by Loren G. Edelstein | July 17, 2017
"Does anyone here think the world today is a kinder, gentler place than it was 20 years ago?" That was the rhetorical question posed by Daniel Richards, CEO and founder of Global Rescue, during a morning education session at the Global Business Travel Association's annual convention in Boston. "There are three major themes that are causes of crises on a regional or global scale: natural disasters, terrorist attacks and disease outbreaks," he said.
 
The panelists agreed that preparedness is the key element to handling such events. In terms of civil unrest, "Few of these situations start like a bolt out of the blue," said Scott Hume, director, security and intelligence services, for Global Rescue. "On the service-provider side, I try to get an assessment of the situation. What's the status of your folks? Are they safe right now, or do we need to get them to safety first? Who's making the decisions? And do they know they are making the decisions? How much time do they have?"
 
Such scenarios should not come as a complete surprise, noted Keith Young, a senior security consultant and former assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service. "You should be monitoring a volatile situation. More importantly, you should have an infrastructure in place so that if you need to, you can activate the triggers. You should know exactly what the next course of action is."
 
The risk of disease also has heightened with the ease and prevalence of travel, Richards pointed out. "The good thing is you can be almost anywhere in the world within 24 hours. The bad thing is so can someone who has an infectious disease."
 
An organization's duty of care includes the responsibility to inform travelers of potential threats, said Richards. But how do you answer the question, "Is it safe to go there?" Hume's response: "I try not to answer the question. I try to give the client information to allow them to answer the question. Especially for our adventure travelers who want to go well off the beaten path, I'll ask, 'What's your experience? Who are you going with? Do you have outfitters or guides? Are you willing to accept the risk that it might take some time for someone to get to you if you need help?' We try to get them to answer the question of safety."
 
A common challenge for security experts is convincing upper management to invest in travel-risk-management programs. "I had that conversation with a CEO many years ago," recalled Young. "He said that in 83 years in business he had not had that problem. I said, 'You've had fire insurance for 83 years and you've never had a fire.' Six years later we had a situation that came up. I was reaching out to various vendors and providers to see if anyone could help. By not having a plan in place, we had all those questions to deal with. Who has spending authority? How do we put plan in place? What are the limitations? The second time a crisis came up, we had a plan in place, and we had to make one phone call."
 
The decision to evacuate can be a difficult one, added Hume. "What I see frequently is that the client has good plans, and good data. But when the moment comes to make a decision, they get cold feet. If you've got a good plan, and you know what the right decision is, you've got to trust yourself to make the call."
 
Key takeaways from the session:
1. Any plan is better than no plan.
2. Make sure your travelers are aware of the environment/risks.
3. All personnel should be exposed to some level of travel-risk and crisis-management training.
4. Have communication resources and decision-makers in place, in advance.
5. Ensure timely deployment of critical resources to the site of a crisis.
 
More than 70 educational sessions will take place during the course of the event, which concludes on Wednesday afternoon at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. For details visit convention.gbta.org.