It was inevitable that Canadians, who account for almost one million air arrivals annually in Las Vegas, would be among the victims of the horrendous mass shootings this October.
Next to Florida and Los Angeles, this city in the desert welcomes more Canadians arriving by air than any other. And the reasons are clear—it is an exciting, well-run, highly attractive location designed for purely one purpose—to attract tourism and make visitors feel welcome.
What happened? The same thing that happened in Barcelona in August, in Paris and Nice in 2015, in Manchester and London earlier this year, in Orlando in 2016, and that will undoubtedly happen in other locations in the near future: unhinged zealots taking out their anger on innocent, defenseless people. Are there lessons to be learned from these tragedies, given that they are so unexpected, random, and irrational?
Perhaps the most common element is the presence of crowds: in Barcelona and Nice—strolling pleasant venues, shopping, dining, enjoying the scenery; in Manchester, Paris and Las Vegas, thousands focused on a concert stage, oblivious to the terror forming around them; in London, enjoying the historic majesty of Westminster bridge, Big Ben, and Parliament.
In locations such as these, crowds are inevitable and the only way to avoid them is not to visit—which is too high a price to pay for most of us. But there are things you can do to build some defense around yourself.
If in a concert hall or outdoor venue or sports event, where hundreds or thousands of spectators are tightly concentrated, always be aware of your surroundings, where are you in relation to the exits, the stage or field; where would you shelter in case of an outbreak of violence? Without being obtrusive, look around at your fellow spectators, get to know your immediate neighbour, stay comfortable, but don’t lose sense of your surroundings; and stay in control—a beer at a ballgame is great—don’t go overboard.
In open spaces, don’t take somebody else’s actions for granted: don’t challenge someone behaving erratically with a moment of truth. Let them be, and get out of the way. Don’t be the spark that ignites a riot—even a small one. Don’t assume that a careless driver is going to stay on the roadway. Stay alert.
Try to avoid crowds. The clusters of tourists huddling about guides shepherding them about St. Peter’s Square in Rome or the Prague Castle are the easiest most vulnerable targets for anyone with a grudge against humanity. Avoid the clusters but see the squares and castles with your own map. A single person or a couple on their own is not worth bothering. Clusters of international tourists are a different story.
And perhaps most important—don’t be afraid of making a fool of yourself by reporting suspicious behavior that seems out of line. Before long, we will probably hear from some witnesses of unusual behavior by a middle-aged man carting heavy boxes to his hotel room in Las Vegas. Someone will have seen him and thought it unusual, but didn’t want to feel silly reporting it. If you see something, say something. That’s universal in any country.
It’s my experience that Las Vegas is one of the safest cities anywhere. Security is ever present. The hotels are the extremely well monitored, and though there are crowds constantly up and down the strip, there are surveillance cameras covering every inch of the city. Nonetheless, as we have sadly seen, bad things happen. But you are not defenseless.
Are you ready to book your next trip? Make room for insurance in your travel plans.