The need for employers to meet their duty of care requirements to employees is a complex process to navigate for many organizations. Understanding what measures you can take to manage this level of risk remains a considerable challenge. Incorporating the use of secure executive transportation into your travel risk management plans is a prudent move to reduce this risk and keep your people safe. Now, more than ever the need arises as to how best to meet this legal obligation for staff and employees who are traveling overseas on company business. The constituent groups this affects are varied, ranging from executives, accompanying spouses and dependents, students, teachers, volunteer groups, contractors – the list goes on.
The broadly accepted definition of Duty of Care is: ‘is a legal obligation, which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence.’ Moreover there is now a growing recognition both in the courts and with potential plaintiffs that breaches of duty of care occurring abroad can be heard in U.S. courts. The number of cases being presented has increased and employment lawyers are particularly alert to the issue.
This sets an additional standard to be met by employers – in that the measures in place to meet the requirement at home may not suffice abroad. In fact, it is almost certain that it won’t. Your senior executives and traveling staff members will likely be most at risk and exposed to hazards when in transit – particularly when traveling by road or awaiting transportation outside of an airport, venue or business premises. If you are not paying attention to the additional safety and security services united states needs for staff on travel abroad then it is highly likely that you may be placing your own organization at risk – both in terms of their physical safety, but also of potential future litigation.
The much publicized case in 2015 of former NGO worker Steve Dennis provides an excellent example. Dennis, a former staff member of the Norwegian Re (NRC) is sued the agency, claiming gross negligence and failure in duty of care after he was kidnapped and shot in Dadaab, Kenya. Dennis was traveling in a convoy through the camp when his car came under attack. The driver was killed, Dennis was shot in the leg and he and three other colleagues were taken captive. Interviewed in 2015, Dennis stated that: “Like everyone going into a risky situation for work, I believe there’s a minimum level of training and procedures required and when it’s not there I believe there should be accountability for it.” This case absolutely highlights the need to have deliberate and sensible measures in place for employees traveling abroad – especially in an environment where there is an increased level of risk. Not only is transportation key, but also training employees – click here to learn about the Explore Secure® online travel safety training.
Employers and HR managers can help protect their staff (and indeed themselves) by reviewing their procedures and policies. Consider the use of pre-travel training packages or courses to prepare their people for the trips. Then, consider what can be done in-country to further reduce risk. As most issues and incidents tend to arise when people are in transit (especially traveling in vehicles on roads) a further consideration must be the use of secure executive transportation – with trained and vetted drivers. In higher risk environments with an increase likelihood of criminal activity, you may wish to use the enhanced services of a close protection officer in conjunction with secure transportation. It will keep you out of the courts – but above all will set conditions for a safer workplace abroad which in turn will allow your staff to focus on your organizational goals.
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Preparing for the worse is part of every security professional’s repertoire especially when it comes to planning for failure. This three-part series is designed to enhance understanding of how kidnap and ransom negotiations work and your role in the event the unthinkable happens. Cyber Security leaders with a significant global high-risk footprint know that a kidnapping may not be a question of “if” but a question of “when”. It may happen when you are not directly responsible for covering your employee or their family and therefore least able to prevent it – when they are alone and most vulnerable. Learning what to expect in those first hours of an abduction will help you avoid becoming a bystander when your leadership is most needed.
Kidnapping is a significant weapon of influence and source of funding for criminals and terrorists from South America to Southeast Asia to Africa. Kidnapping is the unlawful seizure and detention of a person usually for a ransom. That latter part of the definition, “usually for a ransom”, is the beacon of light the skilled negotiator homes in on and exploits to accomplish the mission – the safe release of the victim.
The international kidnap phenomenon is a “good news, bad news” scenario. The bad news – Kidnapping is a burgeoning crime flourishing in countries where police and prosecutors are unable or unwilling to address it. Consequently, the kidnapper perceives his plans as low risk, high gain. The good news – The captor’s motivation in most kidnappings, is money. The kidnapper’s purpose is monetary rather than bringing harm to the hostage. Therefore, hostages retain their value when they remain alive. This critical dynamic provides the negotiator with the leverage and influence needed to liberate the hostage.
Although money remains far and away the most common kidnap motivation, political demands including publicity, release of prisoners and welfare items have also been used as ransom criteria. Nigerian groups have taken hostages to force oil companies to provide economic assistance to local villagers. Journalist Danny Pearl was taken to pressure the Pakistan government not to support the U.S. In all cases, the kidnapper’s goal is to force a third party to do something; usually to pay money. Holding the hostage and threatening harm empowers the kidnapper. Nevertheless, victim companies and families have control and influence since they control what the kidnapper wants – money. The overriding theme a negotiator messages is; “If you harm the hostage you won’t get what you want.”
The initial stages of a kidnap are marked by both limited and conflicting information. You will normally have more questions than answers when your employee’s whereabouts are unknown. You may be nowhere near your protectee nor responsible for their welfare when you get a call indicating they or their family member are missing. Therefore, your priority must be to confirm that a kidnapping truly occurred. Event Security professionals who maintain viable tracking and locator technology enjoy a significant advantage here. Immediately engage a pre-selected K&R professional, who you or your company have already vetted. These professionals often come out of federal law enforcement or specialized firms and are extensively trained in crisis negotiations. Your consultant should be able to demonstrate dozens of successful resolutions to ransom, extortion and barricaded subject scenarios. Next, prepare for the worse-case scenario by planning for the abductor’s initial call. Next, assist the consultant, your company and the employee’s family to decide who should take the initial ransom call.
As a protective professional you should have a crisis management plan that includes a K&R response protocol. Part of that protocol should be an understanding that if a kidnap occurs, a K&R consultant will want to select a communicator to engage with the captor. The role of the communicator is that of a mouthpiece for the victim family or company and to act as a conduit to the kidnapper. The communicator has limited authority and must project subordination to the final decision makers when conversing with the captors. Adherence to company or family objectives and gathering accurate information are important aspects of the communicator’s duties.
When helping to select a communicator remember that the person must be: Willing to accept coaching; Loyal to your client’s company and its policies; Emotionally stable; and, an excellent listener. The communicator is not a debater but more of an influencer and persuader who conveys honesty and resolve while trying to avoid confrontation.
The ability of the communicator to maintain a low key, calm and patient business-like demeanor is imperative. One of the communicator’s key tasks is to establish a window of contact with the kidnapper. The communicator can exert a degree of control and minimize the necessity of being continuously available by arranging a specific time frame for contacts with the captors. If the captor attempts to make contact outside of the arranged time, the communicator must not acknowledge the contact thereby using a classical conditioning approach to influence the captor to abide by the agreement.
Prior to a scheduled contact the communicator will prepare and rehearse under the supervision of a trained K&R negotiator. Objectives are set out for each contact. The communicator must be prepared to play both defense and offense. The communicator will be coached on how to respond (defense) to anticipated topics the captor may broach. At the same time, the communicator will be armed with three or four key points (offense) to work into the conversation. The conversation will be scripted with key words and phrases prominently posted on situation boards in the negotiation operations center (NOC). You can facilitate this operation by acquiring and securing a NOC that is quiet and convenient for all.
Once a decision is made as to where and to whom the initial call will be directed the key messages must be readied. Your K&R professional will help draft a message for the company or family that is designed to convey three things to the captor: 1) A willingness to communicate; 2) The need for proof of possession/proof of life; and 3) A requirement for a reasonable delay. You should prepare the communicator for what’s coming – A high financial demand, a deadline, threats, and a warning to not involve law enforcement.
Contact Us to speak with our Subject Matter Expert Kidnap and Ransom Consultancy Team
The original article was first published by Security Magazine
Steve Romano and Frank Figliuzzi help lead ETS Risk Management, Inc. They consult with global clients on Crisis Negotiations, Kidnap, and Workplace Violence. Steve was the FBI’s Chief Hostage Negotiator and a Vice President of Control Risks. Frank was the FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterintelligence and a Fortune 100 corporate security executive. Frank also works as a National Security Contributor for NBC News.
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ETS work to enable media operations in complex environments. We regularly provide Media Security teams local trusted assets providing invaluable local knowledge and support (including vehicles, drivers, security, and fixers). Our high-level media security personnel stemming from specialist backgrounds and with extensive commercial experience of operating with Media teams provide organizations the confidence and ability to operate in challenging locations.
Frank Figliuzzi is the Chief Operating Officer of ETS Risk Management, Inc., a global provider of travel security, Travel Risk Management, executive protection, threat intelligence and major event security. Frank is the former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence, and recent head of Investigations, Special Event Security and Workplace Violence Prevention for General Electric.
Virtually no travel to Russia is without risk. Russia travel risk assessment is driven by three factors:
For example, hate crimes against foreigners, minorities, and the LGBT community occur in Russia because of an apparent tolerance for such conduct as reflected in weak legislative prohibitions and an unwillingness to prosecute. Deadly terror attacks happen in Moscow, the north Caucasus and, most recently, St. Petersburg because of long-standing organic ethnic, religious and regional strife such as the Chechen/Russian conflict including possible sympathies for ISIS within the Chechen region.
Travel in connection with special events or sporting matches raises the already well documented daily risk of tourists targeted by pickpockets and muggers, often by organized gangs in major cities. Individual travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent or who simply “don’t look like they belong” in the eyes of certain locals should exercise particularly enhanced vigilance.
Business travellers should understand that electronic devices are frequently targeted for intrusion via malware and other means in an attempt by the Russian intelligence services to access proprietary corporate information for a competitive edge.
Despite the inherent risks, travellers who make the effort to seek the “ground truth” of their destination through their own government alerts, reading current country risk profiles offered by established security firms, and who maintain vigilance and a low-profile, can easily mitigate the risks and enjoy a memorable trip to a vast and proud nation.
Travelers to the World Cup are advised of the significant risk posed by organized hooligans who seek to engage in brutal fights with opposing fans from countries like Britain, France and other nations.
Russian hooliganism is marked by elements distinct from traditional hooliganism in the UK and Europe. Law enforcement agencies with decades of experience in securing soccer competitions have documented observations of Russian thugs who are highly trained and prepared to fight. These hooligans physically train in body-building and fight techniques and they make a point of not drinking alcohol during matches to maintain an advantage over their UK or European counterparts.
Disturbingly, Russian government leaders seemingly encourage such behaviour with Russian Ministers quoted saying “Keep up the good work”, and Putin himself observing how Russian fans had quite literally beaten the English fans.
However, a major world event such as the World Cup is likely to be secured by the highest level of Russian national security agencies who understand the negative impact globally of any major incident during the World Cup. The largely incident-free Winter Olympics in Sochi, even under threat of terrorism, is evidence that Russian can secure a major event when it chooses.
Opportunistic crimes such as pick-pocketing and other thefts are common in major Russian cities. This risk includes theft from hotel rooms and theft from vehicles. Cases are well-documented of visitors whose drinks were spiked at bars for the purpose of robbery, rape or other violence. Unconscious victims are often left outside sometimes with life-threatening implications especially in the cold winter months. Further reports exist of criminals impersonating police officers for the purpose of harassing and robbing tourists.
Travellers to Russia often overlook or dismiss the reality that the Russian government is in near total control of infrastructure which facilitates intelligence service targeting of western business and government travellers to include remote intrusion into their devices, or, even outright theft of their laptops, smart phones and other devices.
Similarly, hotel frequented by western travellers are particularly notorious for intelligence collection, entrapment and attempts to compromise western business and government visitors. This fact poses a dilemma for travellers seeking to avoid such targeting by possibly choosing a local, non-westernized hotel.
However, such a choice often increases the odds of opportunistic crimes such as theft or assault and can antagonize the intelligence services who may become perturbed by your diversion from the usual hotel chains.
Risk mitigation remains similar to advice given for most international travel.
Specifically, avoid open display of wealth, including expensive jewellery, and anything that may identify you as a tourist. Avoid walking alone at night. Be vigilant for pickpockets in main tourist areas and around the main railway stations, and keep your passport tightly secured. Always buy your own drinks at the bar and keep them in sight at all times.
To mitigate the risk of being victimized by “fake” police officers, always insist on seeing identification if you are stopped.
Business leaders sending employees to Russia are advised to include professional risk management measures into the travel plan.
These measures should include physical security guidance, protection of intellectual property, and potential medical consultation and even evacuation. The addition of enhanced security enables your team to focus on business objectives within minimal constraints or distractions. Employees should ask for loaner devices to take that contain only the data needed for that trip and bring a reliable communication device.
Employees traveling for lengthy periods, particularly to more remote areas of Russia, should understand that the local hospital blood supply may not be screened for HIV and other diseases as is the standard in the US, UK and other nations. Therefore, employees should ask about medical evacuation plans in the event of an unexpected need for surgery.
Operators cost millions of dollars to train but their true value comes from years of real-world assignments that shape and sharpen their skills, networks and instincts. Their proven unique experience facilitating secure travel and lifestyle in all environments without fanfare is their understated asset. VIPs chaperoned by world-class tier one operators can safely and efficiently move on foreign turf while remaining under the radar. Low profile, discreet and respectful, the former Special Forces operator is a proven and powerful enabler. A conscientious operator able to read the environment and quietly get the job done is an invaluable part of a VIP protection team.