Saul Shanagher, director of beTravelwise, looks at how to keep your employees – and yourself – safe when travelling for business or pleasure.
With the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the subsequent Brussels lockdown, and the US Government travel advisory, security considerations for business travel is a hot topic. ‘Terror’ is designed to create fear, especially fear of carrying out everyday activities, but do recent events significantly change the security environment for business travel?
Most people living, commuting and working in the world’s major cities co-exist with a constant threat, however slight, of terrorism. We trust the police and security agencies to minimise this risk to safe levels as we go about our daily lives. However, when employees travel abroad on business, the employer has a responsibility for that employee’s safety.
So what does an employer need to put in place to address business travel security concerns?
1) Conduct a risk assessment
There is risk everywhere, no matter how small. A company must have a means of making an informed risk assessment for any destination, even if only using government travel advice. Does the trip warrant the risk? If the answer is yes, then the employer must consider what support that business traveller needs. It is also important to understand the risk profile of their travellers – we all have different risk profiles and this can significantly affect how safe a trip may be.
The framework for this assessment should be enshrined in a ‘travel risk management programme’ and the policies and procedures should identify what support a traveller will need.
Many travellers are oblivious to the risks they will face and therefore how to avoid them. Travel safety training, such as courses from security specialist beTravelwise, should be used to reinforce compliance with an organisation’s policies, as well as explain how careful preparation can mitigate most risks and promote safe travel practices, that can greatly reduce the destination specific risks.
3) Communication and tracking
An organisation should know where its business travellers are at all times and also know how to communicate with them in case of an emergency. When major incidents happen, it is vital that you know what your employee exposure is – How many travellers are there? How do you communicate with them to check they are safe? What support do they need?
Conversely, who do your business travellers contact if they require emergency assistance? They should have a 24/7 emergency number to call.
4) Appropriate on the ground support
If it is business essential to conduct business travel to a higher risk location and your risk assessment has identified security threats, look at what support can be given to your employees on the ground to mitigate these risks. There is always the possibility to increase their security using close protection details, security transportation and secure accommodation. Business is conducted every day in extreme risk locations, but rarely without the appropriate security measures being in place.
5) Don’t forget the everyday risks
Wherever we travel in the world it is important to remember that the everyday risks are more likely to occur than the extreme ones. Always be on your guard against petty crime, don’t carry items you don’t need, to reduce the chance of losing them and be aware that road traffic incidents as these are the biggest threat to safety and security in many parts of the world.
Terrorist attacks rarely alter the risk of a location, however the fear they create can significantly affect the peace of mind of a traveller. By incorporating the correct pre-travel training and the steps listed here into a corporate travel process, this fear can be put in perspective and the traveller can be reassured that measures are in place to keep them safe.