By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
VANCOUVER---For Americans in foreign lands, the giveaways of their status are often about as subtle as they are in poor taste: short shorts, plunging necklines, loud T-shirts, huge fold-out maps, cameras hanging from the neck.
For business executives, the clues are more subtle: A gold or platinum-colored card on a briefcase hinting at the traveler's status, multiple smart phones strapped to a leather belt, a Swiss watch perhaps glinting from under the monogrammed shirt cuffs.
In either case, these are the signals begging would-be villains to pounce--and they do.
There were an estimated 7,500 thefts from hotel rooms alone last year, according to U.S. State Department and Expedia statistics. Garry Vardon-Smith, senior security advisor for the Americas with Red 24, a global security firm, further notes that an estimated 300,000 passports are lost in the United Kingdom every year.
How to prevent becoming a target? Blend in, for one, like the U.S. Special Forces, who are often undistinguishable from local fighters.
Robert Osha, director of risk management for Boart Longyear, a global drilling services company for the mining industry, said that employees working in Mexico don't shave, wear coveralls and keep their Blackberrys at home.
Some of Boart Longyear's 10,000 employees around the world work in the harshest conditions on Earth: in dense jungles and arid deserts, at high altitude where oxygen levels are thin, and in subzero temperatures where skin freezes in minutes when exposed to air. Mines, he joked, aren't usually located in vacation resorts.
A TRAVEL STRATEGY
Because corporate travel programs should be approached as an "iterative" process, Osha said, it is important for companies to institute a travel strategy that is at once "flexible and realistic."
The strategy should, among other things, include 24-hour-a-day hotline assistance services, establish procedures for handling incidents, and delineate clear communication channels within the corporation.
Vardon-Smith said it is advisable for companies to have a strategy to approach travel risk because 86 percent of corporate travelers believe their firm has a legal obligation to support them when traveling abroad. More than 50 percent of employees would consider taking legal action against their employer in the event of a mishandled emergency.
It helps for companies to review the medical qualifications of their employees to make sure they can do the job, added Osha. A 450-pound forklift driver has no business operating heavy machinery, for instance. In one incident, a driver fell off the forklift and needed medical care.
Costs for the injury were picked up by Boart Longyear's travel policy. Still, Osha said about the driver, "he should never have been there."
Forgotten details also have a way of complicating situations, said Dr. William Spangler, worldwide medical director for Travel Guard, which provides emergency medical services around the world.
In Japan, local "first responders" are available by calling 119, not 911 as in the United States, he said.
Another tip: Always bring a 17-day supply of medication if you're traveling for 15 days. Don't forget that airports in many parts of Africa and the Caribbean close at dusk, which means you can't land a plane until the next morning.
In short, plan and prepare, but be open to itinerary changes. There's no excuse for risk managers who don't do their homework.
"The time to learn the two-step is before the dance," said Vardon-Smith, who spoke at the annual meeting of the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc. (RIMS) in Vancouver, along with the other experts cited above.
May 9, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications