With the launch of Stratfor Worldview Enterprise, business leaders from a variety of backgrounds share their opinions on geopolitical risks and business strategies.
In this blog post, the second in a series, Thomas Pecora stresses the need for being aware ahead of any business travel by knowing what emergency, safety and communications systems are in place. He is director of Pecora Consulting Services, which provides consulting services in security vulnerability and threat assessments in Asia and the United States, as well as personal safety and crime prevention and avoidance, and travel security skills training. Pecora is also author of the memoir, Guardian: Life in the Crosshairs of the CIA's War on Terror, and served 24 years as a CIA senior security manager. He managed large complex security programs and operations in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East and in war zones.
The first step to a safe journey, whether it is across town or across the world, begins with knowledge. Business travelers need information to make good decisions and to take specific actions that will increase their chances for a safe and productive trip, especially if their destination is overseas. Conducting some pre-trip research and preparation will dramatically improve your ability to deal with an emergency and will significantly increase your personal safety and give you peace of mind.
As part of pre-trip planning, conduct a preliminary threat assessment of the destination using credible open source resources such as the U.S. Department of State, OSAC, or private sector companies that specialize in this, such as Stratfor. These sites provide current travel advisories covering important topics such as natural disasters, crime, terrorism, and health related threats. Your employer should have established clear thresholds on the level of acceptable risk based on objective data such as U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories or other government advisories.
Prior to departure, create a Point of Contact (POC) list of the people you are meeting, places you are going, and transportation that you will use. This should include full names, positions, addresses, telephone numbers (work, home, cellular), and office addresses. Also carry the address and telephone contact information for any Embassy or Consulate in your vicinity. This is critical information to have in an emergency and a copy of this information, along with your detailed travel itinerary, should be provided to your employer. If your flight arrangements change or you have a problem along the way, contact your POC so they can assist you and don't forget to update your employer.
Regularly check in with your employer via telephone, text, or email and if you intend to make any variations on your trip itinerary, communicate this to them. Many employers insist on travelers sending in short daily activity reports which document the traveler's location, activities, and future plans. This will prove essential in an emergency especially if a traveler goes missing.
Prior to departure, research your communications plan — how you will communicate with people within the country you are traveling to as well as back to your employer. Many U.S. cellphone companies offer "International Plans" allowing you to make and receive telephone calls, texts, and use data to access the internet using your existing cellular telephone. They are not cheap. But this method does allow you to maintain almost seamless communications with your regular network using the data and apps that you rely on within your own cellphone.
A cheaper alternative — if you have an unlocked cellphone — is to buy a local SIM card instead of using your U.S.-based SIM card. Local SIM cards can provide you with inexpensive local calls and texts and often have excellent overseas call rates. They will also allow you to keep in touch with your employer as well as any local contacts.
Note: In a major emergency, any cellular telephone, landline system and internet may fail. Plan around technology and factor these situations into your emergency actions. Go "old school" and plan to meet at specific locations at specific times and have alternate/backup sites.
One of your best resources in any country is your home country embassy or consulate. Victims of a crime overseas should contact their nearest embassy, consulate, or consular agency. The U.S. Department of State can help replace a stolen passport, contact your employer or family, obtain appropriate medical care, explain the local criminal justice process, and connect victims of crime with available resources. However, they do not have the legal authority to conduct a criminal investigation or prosecution.
As the saying goes, "An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure!" Doing your homework and incorporating some common-sense actions into your trip planning can make a huge difference in how enjoyable and productive it is.
Join the largest community of risk professionals and learn more about our scalable approach to mitigating risk and threats.