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Vigilance: keeping situational awareness during the holidays

By Airman 1st Class Stormy Archer | Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs | Nov. 12, 2014

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — The Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Anti-Terrorism Office is advising all Department of Defense members and dependents to remain vigilant against possible threats to their safety during the holidays.

This advisory comes following a force protection message from U.S. Northern Command directing DOD personnel traveling to or from Canada, or operating in Canada, to observe a heightened uniform posture. The message was a response to recent attacks on Canadian service members and Parliament.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency also recently issued an advisory to their employees reminding them to "be vigilant at home and work, during travel and in their communities, by using individual protective measures."

While these advisories are not made because of a specific threat, they are aimed at increasing awareness.

"It is at this time of the year our guard is lowered while we spread holiday cheer and joy," said Mance Clark, JBSA-Randolph anti-terrorism officer.  "There are criminal and terror elements who seek targets of opportunity, taking advantage of the unexpected. So as we enter this festive season, please let's not forget your situational awareness and remain vigilant, reporting suspicious activity and maintaining sound security practices."

In order to be less vulnerable, service members have been advised to avoid wearing their uniform in public when unnecessary, be aware of their surroundings, be mindful of what they post on social media and to disable geo-tagging on their digital photos.

"We don't want people to be afraid to use social media," said Capt Victoria Hight, Air Force social media deputy chief. "We just want them to do so in a smart way. If your account is properly secured, you shouldn't be afraid to say you're a member of Academy class whatever or that you served in the U.S. Air Force or even post photos in uniform. But without those proper security settings, those are things you should avoid posting because anybody can see it."

Below are just a few crime prevention tips to practice while at home: 

· If you take a holiday trip away from your home, set an interior light to activate by an automatic timer, have a neighbor or family member watch your house and stop all deliveries like mail or newspapers.

· Don't display holiday gifts in plain view where they can be seen from a window. 

· Be cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave your house or apartment, even if just for a few minutes.

·  Avoid leaving empty boxes from purchases out on the curb for trash pickup. Crush them and place them out in recycling bins.

· Be wary of strangers soliciting charitable donations. They may attempt to take advantage of people's generosity during the holidays. Ask for identification and how donated funds are used. 

· Be careful with purses and wallets. Carry your purse under your arm. Keep your wallet in an inside jacket pocket, not a back trouser pocket and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay for purchases with a credit/debit card or check when possible. 

· Lock your packages and gifts in your vehicle's trunk. Keep you vehicle's doors locked and windows closed.

· Shop before dark. Coordinate shopping trips with a family member or friend, and never park in an unlit area.

For alerts and travel warnings refer to http://travel.state.gov.