When traveling or living in the politically unstable regions it’s important to always have an exit plan. After assessing the potential threats from coups, civil unrest or conflict you should consider several methods of egress from the country, different transportation modes that could be used and also the possibility of sheltering in place.
You should consider some tripwires or triggerpoints that might indicate a deterioration in the security situation and be a signal to you to act on. your exit plan. These vary greatly depending on the country and the situation there but some examples might be: departure of dependents and non-essential personnel from diplomatic missions, imposition of martial law, previously peaceful demonstrations turn violent, etc.
The events of the Arab Spring taught us – tripwires can be much more compressed than anticipated. With the introduction on social media in particular political and security conditions can change very rapidly.
Under ideal circumstances your exit plan is to go to the airport before the situation becomes too bad and board a scheduled commercial flight and leave the country. You do need to consider other options should the airport be closed or unreachable. Other possibilities might be traveling overland across the border to a neighboring country or even a maritime mode of departure such as hiring a charter boat if the country isn’t landlocked and if there is a safe haven country reachable by boat.
You should stay in contact with your Embassy or Consulate if they have representation locally. The US State Department issues messages to it citizens who have registered with the Embassy and prepares to conduct evacuations should the situation warrant it. This can also be a good indicator or tripwire to use. The US State Department, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other countries foreign ministries try to encourage their citizens to depart the country as soon as they feel the situation is becoming critical in order to ease the burden should an evacuation be necessary.
In some cases immediate exit may not be possible or safe. Borders maybe closed as occurred during and after the coup in Mali in 2012 or the situation may have destabilized so rapidly that it is not safe to be out on the streets or moving around. In those situations its important to look at sheltering in place.
When preparing to shelter in place you should stockpile enough food and water in your hotel room, house or apartment to sustain you for several days. Its difficult to determine what length of time to anticipate but 72-96 hours is a good general rule. You will also want to have a flashlight, batteries, possibly a battery powered radio, cell phone and or Sat/com phone and associated chargers. A portable battery-powered cell phone charger is also a good option as well.
The level of planning and preparation will vary greatly depending upon the conditions in the country you are in and your personal situation. Even giving this topic some thought and some minimal planning will give you a head start should things turn bad and you will be better off that if you were caught totally unprepared.