Please note – the views in the following feature are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Safe Travels Magazine. Before travel, we recommend that you always do your own research, read travel advisories and buy appropriate travel insurance.
Stuart Birch

Stuart Birch
Director, Griffin Birch

Twitter: @Griffin_Birch


Griffin Birch focusses on Employee Safety Overseas. We help companies assess and manage the medical, security and consular risks associated with business travel and assignments. This allows companies to better prepare and protect their people, and to protect their own legal, operational, and reputational risks. We partner with the world’s best assistance companies, both big and niche, to deliver strategic assessment and planning for your risk management and global mobility programs.

The terror threat should prompt you to prepare, not to give up

Terrorism on the rise

Recent statistics shown by Allianz at the UK AIRMIC 2016 conference show that the global terror threat is increasing, and that the targets for terror attacks are moving from property to people. The last point is of great significance for two reasons.

Firstly, different people require different methods of preparation. People are individuals, and as such need to be engaged and motivated, and also checked as to whether they are following good practice. Any pre-travel awareness training must be provided in conjunction with the individual: they must see the need for it, otherwise it is largely meaningless. To get people ready for anything whilst they are travelling, the only option is to give them the tools and training to make them generally more resilient, as no one can predict the unexpected.

Secondly, the business travel world is used to mitigating their terror attack risk through insurances. Or should I say – the business travel world use insurance to pay any large sums of money to mop up the mess after it has happened. This strategy is only partially useful, as it does not address any preventative training or personalised interaction for the travellers themselves. Would you feel safe travelling to Sierra Leone, or to Brazil, or to the Philippines, just because you had Travel Insurance in place? Insurances are good, and I believe a pre-requisite for travel, but they are restricted in what they will give you, and it is best to understand this and see the gaps.

So the world is changing, and the threat from terrorism is increasing. What do you do about it? Will you simply not go to certain places? And if so, how will you choose where is off-limits for travel? Where is safe anymore? How many terror attacks took place in Dubai within 2015, for example? And how many in Paris?

Do not give up – prepare

I do not think it is logical or practical to simply not travel anywhere, or to vastly reduce the list of countries to which you will travel. It has been proven many times that a terror attack can happen anywhere, in any country, so that strategy is not going to totally remove the risk. No one can predict an attack, but we can train ourselves to react better in such an event, and we can supply ourselves with up-to-date information and even tracking services to give us the best chance of getting through unscathed.

I believe one of the best services available is called Global Assistance, which will give you instant telephone access to a crisis manager who will talk you through what to do in your situation. In extreme cases they will get people on-the-ground to come to you for added protection and crisis management. There are many Global Assistance providers from which to choose, and Griffin Birch can talk you through what is best for you and your organisation.

Consider the Tunisia terror attack of 26th June 2015: if you were in your hotel by the beach and heard gunfire, and upon looking out the window saw a terrorist group moving towards the hotel, firing their weapons, what would be your plan? Most of us would muddle through as best we could, and it is unlikely that our decisions would be based on good practice or experience. Now imagine you got on the phone to your crisis management service and they talked you through the episode. You might hear “stay where you are, charge your phone and give us an alternative landline number. Close the curtains and step away from the windows, lock the door and don’t open it until we say so. Pack a bag now in case you need to move quickly, turn on the TV for the latest news on the attackers”, and so on. You would feel more in control hearing that kind of decisive assistance, yet how many of us use such a service?

Information sources

The sources of information that we use are also important. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), for example, has no legal obligation to provide consular services to UK citizens abroad, and indeed lacks the resources to do so. The FCO travel information is updated infrequently, and usually only after a significant event (check the FCO reaction to the Tunisia attack to see for yourself), yet most people treat their website as gospel. Other countries’ diplomatic structures face similar challenges. This is easily overcome with the use of an alert or notification service, which gives you real-time intelligence about the security situation at your destination, down to a street-by-street level if necessary.

Keep it in perspective

You should also understand that the threat of terrorism, whilst very real, is not as great in most parts of the world as risks such as malaria, dysentery from contaminated water or food supplies, petty crime, and road traffic accidents. Such risks have always been there, and nowadays you have so many options to prepare yourselves for travel, and to enjoy the experiences you’ll gain from it, so don’t let this article stop you! Awareness leads to preparedness, which leads to better outcomes in times of difficulty.

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