Traveling overseas for business can be exciting. It is a chance for employees to experience new areas of the globe and perhaps take on another level of responsibility within the company. But traveling — or even living-abroad for work can also expose employees to risks.
Some parts of the world have been plagued by terrorism, political unrest, drug trafficking, kidnapping and street crime. A corporate risk manager should ensure that employees are well-educated about their safety. Here are some suggestions to keep your workers as safe as possible while traveling overseas.
1. Do Your Homework
Business travelers should thoroughly research the region to which they are traveling. Travel alerts, terrorism threats, crime reports and other news are available from the Department of State and the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Travelers can find passport and visa requirements for any country, gather information on sanitary conditions in a certain area and find country-specific traffic laws. (This is available at www.state.gov and www.fco.gov.uk.)
Travelers and expatriates should register online with the U.S. embassy in the country in which they will be staying. In the event of a nationwide emergency, officials will know how to locate and assist these employees as they attempt to get home. By registering, employees can also receive emergency messages from the embassy or consulate. This type of communication, often referred to as “warden messages,” offers local information and contact names in case of an emergency. A company’s overseas travelers should leave copies of passports and other travel documents at home with their employer or with a trusted colleague.
2. Be Wary of Law Enforcement
Employees should know that seeking the help of law enforcement can be very different outside of the United States. If you have a problem, do not assume that the police will immediately come to your rescue-in fact, the police may even make the situation worse. In poorer countries, where police officers earn very little money, they sometimes work in conjunction with criminals. If someone is the victim of a crime, that person should call his or her corporate travel department or travel risk management company immediately.
3. Leave Valuables at Home
It is best to leave expensive and designer goods at home. This includes valuable jewelry, handbags, luggage, briefcases and shoes. These items are easy to steal and can make a traveler a target.
Criminals may even work in teams. For instance, “markers” have been known to brush up against a potential victim and lightly tap that person’s shoulder with chalk. Once an individual is marked, another member of the crime team-maybe on a moped or motorcycle-will grab that expensive handbag or briefcase right out of the person’s hand. Travelers should carry a second wallet that has only a small amount of cash. Leave the main wallet with identification and credit cards in the hotel safe.
When in a hotel, employees should always leave the “do not disturb” sign on the door whenever housekeeping is not needed. This can deter a thief who will not want to take the chance of burglarizing an occupied room. On the same note, travelers should not put the sign on the door telling housekeeping to clean the room.
4. Stay in a Lower Floor of the Hotel
Most fire ladders do not extend higher than the sixth floor. And in less developed nations, safety ladders may not even extend that high. If this is the case, advise your employees to request a room on the second or third floor depending upon the configuration of the hotel. However, travelers should not stay in a room too close to the roof where someone can break into the room from above.
For similar reasons, travelers should avoid rooms facing busy streets or on the ground level and always leave a light on with the curtains closed. And avoid staying in hotels near government offices, embassies, landmarks or religious centers. These types of locations can all be terrorist targets.
5. Vary Your Routine
Employees-particularly those living abroad-should be aware that they may be watched by local criminals. Varying a daily routine can make you a more elusive target. For example, take different routes to work or go to work two hours late some days and come home a little early on others.