Businesses are having to adapt to a world where terrorism, multiple casualty attacks and geopolitical disruption are increasingly common.
Duty of care has been zeitgeist in the travel industry for a few years now, but a spate of attacks from Florida to Tokyo has brought home that traveller safety must be a priority for businesses. Fear is palpable amongst both travellers and their families. Companies need to show they have a real plan of action in place.
David Holley, director at security consultancy HP Risk Management, shares lessons learned from recent incidents and what corporates and their travellers should be doing.
Often overlooked is the need to ask travellers “What are you doing on your trip?” Particularly on those to more hazardous locations.
Risk managers need to put mechanisms in place to understand not just where their travellers are, but what they are doing. This is fundamental of any risk assessment process and can put you ahead of the curve when responding to an incident.
Travel tracking can be extremely useful, but it is not the panacea people think it is. Itinerary tracking only narrows down location to a city and active tracking can be problematic as individuals forget to check in. In our experience, travellers often end up in unexpected places and can take time to discover their location and if they are safe.
Regular communications between individuals and their managers regarding plans and expected locations is generally the best way to track people fast.
Share Contact Information
Travellers are increasingly concerned about their safety but many still do not know who to turn to.
Security managers should be sharing information about protocols and emergency contacts to raise their profile in the business. This is not only informative, but reassuring.
Encourage travellers to share the emergency contacts with their next of kin - so in a real emergency, they know who to call within the company. It gives the family a sense of involvement and can save them a lot of worry.
Likewise ensure that the company has the correct next-of-kin details. In an emergency, travellers often check-in first with their loved ones and can forget about their managers. Businesses should reach out to the family if a traveller has missed a check-in, or can’t be contacted after an incident.
During the recent coup in Turkey, where I had multiple clients in many locations, chat rooms on secure apps such as Whatsapp and were terrific in communicating with many individuals simultaneously. Individuals could also help each other on the ground and managers in head offices were able to follow the chat too and know their people were safe .
When an attack occurs, travellers should not panic. It is common to want to evacuate from an affected city/location immediately. However, this could actually put travellers at more risk.
Transportation networks are favoured targets by terrorist groups as demonstrated by the attacks on airports and rail networks in Europe this summer. Rushing to leave can expose travellers to secondary attacks.
In the case of the recent Turkish coup, airports and transport networks were closed making evacuation impossible.
So securing safe accommodation as soon as possible for travellers to hibernate in can be crucial. Apartment hotels or even Airbnb (often unpopular with risk managers) can be a more discreet option than a big hotel chain in a location with an elevated threat against foreigners.
Despite the increasing risks, travellers will adapt and take it in their stride. Managers and travellers alike should always remember the chances of being directly caught up in a serious incident remains extremely low.
Nevertheless, good preparation will minimise disruption should the worst occur.
After an incident, communicating with staff abroad remains the most difficult and pressing of needs. Ideally travellers should be across their company’s procedures and communication processes. Where possible they should be encouraged to log itineraries, contact information and update next-of-kin forms.
HP Risk Management Ltd is a security consultancy established two years ago by David Holley to assist companies manage their travel risks. More information can be found at www.hpriskmanagement.com.