Protecting Your Workforce Abroad. Why the End of COVID Restrictions Is a Great Time to Review Your Travel Safety Policies

In a RIMS conference session, two experts break down the importance of crisis management plans for kidnapping, ransom and extortion.
By: | March 19, 2021

If an executive were kidnapped abroad, how would your company respond? If a traveling executive couldn’t leave a war-torn country, how would you handle evacuation?

They may sound like scenes from the movies, but these scenarios are all too real. With COVID-19 travel restrictions likely to ease as vaccinations become widespread, international business travel is poised for a comeback.

That means it’s a good time for a refresher on global travel risks and keeping business travelers safe abroad.

In a virtual session at this year’s RIMS Live 2021 in April, Denise Balan and Emil de Carvalho will explain practical ways to keep executives secure.

Balan is the senior vice president and head of U.S. security risks at AXA XL, where she leads a group of underwriters focusing on kidnap, ransom, and extortion insurance for companies and private individuals. de Carvalho is the executive director for global risk and intelligence consultancy S-RM, which helps businesses and individuals deal with security threats.

Their session, “Travel Crisis Averted: Helpful Tips to Keep Your Colleagues’ Travels Safe and Secure” will be available as part of the conference’s on-demand programming.

Prevention, Preparation, Response

Organizations and individuals should come away from the session looking at travel risks through the lens of prevention, preparation, and response.

Emil de Carvalho, executive director, S-RM

de Carvalho shared a number of hypothetical situations that could go wrong:

Perhaps a colleague is traveling to a country in West Africa and has not checked into their hotel or not been seen for the past day or two.

Perhaps your executive is being detained by police in a country in the Middle East, claiming they were taking pictures of a military installation.

Or maybe your colleague is stuck in a country that has suddenly changed COVID rules, forcing them to quarantine in a government facility for two weeks.

“Who do you deal with? How do you help that person?” said de Carvalho. “Not all of these situations are covered by insurance policies, but they are issues that organizations need to be prepared for.”

Utilize the Tools You Already Have

Denise Balan, senior vice president, head of U.S. security risks, AXA XL

Balan hopes the RIMS session encourages business leaders to take advantage of tools they probably already have — like travel insurance policies that provide access to experts like S-RM.

That means companies can create extensive crisis management plans and research the political, security and health situations in specific locations.

“Security providers can assist in creating a crisis management plan so when that call comes in at 2 am, the HR officer knows what they’re supposed to do,” said Balan.

“Businesses might forget they have this coverage, but there is a lot of service that comes with the policy — and preparation is your best defense.”

Businesses also need to look at individual travelers to assess any increased vulnerabilities.

“Look at an individual’s profile and whether that increases or decreases your risk,” she said. “There are areas where the climate is different for female travelers, LGBTQ travelers or different people depending on their religion.”

No matter where an executive is sent, guidelines are universal.

“Being respectful goes a long way no matter where you are,” said de Carvalho. “There are also basic recommendations about situational awareness. Understand where you are going and what normal looks like in that location.” &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].

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