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Managing Security Risks

Monday, April 2, 2012
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The Arab spring, nuclear disaster in Japan and the worldwide financial crisis -- combined with other political and security issues -- made last year an "extremely turbulent" one for business travelers, expatriates and their organizations

That's according to Iain Donald, vice president and director of Global Risks Analysis for the Americas at Control Risks in the New York area.

During a recent webinar, "Global Political and Travel Security Risks 2012: Looking Ahead," he said organizations need to take a fresh look at their security and travel policies and procedures in light of past and future global risks, which are becoming "more complex and interconnected."

Such risks require HR leaders to both increase area-specific awareness of security issues for their expatriates and business travelers, and create effective training, policies and procedures to ensure their safety, according to the experts at Control Risks and International SOS.

A Global Benchmarking Study, of 628 companies in 50 countries, by London-based International SOS -- which operates Travel Security Services, a joint venture with Control Risks -- pinpointed the top 10 countries perceived as high risk, said Pablo Weisz, regional security manager at Travel Security Services.

They were, in order: Mexico (due to drug-war homicides); Nigeria (kidnappings for ransom); Afghanistan (terrorism); India (medical and safety issues, especially traffic accidents); Pakistan (terrorism); Iraq (sectarian violence); Papua New Guinea (sub-par access to medical care); China (industrial espionage); Democratic Republic of the Congo (lack of access to medical care and an unstable environment in the eastern part of country); and Indonesia (terrorism).

The No. 1 placement of Mexico on that list, said Weisz, is probably a reflection of "the CNN effect" -- when media outlets "over-report" incidents in one country versus another -- and is not a reflection of its security risks vis-a-vis other countries in Latin and Central America.

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That's not to say that Mexico's security situation has not worsened over time, he said.

In creating appropriate "duty of care" policies and procedures, Weisz said, it's important to increase awareness for both expatriates and the managers "responsible for those employees" of security risks in as much specificity as possible -- including pinpointing higher-risk and lower-risk city areas, if possible. "That's really going to help those on the ground feel that you are actually caring for their well-being because you have that level of detail," he said.

Other best practices are to include all stakeholders in creating crisis-management plans that set out "who is responsible if things would go wrong, so you can quickly activate [the plan] in a crisis situation," he said.

HR leaders need to be "communicating, educating and training those people before they travel so they know how to react -- so that, if they are faced by a criminal on the street and they are at gunpoint, [they know] how to react without challenging the sense of control that the criminal might have," he said.

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