Travel Risk expert Damian Taylor on how the Medical & Security Assistance business is evolving

Damian Taylor, Managing Director TEN Risk Management   •   Aug, 2018

The risk landscape and threats have changed significantly in the past couple of years.   The attacks in countries and cities widely perceived to be “Low” risk – Paris, the UK, US, Tunisia, France, Turkey, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Germany, in addition to natural disasters – earthquakes, severe weather and wild fires – have led to an increased expectation from employees that their companies will fulfil their Duty of Care responsibilities toward them, and will look after them when things go wrong whilst on company business – either in their home country offices or whilst travelling on business. 

Previously, the focus has been understandably on business travelers, but events since 2015 have shifted this to encompass a Duty of Care to all employees – local, expatriate and business travelers.  In the event of a critical incident, the first question Security Directors ask themselves (and are asked by their business leaders) is “Have we been impacted and if so, what are we doing about it?” This has led to businesses looking for commercially available technical solutions to account for staff in real time near an event, identify whether they have been impacted, and if so a means to communicate directly with them in order that the business can respond and support them, either in house or through Third Party medical and assistance providers.

 Interestingly with regards Data Privacy there is now more of an understanding and acceptance among employees that their companies would be acting in their best interests by conducting targeted searches to geo-locate them in real time, in the event of a critical incident, so the data privacy argument is now less of a contentious issue.

Technical application-based solutions for “all staff” geo-locate are developing apace with Medical and Security Assistance Providers either upgrading existing capabilities in-house, or through partnering with specialist technical providers.  Additionally, small, niche, technical providers are appearing on the scene or becoming more prominent.  There are some excellent, cost effective solutions now available which can enhance organisations ability to be alerted to a critical incident, locate staff close to it and the means to communicate directly with impacted staff in a worst-case scenario.  Conversely, as is the case in most incidents, the solutions provide peace of mind and reassurance that they haven’t been impacted.

I am seeing a lot of the larger companies, especially those with global footprints, developing or re-enforcing their own in-house 24/7 Global Security Operations Centres, where previously they would have relied on Third Party Providers.  Budget is now being allocated to staff the GSOCs and purchase technical solutions to be monitored and delivered in-house.  Budget is also being allocated for staff security awareness training – either on-line e-learning or integrated app-based solutions (animated or video) and real time social media monitoring and alerting tools to speed up their response times.  They can verify and monitor incidents as they occur and develop, which can help them to stay ahead of the curve.

This has led to an increase in the recruitment of travel security specific roles – both managers and analysts to provide over watch. Additionally, standalone Travel Security Manager roles are being created in several medium sized organisations, giving individuals a clear and recognised specialist career path in Travel Security.

Overall, I would say there has been a quantum shift in the importance that organisations are placing on the safety and security of their employees, and are embracing their Duty of Care responsibilities whilst searching for and implementing technical solutions.

‘Damian Taylor is widely renowned as an expert in travel risk and crisis response, and is the former Global Head of Security Assistance at International SOS.  In 2015 he established TEN Risk Management to provide independent, specialist Travel Risk Management advice and consulting services.