Managed Travel: Curriculum For High Risk Travelers

Each day an employee spends on the road increases their exposure to risk. They’re often in unfamiliar places, eating unfamiliar food, and operating on less sleep than they would get at home. Frequent travelers may have thousands of times more risk each year from exotic illnesses and food and water borne disease. Add this to language, clothes and hairstyles that set them apart from the crowd and they become targets for opportunity crimes from simple assault to kidnapping. Travelers must be their own first responders, and companies should send them into the world prepared for the most likely situations they will encounter. Here’s a simple list to form the foundation for traveler training.

  1. Review Duty of care / Duty of loyalty
  2. Risk management: population statistics and measurement tools.
  3. Travel risk drivers – causes, probabilities, and responses.
  4. Travelers need to know what resources are available for them, and how those resources will connect with them.
  5. How does your travel team know where you are?
    • Methods – traveler tracking via GDS Queue, GPS ring-fencing, traveler check-ins, active outbound calling to the traveler, VIP Security Teams.
  6. Medical, Travel, and Legal support available.
  7. Communication devices – Satellite phones, PLB’s.
  8. VIP kit bags – Vest, PBE, PLB, SAT phone, First Aid; including driver and VIP transport
  9. Personal travel kit.
  10. How to respond to a non-criminal crisis – consider type, location, and sensitivity to employee-level.
  11. Weather events.
  12. Accidents
    • Vehicle
    • Other accidents
  13. Illness – acute, persistent, poisoning.
  14. How to respond to a criminal crisis – Describe roles for people, locations, and traveler behavior.
    • Target selection.
    • Assault, Theft, Kidnapping, property crime.
    • Avoid or Respond.
    • Civil unrest.
    • Terrorism.
    • Threats, bombs, and assaults.
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Duty of Care and Duty of Loyalty

Duty of Care is the idea that Corporations are responsible for the security of their employees during travel and when engaged in activities that support the company’s interests. The European Union’s Duty of Care Act is the most prominent regulation in Europe to codify this requirement. The EU spells out how companies should behave regarding employee safety and security, but the United Kingdom took this a step further with the UK Manslaughter Act that allows companies to be held criminally liable for harm that come to their employees. The regulation applies to UK employees abroad, or the non-UK Company employees while they are in the UK to conduct business. These regulations jump-started the Duty of Care industry in Europe and North American Corporations are still playing catch-up.

Duty of Care describes the set of behaviors, planning, and actions companies must take to safeguard their employees. Duty of Loyalty is the concept of employee compliance with their employers’ efforts on their behalf. If a company makes a car service available, or requires employees to meet minimum safety guidelines, Duty of Loyalty is the force that compels an employee to meet those standards. Companies that go out of their way to create a high quality of life for during employee travel and are proactive about serving travelers on the road will generate much higher loyalty. Companies undermine their employees loyalty through cumbersome or overly-restrictive policies and should strive to strike a balance that rewards loyal behavior while not driving the employee to another company.

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The Safest Room in Every Hotel

You will find the safest rooms on the third and fourth floors away from the front of the building and at least one room away from elevators or stairs. Why? Simple – fire. The most common, fire truck carried, tallest, three-section ladder only extends forty-feet, and weighs 220 pounds. Fire can spread through stairwells and elevator shafts quickly so a buffer room is a good idea and high rooms cannot be reached with most ladders.

Unfortunately terrorism is another risk hotel guests face; room locations away from the building’s main entrance tend to offer better protection against blasts, overpressure shockwaves and projectiles. Blasts occur disproportionately on the street level in front of the lobby entrance. In high risk locations, it makes sense to keep your drapes closed (to catch broken glass), and sleep on the bed away from windows (when two beds are present). You should also remember to carry a small doorstop with you and secure your room when you’re in it.

It’s easy to remember to stay low in case of fire, but most people don’t understand how quickly the super-heated gas a few feet above the floor can cause severe burns to delicate lung tissue. Think about the heat you feel from an oven at 350°F? Now think about what one deep breath of air heated to 900°F could do? If you do need to leave your room during a fire, don’t use elevators and don’t leave skin exposed; put a wet, cotton t-shirt around your head, and a pair of cotton socks (not synthetic) on your hands as an impromptu pair of gloves. Touch doors and doorknobs with the back of your hand before you open them, and don’t stand in front of the opening until you know it’s safe to do so.

A few more hotel tips – it’s a good habit to make your first trips to the lobby via the primary and alternate emergency exits closest to your room (you’ll be familiar with them should you need to use them in the dark).

Never take metal keys with you when you leave the hotel – leave them at the front desk and have a staff member give it back to you when you return. And don’t leave room keys in sleeves marked with your room number or the hotel name. Always leave a note addressed to yourself or a colleague at the front desk when you leave by yourself. List your intended destination, who you’re meeting with and when you intend to return. This will give potential rescuers an enormous head start should something unplanned happen.

This isn’t a complete list, but adopting these habits will give you an advantage if you’re ever faced with an emergency or crisis while you’re away from home.

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A Venezuela Travel Warning and an Armored Car Primer

The US State Department issued a Venezuela travel warning on November 22, 2013. I rarely comment about these, but this one caught my attention since Venezuela is a short flight from CONUS and served by major US airlines including American, Delta and United. The US State Department offers a thorough description about the current risks to travelers in Venezuela – security managers and travel professionals should be familiar with it (Venezuela Travel Warning). The State Department requirement to use an armored car for travel in certain parts of the country or at night is what triggered this note.

Armored vehicles offer flexibility and options for travelers that conventional vehicles do not. Operational experience suggests business travelers employ low-profile vehicles – not up-armored Chevy Suburbans that Darth Vader would look comfortable in. Unfortunately the US State Department warning doesn’t direct readers to a source for these vehicles or provide advice about what you should look for when renting an armored car.

Corporate travelers need to blend in – and sophisticated executive protection companies with local knowledge and know-how can help you avoid trouble. Armored vehicles weigh much more than their stock peers so a professional driver is recommended. Local drivers are extremely valuable for their area knowledge and experience in different situations. They’re more likely to identify threats well before a traveler would, and they can use alternate routes with information your GPS doesn’t have. Finally, a driver provides a layer of indemnification and protectection from liability in case your vehicle is in an accident.

Traditional armored car manufacturers use steel plating and bullet-resistant glass to protect the people inside, while contemporarty construction replaces steel with polyethelene-based materials (Spectra and Dyneema are the most common – and are superior to Kevlar). A Spectra-enhanced vehicle is frequently 1,000 pounds lighter than the same vehicle protected from steel, so handling, acceleration and braking performance are much better. Unfortunately, duties and taxes on imported vehicles drive costs up and favor local manufactures who apply hardened steel. A $200,000 vehicle from industry-leader Texas Armoring would cost almost $400,000 in certain markets. You can check out http://www.texasarmoring.com/ for more information about their products and Spectra. Although Spectra vehicles are lighter, a trained driver is still a good idea; they can get the most out of any car through evasive driving techniques and features unavailable to the average driver.

A quick search and a phone call turned up diplomat armored rental as a source for vehicles in Caracas. See diplomatarmored.com to find cars available in many countries. They offer Chevy Suburbans, Ford Explorers and Toyota Prados (the Lexus GX460 platform) in Venezuela. Prices start from $1,500 per day and include an armed, high-security driver, trained to provide high-risk protection and drive a heavy, steel-plated vehicle. Diplomat Armored Rentals provide significant value to their customers. Plan ahead and be alert when you travel, don’t allow signs with your name on them at the airport, and insist on details about the car, the armor, the driver’s training, credentials, and a photograph before your introduction on arrival.

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Travel Risk Management and Trip Safety

thumb_pauls passport

Originally published at Cornerstone Information Systems’ “In Your Corner” blog.

Duty of Care is the idea that Corporations are responsible for the security of their employees during travel and when engaged in activities that support the company’s interests. The European Union’s Duty of Care Act is the most prominent regulation in Europe to codify this requirement. The EU spells out how companies should behave regarding employee safety and security, but the United Kingdom took this a step further with the UK Manslaughter Act that allows companies to be held criminally liable for harm that come to their employees. The regulation applies to UK employees abroad, or the non-UK Company employees while they are in the UK to conduct business. These regulations jump-started the Duty of Care industry in Europe and North American Corporations are still playing catch-up.

Duty of Loyalty is the concept of employee compliance with their employers’ efforts on their behalf, while Duty of Care describes the set of behaviors, planning, and actions companies must take to safeguard their employees. When a company makes a car service available, or requires employees to meet minimum safety guidelines, Duty of Loyalty is the force that compels an employee to meet those standards. Companies that go out of their way to create a high quality of life during employee travel and are proactive about serving travelers on the road will generate much higher loyalty. Companies undermine their employees’ loyalty through cumbersome or overly-restrictive policies and should strive to strike a balance that rewards loyal behavior while not driving the employee to another company.

Personal security in the real world starts with your employees. It’s great to have Navy Seals and Special Forces consultants demonstrate the latest hand-to-hand combat techniques, and defensive driving in up-armored Suburbans with run-flat tires. But…security designed for the CEO does little to help the intrepid sales person walking through the commercial district in Buenos Aires or London with a Starbucks coffee in one hand and the latest smartphone in the other.

There are simple principals that, when followed diligently, can increase your employees’ safety hundreds of percent.

1. Pay attention to your surroundings. Make eye contact with people around you. Do not text, read email or walk down the sidewalk while participating in a conference call via a Bluetooth headset. You must appear alert.

2. Never read a map in public. Find a hotel lobby, retail store or restaurant to determine where you are and where you’re headed.

3. Do not wear jewelry or flashy watches. Men should avoid cufflinks. Your shoes, hairstyle, and clothing will already set you apart during international trips so reduce the other signs that mark you as an easy target.

4. Tell others where you are going and about your daily plans.

5. Before your trip, or as soon as you arrive, send a note to your corporate travel team to let them know which hotel you’re staying in (if you didn’t book it through your corporate booking tool).

6. If you walk, don’t walk alone, especially after dark. Leave a note to yourself at the front desk that contains information about where you are going or who you will meet. This will give investigators a head start if you don’t return.

7. Never leave a hotel with a metal room key. Leave it with the concierge or front desk to let them hold it for you while you’re out. Don’t let the staff give you a keycard sleeve with your room number printed on it to hold your keys.

8. Check in on foursquare periodically to give your friends & family location information (do not do this if you are at risk for a targeted crime).

9. Keep your passport, credit cards, and other ‘chipped’ items in a faraday cage (a special wallet or bag designed to remove their ‘electronic’ signature so they are invisible to card readers).

10. Know local customs and signs that will get you in trouble. Some well-known advice includes carrying a “mugging” wallet with at least $100 USD in Argentina and Brazil, but in China you should increase your cash to >$300 in case you need to pay for emergency medical care.

11. When you use cabs, always sit diagonally from the driver so you can see his eyes in the mirror. If he notices something behind you that doesn’t look right you’ll pick up on it immediately.

12. Never ride in a cab or car at night with the interior lights on, and always lock the doors.

13. For trips where you will use the same driver or in high-risk areas, you should insist that the driver leave ½ car length between you and the car in front of you at stoplights or stop-signs; on wider roads, the driver should stay in the outside or curbside lane, but never the middle (the driver should always have enough room to maneuver around other vehicles – in an emergency sidewalks and medians are fair game).

14. In high risk locations you should also insist your driver use a “box” maneuver instead of making turns in front of oncoming traffic. In countries with left-hand drive (US, Germany, France) when you want to turn left, the box method requires you to cross your intended road, then execute three right-hand turns around the next block. This will put you on course without exposing your side of the car to oncoming traffic while it increases the probability that you will identify anyone who is following you.

Steps for travel management teams:

1. Establish policies to protect travelers in high-risk locations or mission essential personnel anywhere. Distribute information about potential threats several days before travel.

2. Publish and disseminate information about after-hours service to support medical or travel emergencies and include phone numbers for international access. This could include a twitter account and hashtag travelers should use when they need help. Example (@YourCompany911, or #YourCompanytravelassist).

3. Publish your security team’s phone number and distribute it with every itinerary.

4. Develop an easy way for travelers to add passive segments (hotels booked outside your booking tool or agents). Use this as a KPI to measure Duty of Loyalty.

5. Every manager is responsible for employee safety, including trips between sites that don’t involve the travel management group. Travel Management and Corporate Security should work together to provide reports and business reviews that cover travel risk, employee health, on-duty accidents and ‘near’ misses to a steering committee that includes representation from HR and Legal and other operating divisions as necessary.

Call us if your program needs help to implement pre-trip approvals, reporting, notifications and agent and employee training.

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