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10 questions a BCM should ask about staff travelling abroad

One of the news stories that caught my eye this week was the kidnapping in Yemen. According to witnesses, the victim was about to step into his car in the capital Sana’a, when he was hit with the butt of a gun and dragged into a waiting vehicle.

The incident happened just hours after three large explosions rocked the troubled city. It has not yet been established who is responsible for the blasts but the country is plagued by internal conflict.

The capture of the British national was the second case of abduction of Western expats in four days. Last week, tribesmen captured a 60-year old German in Sana’a and said they took the foreigner as a way of pressuring the government into releasing detained tribesmen.

Strangely enough, I am just about to help a client plan an exercise involving the loss of one of their staff while travelling abroad on company business, and the trouble in Yemen certainly gave me a lot of food for thought.

Although you may not be responsible for overseas travel in your organisation, you should still ensure that it is being managed properly within your organisation.

There are 10 questions a business continuity manager should be asking concerning staff travel abroad:

1.  Do you know at all times where staff members are when they are on the road? Are detailed itineraries left at their place of work detailing flights, train travel, hired cars, hotels and transfers? If a disaster occurs can you quickly establish the whereabouts of all your staff?

2. What medical advice do staff get before they travel and who advises on which prophylactics and injections to have before they leave?

3. Who signs off the travel plans and locations before staff are allowed to leave?

4. Are staff briefed on what to do if they get into trouble with the police, have a medical emergency or if their lives are in danger? Is there a 24 hour helpline available? Are they briefed on how to avoid incidents abroad?

5. Do you have a strategic or crisis team containing designated people who respond to an incident abroad? Do they have training in handling incidents such as medical evacuations, kidnap, arrest or natural disaster? Do they have the skills and experience to handle these incidents? Or do they have other experts they can call upon?

6. Have the team exercised their plans?

7. Does the plan go through how they would deal with the relatives and loved ones of a staff member who may be in jail, injured or have died abroad?

8. What insurances are in place to cover overseas events? Does your organisation’s insurance cover all likely events? Who has knowledge of the insurance so it can be used at short notice?

9. Have the interested parties likely to be involved in an overseas incident been identified and, as appropriate, relationships built before an incident? This could include the local police, the police in the country you operate in, your diplomatic service, insurers and local staff.

10. Have you thought through how you would handle the media in an incident? There could be local, national and international media involved.

Most trips abroad pass without incident but as business continuity people we know that an incident could occur in a low travel risk country as well a high-risk country. If you don’t have sufficient briefing of your staff before they go or appropriate systems in place for responding to an incident when it occurs, then you may be failing in your duty of care to your employees. This is another area where the business continuity manager can add value to their organisation and make sure that all risks are being mitigated.

About Charlie Maclean-Bristol

Charlie Maclean-Bristol is one of the Founders and Directors of PlanB Consulting. He is also the Training Director of Business Continuity Training Ltd., a UK-based training provider accredited by the Business Continuity Institute. Charlie is a former Business Continuity Institute board member and one of the very few Fellows of both the Emergency Planning Society and the Business Continuity Institute.

A former Infantry Captain in the British Army, Charlie held several emergency planning, business continuity and crisis management positions within the energy and utility industry before founding PlanB Consulting in 2007. Over the past twelve years, Charlie has delivered business continuity consultancy in 6 of the worlds 7 continents, frequently providing full business continuity roll-outs to organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.

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