Article by Mark Lowe

Irrespective of the who and the why behind the explosion on Sunday 13th November in Istanbul’s popular pedestrian thoroughfare İstiklal Avenue, the atrocity serves as a reminder that the risk of terrorist violence is ever present.

This obliges us to reflect on an organisation’s responsibilities towards travellers: what level of training are they given, do we know exactly where they are at any given time, do we possess the ability to intervene immediately?

The first observation is that although terrorist attacks are extremely hard to predict (at best analysts can identify a heightened risk and, on occasions, the areas and periods most likely to be at the centre of an act of violence), we have to recognise our duty in preparing staff for the eventuality of being in a location impacted by an act of terrorist violence.

In addition to preparing staff, we also have to develop and implement the procedures necessary to fully assisting and supporting them in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack.

First and foremost every effort has to be made to monitor heightened threat levels, a task that requires constant attention and one that will also provide key information elements when it comes to authorising or otherwise a business trip.

Employees must be educated and briefed as to potential risks, the onus in this stage is not only training them in regards to maintaining a high level of awareness, but offering precise and easily understood and remembered advice as to best practices in the event of being in the vicinity of an attack.

Travellers should be aware of areas and scenarios to avoid, for example quarters hosting government buildings, significant political or historical sites, and areas characterised by the buildup of large numbers of people. Three classic scenarios favoured by terrorists.

Employees also need to know exactly what to do on the aftermath of a terrorist event, alerting the company as to their conditions isn’t the first consideration, this should only come after the traveller has safely extracted themselves from the area interested by the event and have reached a safe location.

There is an unwritten rule amongst pilots: aviate, navigate and communicate. A rule that can be adapted to travel risk management: aviate – keep going, navigate – understand where you are and where you have to go, and only after this communicate – update the company as to your conditions.

Communications may be down, the mobile telephone network might be suspended to allow full access to the emergency services or to disrupt communications between those responsible for an attack. In this case what is Plan B and is there a Plan C?

Social media may also be suspended in order to avoid the diffusion of unverified information and thus mitigate the potential damage that false information might cause. However, information will always filter through any thus the danger that relatives acquire distorted information is a risk. What are the plans for dealing with relatives, have they been taken into consideration? Simply reiterating the line that “All we know at the moment is what we have acquired from official news channels” is not going to be sufficient in these cases.

Going back to our people on the ground, they will be scared and they will need a series of reassurances as well as practical support. What does the organisation have in place in regards to assisting them in practical and psychological terms?

Once their status has been ascertained and the requirement for medical treatment eliminated, what procedures and criteria are used before deciding the next step: do they remain in place or should they be evacuated?

These are only a few of the considerations that we have to focus on when planning our travel risk management procedures and capabilities, however, the suffice to underline the importance of forward planning, training, situation awareness, communications, and decision making capabilities.

Even if the bottom line is that terrorist attacks cannot be predicted with any precision at all, organisations must consider them a threat and thus an eventuality that has to be planned for in order to manage them successfully.

At Pyramid Temi Group we have considerable experience in assisting organisations navigate the challenges of operating internationally, if you would like to know more about how we can support your organisation, contact us and our experts will be glad to assist.