World Cup

The Goal is Safety

Crisis planning and continual communication are essential to keeping employees safe.
By: | June 16, 2014

Millions of spectators, workers, security personnel and media are either on the way or already in some of Brazil’s host cities for the 2014 World Cup.

Arguably the world’s most popular sporting event, preparing for the World Cup was no cheap feat.

Brazil spent upwards of $11 billion, mostly from state and federal budgets, on stadiums, infrastructure improvements and security. Bloomberg estimated the final tab could reach about $14.5 billion.

The sheer amount of resources devoted to this global event sparked protests by Brazilians angered by the amount of money that was spent on Cup preparations while many public services – transportation, in particular — remain substandard.

While threats of violence have largely been negligible thus far, companies doing business in Brazil during World Cup fervor should be ready for the risks involved.

“The primary threat to foreign travelers is crime, ranging from petty theft, mugging, burglary and car theft to life-threatening crimes such as kidnapping, rape and murder,” said Dominick Zenzola, vice president and employee benefit manager of Chubb Accident & Health. “Travelers should avoid all forms of demonstrations for their own personal safety.”

Companies that have workers in Brazil or know that some will be travelling there for the tournament should assess the risks and do some planning.

Prepare a Plan

“Hire professionals to analyze the risks to property and human life,” said John Rose, COO of iJET International, a provider of risk management solutions for the travel industry.

Because many crimes against travelers occur near hotels, companies should ensure that hotel security audits are performed and suitable facilities are identified before travelers arrive, according to Zenzola.

Planning should also include pinpointing emergency or medical resources such as police stations and hospitals, as well as mapping out evacuation plans.

Those plans include “knowing where your people are at all times and where they’re going,” Rose said, as well as who will be in place to help them get out if the need arises.

He added that, in order for plans to be meaningful and actionable, they must take the local context into consideration, including cultural and social differences and varying safety environments.

In Rio de Janeiro, for example, “drivers are allowed to treat stop lights as stop signs between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to protect themselves against theft at intersections,” Zenzola said. Knowing a small detail like that could mean the difference between a safe ride home and becoming a victim.

Communication and Awareness

A lack of communication, however, can render even the most detailed plan worthless.

“Clear communication between employer and employee is a crucial first step,” Zenzola said. Employers should make sure their workers know what resources are available to ensure their safety and what to do in the event of a crisis, which means educating them on the company business travel accident policy.

Business travel accident insurance generally aligns with workers’ compensation, general liability and broader kidnap and ransom policies to help ensure total protection in the event of accident or injury.

“If a company goes without insurance protection, the potential liability could result in lawsuits, high fines, and damage its brand reputation,” Zenzola said.

On the flip side, employees should communicate clearly their travel plans and keep employers informed of any itinerary changes.

Travelers should also keep in mind basic personal safety precautions, such as keeping purses and wallets secure in public, declining drinks from strangers at a bar, and only using taxis called by the hotel or a reputable dispatch service.

Zenzola also advised checking the U.S. State Department website for recent travel warnings and other travel advisory resources for country risk ratings before setting off.

Proceed with Caution

Brazil currently bears a low to moderate security risk rating overall, according to several travel services companies like International SOS and IHS Country Risk. Major tourist cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, however, are ranked as more dangerous due to increasing levels of violent street crime.

As the tournament continues through June and July, the final word remains that business travelers should have no problems navigating Brazil … as long as they stay vigilant and informed.

The key is “preparation, preparation, preparation,” Rose said. “Who’s executing your response when things go sideways?”

Katie Dwyer is a freelance editor and writer based out of Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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