Businesses have a duty of responsibility to safeguard employees both domestically and abroad from terrorism.

Around the world, political risk is increasing daily. There has been a geographic shift of hot spots that weren’t previously areas of conflict. This means more people will be impacted on a global scale – directly at the scene of an attack, and indirectly, through city-wide lockdowns and interruptions to regular business operations.

Such a shift in global risk is especially worrisome for middle market businesses expanding internationally to increase competitiveness and operational efficiencies.    

“The business traveler from the U.S. doesn’t have the same kind of radar for potential danger that’s naturally developed in those from other countries and cultures,” said Hart Brown, CORP, CBCP, LPQ, vice president, practice leader, organizational resilience, HUB International. “They land and take the first taxi they see and go around to see the sights. But you’re not in Kansas anymore. You have to think differently and dress differently when you’re abroad.”

Brown says this includes leaving a Rolex watch at home and wearing a Timex instead, as well as staying away from any sort of political discussion with locals about the U.S. or the host country. Interestingly, though, Brown reports that young, single, career-oriented females tend to fare better overseas than their male counterparts as they often have more of a built-in radar. As the geopolitical climate worldwide continues to evolve, companies will need to understand the present risks and take appropriate precautions when sending employees overseas.

“The world isn’t becoming kinder or gentler,” said Joseph Carrera-Casiano, senior consultant, NYA International Limited, global risk and crisis management consultants headquartered in London. “As a result, the duty of care is on the part of the employer - the corporations, organizations and agencies that employ workers sent overseas. They need to step up more than ever to make sure their employees are properly prepared, trained and safe to go overseas.” 

An employer’s duty of care

There are four key focus areas companies must consider before sending their employees overseas.  

1. Have a Travel Management Plan. C-suite executives should be asking themselves: “What am I doing to take responsibility for the whereabouts of my employees?” If they are going to high-risk countries, are they receiving a security briefing before they leave? Do they know that in many parts of the world, there is a risk involved simply in getting into a cab and going to their hotel? Companies should impart the following five key principles in their security awareness training: 

  • Have situational awareness – Know the circumstances of your location. Understand the unique risks there and how to stay safe.
  • Don’t have a predictable routine – When you are in one location for more than a few days, make sure to vary your routine. Leave at a different time each day or take a different route.
  • Maintain a low profile – Don’t call attention to yourself by wearing logoed American clothing or expensive jewelry. Instead, before leaving, consider packing items that will help you blend in.  
  • Have a communications plan for the stay abroad – Is there a designated person or phone number that the employee is checking in with throughout their stay, each morning before heading out and each night after they have returned to the hotel from the day’s work?
  • Incorporate different levels of security in your day-to-day activities – When the employee checks into their hotel, are they using the swing lock, dead bolt and a rubber door stop? According to Carrera-Casiano, even the $1 doorstop can be the extra barrier needed to prevent a potential attack.

2. Develop an evacuation protocol. Discuss and develop a real evacuation plan for employees in each location. Create criteria around the types of activities that will warrant either them or their family members being sent back to America. Having this discussion before they travel abroad and as new risks emerge is critical to making sure everyone knows what to do.    

3. Personal safety and security training. Carrera-Casiano considers this more important than ever today. Knowing how to conduct yourself in the event that you do become victim of a criminal attack, or are caught up in a terrorist incident, is critical.

4. Raise employee awareness when it comes to workplace violence back in the home office. Current events have shown us that even those businesses that don’t send employees abroad need to actively protect them in the office. Fellow employees are the most likely to see pre-incidence indicators. They will know if someone has regular bursts of violence or talks aggressively. But, according to Carrera-Casiano, co-workers often feel they can’t or shouldn’t report this type of behavior. “In the middle market, is enough being done to give employees a mechanism to report someone in a timely manner to prevent workplace violence?” asks Carrera-Casiano.

Putting the right coverage in place

As the complexity of terrorist events increase and hot spots for risk continue to shift, evacuation coverage is surpassing the traditionally popular kidnapping/extortion coverage for employers who do business abroad. Unfortunately, both are now critical to protecting workers everywhere. 

Ed Rivas, Regional Manager, Kidnap & Ransom, Financial Lines, AIG, points to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Western Africa as a case in point. When quarantines and barricades were employed and local military guards were stationed to keep the peace, the situation threatened a local breakdown in civil authority.

“The outbreak could have easily escalated to a point of uncontrollable civil unrest that would have made the evacuation of Americans stationed there impossible. Therefore, evacuation coverage was utilized to bring many home from Western Africa,” said Rivas. “Companies should be planning for this. Security evacuation and pandemic disease can now be added as a rider to the traditional kidnap, ransom and extortion coverage.”

Contact your HUB risk services representative to learn how your business can better protect its employees both domestically and abroad.