04:48 PM

http://www.deathvall...ome-and-abroad/

 

http://www.deathvall...-the-3rd-world/

 

http://www.deathvall...ian-aid-groups/

 

http://www.deathvall...at-bug-out-bag/


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#7 Corbs

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 06:26 AM

loose the 511 pants, grow your hair, dress like a native, including euro satchel

despite the press, not everyone in Europe carries a hand bag! I'd say your best bet for blending in in Rome is to buy some Prada sunglasses and never ever remove them! Lose the Oakley's and the tennis shoes
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#8 spenceman

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 07:35 AM

Instead of 5.11 pants wear pastel colored Capri's and v-neck t-shirts
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#9 Jersey0311

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 08:49 AM

Instead of 5.11 pants wear pastel colored Capri's and v-neck t-shirts

 

Ensure that they're several sizes too small as well


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#10 stoddy9311

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 05:52 PM

hahahaha...come on corbs, i was talking about italy!! fashion capital of the world!!...not Castleford west yorkshire!

 

on a serious note, never heard of deathvalley mag since now...good articles! thanks jersey.

 

I would doubt you'll have many issues in Italy you lucky bugger! 

 

good call on knowing where embassies and hospitals are....at least as an american, if the poop its the fan, they will ship you back! i once lost my passport in Zimbabwe and the UK embassy couldn't give a damn..took me an extra two weeks to get back to blighty...yeah it was my fault, but i am talking before you scan a copy on a USB stick (floppy disc anyone?). 

 

reading DVM, they recommend having $5000 in cash to hand?? guess those guys haven't been married haha


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#11 spenceman

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 06:17 PM

reading DVM, they recommend having $5000 in cash to hand?? guess those guys haven't been married haha

 

Of course they have, why do you think they fled their homeland in the first place? lol


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#12 schüler

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 07:41 PM

...
 
 For all those back home in the ol' US of A, enjoy a big cup of 'Merica for me.  
 
 
 
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I feel for you, man. My brother and his family is live about 30km from the first attack site in France.

He and I have talked extensively about the state of security there, and I warned them about the urban immigrant enclaves and unrest. The gypsies are bad enough, not to mention the bigger problems.

Carrying even a serious EDC knife not related to "work" will apparently get you in trouble.

A few weeks ago I recommended this book to him:
http://www.amazon.co...duct/B0099BJENU

Much is obvious, but there is at least a solid structure to flesh out your prep/response plans.

I hope you are blessed with the wisdom and of at least a few local people. Sometimes you have to reach out to them and ask the right questions--there are goodhearted people everywhere, if a bit reluctant to engage a stranger.

Be safe, be vigilant. We'll keep you in prayer.

#13 MightyP

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 07:41 PM

My wife suggested, if your back is hairy enough, rocking a speedo... Not ready to search for a picture of that.

 

I did suffer through a search of "men's fashion italy" for you and found this. I can pretty well guarantee that NO ONE will suspect you of being an OAF, American badass if you wear this...

 

 

DSC_0186-428x640.jpg

 

 

 

EDITED for grammar, because I can't get it right the first time!


Edited by MightyP, 10 January 2015 - 07:44 PM.

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#14 SteveSOS

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 11:32 PM

It is a complicated thing being an American abroad. Normally it won’t pose much of a threat, but on the off chance that something happens it is better to be prepared for it than not. Think of it as not having a condom with a willing super model…always better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. With that said I always plan escape to any city I am going to be in long before I ever enter the city, I never step into a situation I don’t know how to get out of.

Rome has some great advantages for concealed egress, subway systems there are constantly being expanded and worked on and the tunnel system is massive.

 

http://www.orangesmi...p-metro-big.gif

 

If you have to get out of a catastrophe or a bad situation, say if IS decides that Rome is the central affront to Muslim religion then the city streets are not going to be a place you want to find yourself. Though there would be hundreds of people in the subways it will still be easier to navigate (mainly because you really don’t have to navigate, they all lead somewhere) and most people will be running out of them while you are running in. Also most people don’t want to walk on subway tracks. However like all subways there are service tunnels, supply offices, tool offices etc. Remember with the proper training… nothing is locked.

 

Second I would plan your exact routes, walk them often and get an idea of your time frames to get to them, and then add a 30% time factor for crowds, riots, disaster etc.  Make two or three routes, scout them out and know them by heart.

Develop your skills, lock picking, hand to hand, knife fighting etc. Pack your EDC bag and carry it around as though it’s just a bag you carry all the time. Get as much wearable EDC as you can so it is easier for you to be inconspicuous. Don’t look like a target, a multicam pack, bearded well-built guy in 5.11 clothes is going to be the first guy I take out if I have to. Being a guy that no one notices or remembers is the way to go.

 

Stuff I always carry

 

·         Paracord Bracelet with compass, fishing line, hooks, ferro rod, cuff key, can opener

·         Lighter

·         Good clothing

·         EDC belt with Saw, cuff key, piano wire with loops

·         Shoelaces replaced with 550 cord

·         Leatherman tool and bits

·         Karambit

·         Surefire Light

·         Metal Frame Oakleys (or other sunglasses)

·         Metal Match

·         Under my sole inserts I have two 10” x 2” 16ga Metal pieces

 

In your pack you can carry even more. There are several strategies that can be used and different ideals that can be employed in this particular situation. Personally, as rough as this may sound, I have no particular love for my fellow man. Sure duty to the innocent and country and all that, but indigenous personnel has never been something I am concerned with, especially in a bad situation. Self-preservation is my main goal to ensure I get myself and my loved ones out of harm’s way.  Now that doesn’t mean id tromp through Rome stomping puppies and ignoring some mother and child who need help, but it does mean I wouldn’t let them slow me down from my objectives. One man, though affective is not going to change the tide of a bad situation in a foreign land.

Get out, Get home, And Regroup. Simple objectives.

 

 I know there is more to say however I am tired and had a long long day. 

 

Oh wait, I remembered something. I have never been, never will be and don't agree with "Shelter in place" Survival day one stuff... movement is life. 

 

Oh and MacGyverisms..... learn all you can about science, improvised munitions and explosives, common chemicals and their uses. For Example: Sugar....

 

http://science.howst...ar-explode1.htm


Edited by SteveSOS, 10 January 2015 - 11:38 PM.

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#15 spenceman

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 01:36 PM

It is a complicated thing being an American abroad. Normally it won’t pose much of a threat, but on the off chance that something happens it is better to be prepared for it than not. Think of it as not having a condom with a willing super model…always better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. With that said I always plan escape to any city I am going to be in long before I ever enter the city, I never step into a situation I don’t know how to get out of.

Rome has some great advantages for concealed egress, subway systems there are constantly being expanded and worked on and the tunnel system is massive.

 

http://www.orangesmi...p-metro-big.gif

 

If you have to get out of a catastrophe or a bad situation, say if IS decides that Rome is the central affront to Muslim religion then the city streets are not going to be a place you want to find yourself. Though there would be hundreds of people in the subways it will still be easier to navigate (mainly because you really don’t have to navigate, they all lead somewhere) and most people will be running out of them while you are running in. Also most people don’t want to walk on subway tracks. However like all subways there are service tunnels, supply offices, tool offices etc. Remember with the proper training… nothing is locked.

 

Second I would plan your exact routes, walk them often and get an idea of your time frames to get to them, and then add a 30% time factor for crowds, riots, disaster etc.  Make two or three routes, scout them out and know them by heart.

Develop your skills, lock picking, hand to hand, knife fighting etc. Pack your EDC bag and carry it around as though it’s just a bag you carry all the time. Get as much wearable EDC as you can so it is easier for you to be inconspicuous. Don’t look like a target, a multicam pack, bearded well-built guy in 5.11 clothes is going to be the first guy I take out if I have to. Being a guy that no one notices or remembers is the way to go.

 

Stuff I always carry

 

·         Paracord Bracelet with compass, fishing line, hooks, ferro rod, cuff key, can opener

·         Lighter

·         Good clothing

·         EDC belt with Saw, cuff key, piano wire with loops

·         Shoelaces replaced with 550 cord

·         Leatherman tool and bits

·         Karambit

·         Surefire Light

·         Metal Frame Oakleys (or other sunglasses)

·         Metal Match

·         Under my sole inserts I have two 10” x 2” 16ga Metal pieces

 

In your pack you can carry even more. There are several strategies that can be used and different ideals that can be employed in this particular situation. Personally, as rough as this may sound, I have no particular love for my fellow man. Sure duty to the innocent and country and all that, but indigenous personnel has never been something I am concerned with, especially in a bad situation. Self-preservation is my main goal to ensure I get myself and my loved ones out of harm’s way.  Now that doesn’t mean id tromp through Rome stomping puppies and ignoring some mother and child who need help, but it does mean I wouldn’t let them slow me down from my objectives. One man, though affective is not going to change the tide of a bad situation in a foreign land.

Get out, Get home, And Regroup. Simple objectives.

 

 I know there is more to say however I am tired and had a long long day. 

 

Oh wait, I remembered something. I have never been, never will be and don't agree with "Shelter in place" Survival day one stuff... movement is life. 

 

Oh and MacGyverisms..... learn all you can about science, improvised munitions and explosives, common chemicals and their uses. For Example: Sugar....

 

http://science.howst...ar-explode1.htm

 

Unless you're escaping Sadr city or some other highly kinetic situation where the city is essentially under seige, this is mostly terrible advice.

There is nothing complicated about being an American overseas (especially in Europe), under the present circumstances and likely threats, just blend in and head home if there's trouble. Unless you live in a muslim sector of the city, or unless Rome is literally invaded en masse by ISIS, nobody is going to go door to door looking for the one American in the neighborhood. Terrorists usually have a specific target, but will also take advantage of targets of opportunity (any random dude who walks through their kill zone).

 

Avoid mass transit, they are fantastic targets for terrorists, no buses or trains if possible. Subway systems are one of the worst places to be if there's a terror attack. If there's a fire or explosion you have to worry about toxic fumes and lack of oxygen, tunnel collapse, flooding, etc. If there's a gunman you're all trapped, its fish in a barrel. Basically you're trapping yourself if you head in to a subway, it's too easy to get boxed in. Barring all of that doom an gloom you can easily get lost, maintaining your sense of direction while underground in the dark is no easy task. 

 

Also, I can't recommend knives and lock picks without knowing your laws on such things, and urban Europe tends to be pretty restrictive. Heck, urban USA can be very restrictive, I've known guys that were physically restrained and searched by NYPD because they had a knife clipped in their pocket. It's best to stay completely off the radar of law enforcement, unless they are your friends. (Then you should buy them beer.) Which brings me to my next point...

 

MacGyverisms... don't go trying to make explosives, especially in an environment with a high terror threat. For one, you'll probably get yourself killed, or at the very least charged with terrorism. Fuel air explosions (sugar dust) aren't as easy as they sound, you need the correct ratio of fuel and air, then there's the tricky part of igniting it from a safe distance. How far is a safe distance? You don't know, so don't try it. Seriously, how do you calculate the net explosive weight and resulting safe stand-off distance of an unknown mixture of sugar and air in relation to the volume of a room? Using standard military & commercial explosives requires a bunch of equations using cube roots that I can't remember, so how do you do it in your head with all of those variables in a kinetic situation?

 

And again, if you blow something up you'll be counted as a terrorist. Other than that learning about science is fine.

 

So again, back to my original advice, blend in, shelter at home for a day or two so the dust can settle. If the attacks last more than a couple of days, or are of such frequency and intensity that fear for your life, head to the embassy or buy a ticket home. Also avoid mass transit, take a cab or get a ride from a friend.


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#16 SteveSOS

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 04:07 PM

read first paragraph again. "If you have to get out of a catastrophe or a bad situation, say if IS decides that Rome is the central affront to Muslim religion then the city streets are not going to be a place you want to find yourself

 

This is the situation I was explaining. I never EVER, shelter in place. Hiding then moving is one thing, sheltering in place without proper equipment is suicide. If you have some normal situation that is just bad but not a catastrophe, sure, head to the embassy and gtfo. If however you are in a now combat zone... the normal shelter in place rules do not apply. 

 

Explosives, that is true, you shouldnt play with them if you dont know. I usually assume that the people here are not idiots. Explosives advice is not something i would give out freely, notice i didnt expound. Fact is there are plenty of small chemical reactions that can be useful. I am not saying drop a building, bridge or blow a car. I mean blow a lock, create a diversionary device. 

 

as far as for underground, aside from the toxins, which is a good point, navigating subways and caves is easy, at least in my opinion. Ive been caving a lot, been in lots of tunnels. Besides who doesnt mark their way? I assume everyone has heard the fairy tale about bread crumbs in the forest. the same applies here. The very fact that crowded subways will be evacuated is one of the reasons of their appeal, again aside from toxin, it would be ideal most of those systems are designed to withstand earthquakes on a grand scale. 

 

We can agree to disagree, however based on my personal experience this is the advice i would give. 

 

as far as cops in new york detaining people over a pocket knife. Ok i am sure that happens. I didnt say have your stuff exposed. If you dont give a cop a reason, they tend to leave you be. Again in my experience. 

 

I always plan for the worst. It can be noted as paranoid but ive never been caught with my pants down. 


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#17 MightyP

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 04:29 PM

Ooo... I think this might be the most tension I've seen on this forum!

 

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I suppose I should a good disagreement is healthy as long as it stays civil (which it has).


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#18 SteveSOS

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 05:32 PM

I like spence. A lot. He has a different more level outlook and I appreciate that. I have a more paranoid the sky is falling outlook :)
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#19 DeathwatchDoc

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 05:55 PM

And they respect each other and it shows in their words, which is why its allowed to continue. We welcome discussions, even heated ones, as long as they come from a position of respect.


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#20 VaticanOps

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Posted 12 January 2015 - 02:19 AM

Gentlemen, 

 

Thanks for the continuing input.  Much to think over.  

One of the good things over here is that I'm blessed to live in a fairly secure facility (in my mind much more security should be employed, but I won't say anything more, internet being what it is... OPSEC) - on the downside it is one of the largest concentrations of Americans in the city and very close to the most famous Christian church and headquarters in the world, if you get my drift.

 

In general, the Italians love American culture and English words, so an attack on the city by ISIS, radicals, etc., would not generally spill into mobs of anti-Americanism.

 

I have to admit I enjoyed the part about how to dress like an Italian.  Ya'll are too funny.

 

I've found that in general, Europeans dress much more smartly/formally than 'mericans.  The best way to blend in is a nice pair of dress shoes, wear a scarf, and never wear shorts or t-shirts out in public. Also a nondescript satchel bag is perfect for EDC items and does not draw attention, as most Italian men are partially to using a "murse."  

 

However, during weekly normal business hours, I am required to wear distinctive clergy attire, so I do not have the luxury of blending in, as mentioned above.  Neverless, here it is quite common to see priests, seminarians, etc. walking around the city, so wear of the collar does not flag me as American, simply as a churchman, who could be from any north-central European country.   

 

My average day  involves about 1 hour of walking through the city to university and back.  I do vary my routes and secondary options, but unfortunately it is quite routine.  However, on the plus side, my awareness of the typical baseline environment has never been better.  

 

The Italian military have a large presence on the streets, mainly for show and counter-mafia ops, but I've been beginning to pick out the undercover ones too.  Italy is a beautiful nation, where nothing functions as it should.  It's "a third world country where everyone wears Prada-"  everything is horribly inefficient, strikes are a common occurrence, trash, graffiti, and aggressive gypsies are everywhere, its citizens have had 35 different governments since WWII!  Yet everything still functions somehow (barely at times) and the people have an incredible love for life, food, faith, and family.  

 

It's definitely quite an adventure here.  Keepin' my head on a swivel and sending a salute to all those downrange and back home.  


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