First published by Grant Rayner on 27 Nov 2023
2 min readTravel Security
This essay was originally published in Dangerous Travels on 27 Nov 2023
This is the fifth and final article in a series focused on designing robust Travel Safety and Security Programmes. In this article, I’ll focus on training, contingency planning, and response.
In my experience, one of the most important things an organisation can do is to empower their travellers to make common sense decisions relating to risk while on the ground.
The best way to achieve this empowerment is through effective training. Let’s start with that.
Training is essential for closing the loop with your organisation’s Travel Safety and Security Programme. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, it’s the traveller’s decisions and actions in the moment that determine the outcome of a particular incident. Even if the company has world class policies and procedures, these won’t necessarily be that useful for travellers in the moment.
As a foundation, your organisation should conduct a basic security awareness module for all travellers. This training module will cover policies and procedures, detail insurance and assistance arrangements, and provide generic information that travellers can apply to most travel contexts. However, this training is really just a start point and won’t be enough to prepare travellers for higher-risk locations.
If your organisation sends travellers to medium-risk locations, travellers will need additional training. Additional modules should be developed that complement the basic module, providing more detailed instructions to mitigate risk. These training modules can be thematic, focusing on different risks, such as crime, civil unrest or natural disasters, for example.
If your organisation sends travellers to high-risk locations, the best approach is to develop specific training modules for each country. These training modules should incorporate practical information for the traveller, including where to stay, how to get around town, locations to avoid, etc. These modules should be delivered just before the traveller departs, ensuring that the information contained in the training is top of mind when the traveller departs.
Expanding on the above, you might decide to develop training modules that focus on specific risks, such as earthquakes, terrorist attacks and protests. Travellers could participate in these training sessions annually, in addition to the foundation module.
Questionnaires should be used to collect feedback from training participants, and the content of the training modules should be reviewed annually to ensure they remain relevant.
Overall, in my experience, many organisations conduct traveller security awareness training poorly. As with other training, such as administrative onboarding and compliance training, organisations have gone down the path of producing basic training videos available on the company’s intranet. Such videos might be okay for very basic levels of awareness, but lack the necessary practical details to empower travellers to proactively manage risk in medium and high-risk environments.
Your approach to training should provide special attention to first-time travellers. First time travellers to higher-risk locations should receive a one-on-one briefing that’s tailored to their travel profile and their itinerary.
In addition, you might also decide to send travellers in pairs or small groups along with more seasoned travellers, ensuring first-time travellers aren’t travelling alone.
Moving on from training, let’s focus on contingency plans.
For higher-risk locations, your organisation should develop contingency plans for responding to traveller emergencies. These contingency plans should incorporate procedures for sheltering in place, international evacuation, and domestic relocation. Plans should also include details of local vendors and agencies essential to supporting each of these options.
Countries that warrant the development of contingency plans include countries that suffer from political instability (i.e., higher-than-normal likelihood of civil unrest or coups), terrorism, and major natural disasters.
Contingency plans should be developed by someone experienced in such planning, and should always be conducted on the ground (i.e., not remotely).
The final aspect of Travel Safety and Security Programmes that I want to cover is building the capacity to respond effectively to incidents.
While your overall approach to traveller safety and security should focus on risk avoidance, there’s always a possibility that an incident occurs that impacts your travellers. You’ll therefore need to ensure your Travel Safety and Security Programme incorporates the necessary capabilities to effectively respond to traveller emergencies.
As a start point, identify specific groups within your organisation responsible for responding to traveller emergencies. You might, for example, nominate your Global or Regional Security Operations Centre to be responsible for receiving and handling calls from travellers in distress. Serious cases may be escalated to a local or regional Incident Response Team.
Secondly, develop procedures for responding to different types of traveller emergencies. Checklists for different types of incidents should be available to the Security Operations Centre and to Incident Response Teams.
Provide training for your Security Operations Centre operators in how to handle calls from travellers in distress. Incident Response Teams should also receive training in how to respond to traveller emergencies. These teams should also participate in realistic exercises to ensure they’re fully prepared for such incidents.
Lastly, provide training for communications and human resources teams in how to engage with families during a traveller emergency. This training can be part of your organisation’s approach to incident response.
Thanks for reading.
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