TRM Program Development
A comprehensive TRM Program should be managed by qualified and competent leaders within a companies operations, security, intelligence, finance and human resources (HR) departments. Tasking one person to manage a single crisis event is not realistic and may expose an organization to unnecessary risk and liability.
Mitigating and abating travel risk, as well as reacting to the unforeseen, consists of numerous concurrent tasks before, during, and after an event takes place. The time it takes to react may be critical to the survival of a traveler.
Reacting to any crisis requires swift action and team work. Imagine the time it takes for an ambulance to reach a vehicle accident. In urban areas of the U.S. the average emergency response time is twelve to fifteen minutes. In rural areas, it can take up to thirty minutes to respond. Of course, in the U.S., government and private organizations have excellent, regulated emergency services that are efficient. Many locations around the world do not.
Imagine having to respond to an emergency from halfway around the world. Response time is dependent on split second decisions that must be planned and rehearsed. The entire TRM Program team must know how the other members operate to react efficiently.
The TRM Process and Personnel
Managing risky travel through a TRM Program is a cycle. The cycle is continuous and if followed properly, can be used to manage hundreds of thousands of trips per year. The process consist of four steps;
1. High threat location identification.
2. At risk traveler identification.
3. Risk analysis and mitigation identification and dissemination.
4. Traveler Tracking and Crisis Response
This process requires the cooperation of key personnel in the organization that are considered experts in their field. Managing the stages of the cycle should never be left to one individual. Working alone will almost always result in mistakes and mistakes in TRM can end in injury or death. The TRM Program personnel should always be looking for mistakes and critiquing each other’s work. Lives depend on it.
High Threat Location Identification
The first step in the cycle is the identification of locations that have elevated or high threat factors. Common threat factors that cause disruption to organization operations consist of :
Almost all threats to travelers abroad can fit into one of the categories above.
Once the threats have been identified for locations the organization is operating or is planning future operations in, the TRM Program can categorize those locations by the threat level.
At risk traveler identification.
Identifying at risk travelers can be tricky, depending on the managers current ability to track traveler information. If travelers are booking through outside agencies (Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity), it may be more difficult to pinpoint the employees plans.
If the organization is using a booking agency (Carlson Wagonlit, AMEX), they will typically be able to gain access to employee travel data and create application program interface (API's) to automatically notify the TRM Program when an employee is headed to one of the identified high threat locations.
It is important that the TRM Program work hand in hand with travel management and booking personnel, both internal and external. Knowing who is traveling where, identifies and eliminates many of the threats that would have otherwise been unknown.
Risk analysis and mitigation identification
The program may also be able to further automate the intake process, and rule out travelers that are going to high threat locations, but are not considered at risk.
An example of a traveler that is not at risk, even though they are going to a high threat location, would be an employee that maintains citizenship in the high threat country. That individual is less likely to become a victim of crisis, as they are used to the culture and laws of their destination.
Each individual traveler should have a risk assessment completed before travel. By measuring individual risk, the TRM Program is fulfilling its duty of care, stopping travel that should not happen, and ensuring the organization is not missing opportunities as well.
Once an at risk traveler has been identified, the TRM Program would then work to lower the risk level of that traveler by providing risk mitigating resources such as informational reports, security services, and response capabilities.
See the measuring travel risk section for more detailed information on this topic.
Tracking traveler information and providing crisis response capabilities is critical for businesses that wish to operate globally. Fortunately, there are entrepreneurs that have determined the travel risk market is important enough to invest in, and have built companies that specifically provide global access to health care, security, and emergency services. These companies are experts at responding to crisis situations and create affordable solutions for groups that send people to locations around the world.
Some advantages to tracking travelers are;
Pretravel reports can be provided with critical crisis avoidance information.
Crisis avoidance alerts can inform travelers headed toward dangerous situations.
Evacuation triggers (events that cause a planned reaction) are tripped and responded to efficiently.
Itineraries can provide traveler location and the proximately of local response assets.
Accountability of traveler plans help to fulfill an organization’s duty of care requirements.
Travel tracking should be part of the TRM Programs daily tasks. The program personnel should know where their people are going and what locations are high threat, in order to help travelers avoid crisis.
Organization intelligence analysts (either contracted or internal) typically track current global events as well as forecast potential events. Intelligence analysts should be able to provide the TRM Program with information regarding threats to travelers, reducing the workload on the TRM Programs personnel.
Managing traveler data is critical to rapid response. Having access to traveler locations, emergency contacts, passport information and even emergency medical information will only help to bolster the TRM Program’s focus on safety and rapid response.
There are numerous communication and travel tracking tools currently on the market, and more being developed every day. Using mobile applications, like the one Allianz Travel provides its customers, can give travelers access to information and communications capabilities that could help them avoid a crisis and even save their life.
Travelers should never leave home without a communications plan or the ability to communicate outside of normal channels. Often the locations travelers go to will not have the same type of emergency response resources available in their home country. If a traveler is injured and cannot call typical emergency services, the TRM Program and crisis management leaders will have to provide them with a solution.
Crisis Management and Response
It is typically not feasible for businesses to employ crisis response personnel that specialize in health care, safety and security all over the world. It makes more sense to employ personnel to manage crisis from a regional headquarters and use local contracted services, “on the ground” for the response.
It is important for the TRM Program and crisis managers to understand how the local response process works and plan accordingly with vendors, before a crisis event takes place. It is also extremely important that vendors are fully vetted to ensure that the standards of treatment, care and response are on par with the organizations expectations.
Vetting vendors should be done by an experienced protective security practitioner, not a general physical security practitioner.
Many companies employ security personnel and may be able to tap into that department to fulfill their crisis management and response needs. It is important that crisis managers and those responding, be experienced security practitioners that understands the intricacies of planning emergency response abroad. The crisis managers may have to deal with some very sensitive issues and should be accustom to working with foreign governments, commercial organizations, and even religious entities.
An example of a sensitive duty would be the repatriation of mortal remains when an employee passes away overseas. Whether the cause of death is natural or the result of an accident, the crisis manager will have to coordinate with foreign governments and commercial entities that process human remains. Cultural differences will come into play and it is important that the manager understand how that foreign entity will deliver the remains.
Other duties that would be assigned to crisis management and response would be the planning and execution of evacuations. Industry standard precludes that within five years of any company's entrance to a new international market, they will experience the need to evacuate a traveler or an expatriate. Often the evacuation is not a matter of choice, but it is dictated by the host nation’s government and is strictly enforced.
Politicians do not want to be viewed as responsible for the injury or death of a foreign visitor, especially if the government perpetuates the crisis.
Evacuation may include activating "on the ground" security and logistical resources. It is important that those resources understand the specific evacuation plan assigned to situation. There are many “security” companies all over the world that offer this type of service, however, it is important to understand their standards, policies and reputation. Every vendor should be required to go through a vetting process by a qualified TRM Program member. Vendors should also be given key performance indicators (KPI) to achieve and be evaluated on. Trusting a vendor to enforce the organization's standards, without there being an anticipation of a periodic evaluation, will typically end in catastrophe.
It is important for the TRM Program to integrate HR into the planning, response and aftercare phases of the TRM process. To assume that a traveler will not need access to additional services, if involved in a crisis, is naive. Many people, especially those from nations with relatively secure environments, may never experience a traumatic crisis in their lifetime. For those that do, especially while in a foreign location, it can be life-changing and affect that individuals long term care requirements.
Victims of crisis abroad may need access to health care, financial resources, convalescent or medical leave and mental health resources. Most employers have resources for domestic employees and should verify that traveling employees are covered under that same policy. Often insurance groups will deny services or coverage because an event took place in a foreign location. Managers should plan for a variety of care for any employee involved in a crisis while traveling.
Communicating a catastrophic event to family members, journalists and even internally can be extremely sensitive. Miscommunication to family members can mean the difference between a lawsuit and gratitude. A slight misstep while speaking to any news organization can leave a stain on an organizations reputation for years. This type of sensitive communication should be done by an expert communicator, either in HR or a public affairs office (if the organization has one).
Social media creates several issues when trying to craft a sensitive narrative to family members or the press. It is imperative that the company has a social media policy and that members agree to that policy, specifically regarding the spread of information during a crisis abroad.
Imagine an employee posting a picture of an injured colleague on Facebook, before official notification of that incident has been conducted. The company may not only be responsible for the employee’s injuries, but the trauma caused to the employees family member’s as well.
Every country around the world has unique laws pertaining to labor and organization liability. A traveler is in a unique situation because they may fall under two sets of regulations and laws, while they are in a foreign country. Should the traveler be injured or killed, both countries may require the sending organization to follow their regulations. Legal representation that specializes in local labor and immigration may be necessary while responding to a crisis abroad. Although it may not be feasible to retain an attorney full time, there are numerous legal firms around the world that specialize in international law, labor and immigration.
HR may have a larger responsibility in the resolution of a crisis than the other sections of the TRM Program. Because aftercare can go on for years, an HR policy for travel risk should be considered when developing policy and crisis response training.