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Safety and Security Mar 19, 2024

Travel Risk Management Plan: Protecting Employees Around the World

Business travel allows you to pursue opportunities worldwide, but it also brings risks. That’s where a travel risk management plan comes in. Strategize to keep your business travelers safe and connected at all times.

Travel Risk Management
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When an emergency happens onsite, your security team oversees the response and any cascading complications. But what about when your employees are far away? Business travel often puts employees at risk without familiar faces or resources nearby.

Delia Midamba, Head of Physical Security at Cloudflare, talked with us on The Employee Safety Podcast about how her organization manages travel risk and how her team prepares to protect their people away from home. “Be diligent about where your employees are going, and be proactive about what you will do if something goes wrong. You don’t want that to be the first time you’re testing the system,” she advises.

It all comes down to a reliable travel risk management plan. With the right systems in place, you’ll know exactly what might go wrong on a business trip, especially in high-risk destinations, and be able to reliably reach your far-off team members to guide them to safety. This article will break down what travel risk mitigation and prevention are so you can develop a plan to protect your travelers, no matter where in the world they are.

What Is a Travel Risk Management Plan?

A travel risk management plan is the surest way to safeguard employee travel and ensure business continuity in the face of distant, often unfamiliar threats. First, you need to anticipate and then plan to prevent or react to threats business travelers might encounter. These threats include dangerous weather, social unrest, terrorism, natural disasters, public health risks, etc.

Travel risk management involves identifying and preparing for all the risks that come along the way. You have two main objectives: decrease the chance of a threat materializing, if possible, and have a plan in place if it does. These objectives align with all-hazards planning and your organization’s duty of care obligations.

Both proactive and reactive measures can set you up for effective, up-to-date business travel preparedness over the long term.

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Protect your traveling employees from anywhere with AlertMedia Travel Risk Management

What is your duty of care to business travelers?

It’s widely established that employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for employees whether they’re in the office, a worksite, or any other usual workplace for your company. And 90% of workers surveyed in our Employee Safety Report agree. However, only 41% of that same group are aware that this responsibility extends to traveling workers.

OSHA maintains that employees traveling as a part of their employment are entitled to the same protections under the General Duty Clause as any other employee. Even though a large portion of your workforce might be unaware of the protection afforded to them, you have a moral and legal obligation to protect your traveling workforce.

How can the ISO 31030 standard support your travel risk planning?

An employer’s duty of care to traveling employees is well-recognized, but there hasn’t been a unified framework to guide companies in doing so. That is, until recently, when the International Organization for Standards released standard number 31030, a document that provides recommendations for every step of travel.

ISO 31030 contains detailed yet flexible travel safety requirements for any business. It guides organizations to examine their operations from the ground up, establishing their own threat assessment process and integrating travel risk solutions.

Steps in a Travel Risk Management Plan

Traveling comes with inherent risks, but there are ways to avoid and mitigate their worst effects. These mitigation strategies are generally divided into two types: proactive measures, which aim to protect travelers by detecting and circumventing challenges, and reactive measures, which are used when an unexpected complication rears its head. Here’s what they are and how to use them.

Proactive steps to reduce travel risk

The first half of your travel risk management plan accounts for the proactive steps you can take. Essentially, these are the steps you can take today—before any threat emerges—that will mitigate the risks of business travel.

Travel risk assessment

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It starts with a travel-focused business threat assessment. This will help you identify which threats you need to prepare for. As part of your business threat assessment, quantify every threat in terms of its impact and likelihood. These quantifications will inform your travel risk management program.

For high-impact threats, focus on preventative steps you can take. High-impact travel risk examples include flight crashes, contracting dangerous diseases, massive cybersecurity breaches, and being detained while traveling. Although you need to have an emergency response plan in place if one of these threats does impact your business, your focus should be on planning with the foresight to avoid them entirely.

It’s the opposite for high-likelihood threats: Focus on preparing for them. Severe weather, delayed flights, and jet lag—with business travel, these things just come with the territory. While there is little you can do to prevent these kinds of risks, the focus is on preparing to mitigate harm or inconvenience.

Here are the key steps you can take for the biggest threats involved in business travel.

Preventative steps: Informed business travel planning

It goes without saying that the highest-impact business travel threats are those that put your employees’ physical safety at risk. Unfortunately, traveling is riskier than we might care to admit: On average, over 800 Americans die each year while traveling abroad, and that doesn’t include those traveling domestically.

For these types of potential risks, it’s best to address them ahead of any travel. There are several ways to accomplish this.

The best preventative step for dangerous diseases is to vaccinate well before the travel date. Go to the CDC’s travel website and enter the country your employee is traveling to—it will tell you which diseases are the biggest threats and which vaccines are required.

Sometimes, the best option is to avoid certain areas entirely. Take advantage of hyper-specific safety ratings from services like a threat intelligence system—which provides safety and risk ratings neighborhood-by-neighborhood worldwide. The second-leading cause of death for Americans abroad is homicide. Avoiding high-crime areas entirely is the safest option for your travel risk management policy.

Your company should consider a categorical decision not to travel to certain countries. Harvard’s travel risk ratings are a good resource for making these decisions.

They categorize countries into three groups:

High risk: “High-risk countries and regions are characterized by war zones, widespread militancy, asymmetric warfare, violent separatist movements or civil war, major epidemic zones, areas of pervasive violent criminal activity regularly impacting or targeting foreigners, or places without functioning government services—including emergency services—and with little or no rule of law.”

Elevated risk: “Countries and regions deemed elevated risk are distinguished by low-level conflict—including frequent terrorist attacks, high internal tensions (tribal or political), violence that often impacts civilians and other noncombatants, violence that may be state-sponsored, a rule of law that is ineffective with weak emergency services, and/or an appreciable risk of violent crime perpetrated on foreigners. Countries may be placed on this list during periods of uncertainty or volatility.”

Watch list: “Watch list countries or regions are facing trends or upcoming events that are likely to result in heightened risk in the near future.”

Countries not listed have no substantial current risk factors.

Preparative steps: Travel risk mitigation

Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather, and flight delays are about as sure a thing as death and taxes. For high-likelihood threats that are impossible to prevent and don’t pose a significant danger to your traveling employees, the key is to minimize the impact by adequately preparing pre-trip.

The first step to prepare for severe weather is to check the forecast. Once the plane reaches your destination, it’s too late to determine that a cold front is coming through. You can pack appropriately if you check the forecast as the trip approaches. (Check out our article dedicated to cold weather safety tips.) Also, ensure your employees are equipped with the appropriate location-based weather alerts.

If your company is large and business travel is frequent, manual investigation and preparation for every trip are likely too resource-heavy. Consider a business travel app or threat monitoring system that will automatically warn you when severe weather (or some other threat) emerges that could impact your business travelers.

For flight delays or other similar travel disruptions, the key is maintaining productivity through these disturbances. For any in-person meetings scheduled for the day of travel, make sure you also have a backup plan: Either a video or phone conference is likely the best alternative.

Also, ensure global travelers are prepared to work in the airport for some time if necessary. Even if they don’t plan on working on the plane, their laptop should never be in their checked bag. (This also reduces the chances of it getting lost in a misplaced baggage situation.) Portable chargers, noise-canceling headphones, and mobile hotspots are also good to bring along.

Even if you avoid sending employees to the highest-risk destinations, your travelers may face safety risks in unfamiliar places. With situational awareness training, you can prepare them to recognize warning signs and navigate to safety. They should be ready for quick and informed decision-making, no matter where they’re headed.

Monitor and Respond to Threats Near Your Travelers

Travel briefs

No matter the travel destination, you can prepare your employees with cultural and logistical tips, local emergency contacts, and possible threats in the area. Employees unaware of national or regional happenings might arrive at their destination unprepared and more susceptible to danger—or more prone to culture shock and confusion. It helps to understand tipping practices, information security risks, and unique dangers women and LGBTQ+ people face.

“Providing the employee with that information—that’s the most important part, right? How are you going to give them that information so they can make informed decisions?” —Delia Midamba

Travel briefs are compact documents that act as a sort of “cheat sheet” for your travelers. Usually developed by travel security analysts, they include risk levels and general “good-to-know” information for travelers, such as hospital locations in case of a medical emergency. They usually include reports on potential and active threats near their planned locations, such as political instability, civil unrest, inclement weather, and public health risks. Some travel briefs, such as those from AlertMedia, even update over time so your people always have the latest information.

Reactive steps for ongoing travel risk management

The other half of travel risk management involves the reactive crisis management plan in case your travelers find themselves in a risky situation. The word “reactive” can have a negative connotation where business continuity is concerned—don’t let it.

The reality is that you need to be both proactive and reactive. All the preparation in the world isn’t worth anything if you aren’t ready to quickly and effectively react to a threat when one emerges.

Here are a few of the key ingredients to an effectively reactive travel risk management plan:

Multichannel communication

Once you are aware of a threat, communicate with the affected employee(s) immediately. For many threats, it’s critical to get the information to your people as quickly as possible.

Multichannel communication capabilities are one of your best travel risk management solutions in this case. An email will likely not get there quickly enough. SMS is much more effective if you want to deliver your message ASAP.

Surveys

It’s also important to have two-way communication capabilities. This goes for any messages you send—your employees should always be able to respond.

One very effective form of two-way communication is surveying. Surveys allow you to quickly conduct wellness checks in the event of a threat.

For example, imagine you hear news of an active shooter event near a hotel where a few of your employees are staying. In less than a minute, you can send out a wellness check to that group, surveying if each of them is safe or needs emergency assistance.

Threat intelligence

The hardest part about protecting employees in another corner of the globe is the lack of visibility. It’s nearly impossible to stay aware of the hazards facing your traveling employees when you’re somewhere else. That’s where threat intelligence (or risk intelligence) systems come in. These services source (and in AlertMedia’s case, verify) information on emerging dangers from around the globe. You can then easily see which ones have the potential to harm your people, and when paired with an integrated multichannel communication system, can even send those alerts directly to the affected travelers.

Geofencing capabilities

Many risks apply to everyone in a certain geographic area. For example, let’s say that a “polar vortex” is approaching the Northeast United States. You must quickly communicate with everyone in that geographic area to alert them to the threat.

Company-wide messages that don’t affect the whole company can cause message fatigue over time. So, you need a way to dynamically group recipients without wasting valuable time.

The solution is using an emergency communication system with geofencing capabilities. This allows you to set a region on a map and communicate with everyone in that region using GPS data from your employees’ smartphones. When combined with GPS traveler tracking, this enables targeted communication with the precise audience at risk for geography-specific threats.

How Software Can Bridge the Gap Between Steps

Up to this point, we’ve discussed the elements of an effective plan to manage travel risk. All of these measures are necessary to minimize harm to employees and operations.

But you also need a way to bridge the gaps between proactive, reactive, preventative, and preparative steps. You need a proactive way to identify threats immediately once they emerge so you can react immediately and increase operational resilience.

The answer to this problem is a system that integrates communications, threat intelligence, and travel safety and security information. With one platform, you have every tool you need to keep track of all your travelers and the problems they might face, as well as an easy way to communicate with them. You no longer need to use different tools to prepare, facilitate, and communicate about travel safety.

If you want to implement a platform that gives you control to monitor threats impacting your travelers and keep them informed and connected throughout their trips, check out AlertMedia Travel Risk Management.

Travel Risk Management

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