What can you do, if anything, to protect yourself as hotel guests is such areas?
Sometimes no protection will help. The bomb attack in Mogadishu on October 17, 2017 where hotel Safari collapsed and close to 600 people were killed, is one such example. That incident was however an exception. The risk of armed terrorists entering hotels, such as in Mumbai 26. November 2008 and the present one in Kabul, is generally higher.
In Surviving Kidnappers, Precautions, Influence, Strategic tools, I have presented a number of precautions against such attacks. It would exceed the frames of this blog to present them all here, but the following ones are essential.
First of all, make sure your luggage contains a torch and small rubber wedge. The torch you keep on your bedside in case the electricity goes. The wedge you place in front of your hotel room door. Even if the lock is shot to pieces, such a wedge may make it very difficult to break in.
Beware that high standard hotels with a lot of foreign guest are more frequently targeted by terrorists. Intercontinental and Serena hotel in Kabul have been attacked before.
Check basic security aspects of the hotel. Are there security guards? Can the elevator to the rooms be accessed from the garage? Check the emergency exits properly. Go to the exit doors and check that they can be opened.
If possible, ask to see the room before you check in.
Try to get a room you can escape from. You might have seen a video in the media from Kabul, showing top floor guests trying to escape to lower floors, apparently using bed sheets. Most security trainers seem to suggest rooms on 4th or 5th floor, which is normally the highest level a fire brigade would reach. I suggest that you should be able to jump to the ground and survive, at least if you throw out your bedlinen and (if possible) your mattress to land on. You would of course also like to know that terrorists cannot easily climb up and break in from the outside. However, subject to the hotel’s construction, even a high 1st floor may offer a fair distance from the ground.
Hotel rooms at the back side of the hotel is normally safer in case of a bomb attack.
There should be no door to neighbouring rooms. And if there is, make sure it can be locked from your side.
Choose a room with a balcony if possible. It should at least be possible to open the windows.
Make sure you there is a functioning hotel phone, and that you have a functioning mobile phone and the possibility of contacting the outside world.
Your room must have proper curtains, to prevent outsiders from looking in and shield you from glass debris in case of an explosion.