Preparing for Crisis in Today’s Risky World


Last week, GBTA’s Risk Committee hosted a webinar on the threat of terrorism and the importance of crisis response planning. Events like Paris, Belgium and San Bernardino are grim reminders that travel security risks exist everywhere and anything can happen anywhere in the world at any time. The webinar brought together subject-matter experts to explain what terrorism is, how it impacts businesses and how to ensure your company is prepared in the event an emergency occurs.

Erin Wilk, senior vice president and global travel safety program manager for Bank of America, moderated the discussion emphasizing that there are some tactical areas that travel managers can be informed about as well as specific guidelines they can share with their travelers. Planning and preparation is an enormous piece of the equation, she added.

George Taylor, vice president of global operations for iJet International, said that everything terrorists do is designed to have a psychological impact that outweighs the physical impact. In 2015, a year marked by various attacks, there has been a significant increase in both the amount of attacks and the amount of people killed or hurt.

He outlined the business impacts discussing how low-risk locations can quickly become high-risk overnight, how travel restrictions can trap travelers in unsafe areas, how undiscovered vulnerabilities in your risk management plan can come to light once tested and how your communications and accountability procedures will be tested.

George called it important to understand the difference between living in terror and living with terror, because the reality is people still need to travel and businesses still have to do business. We live in a global economy that still requires face-to-face interaction to move forward. It’s important to keep informed so you can make prudent decisions for your travel program.

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Matt Bradely, regional security director – Americas for International SOS and Control Risks, followed George with practical steps that an organization can take to be prepared for emergencies. He shared five steps for responding to a crisis.

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Matt advised communicating advice, not just what occurred. Identifying the threat or incident without any direction on how to respond could serve to incite fear in your travelers. Having clear, concise guidelines in place increases the likelihood of positive outcomes.

According to Matt, an educated workforce that understands your policies and guidelines when it comes to risk before a crisis happens means they will be better equipped to handle an emergency if one does arise. Companies that have strong risk management plans in place, and have the ability to protect their travelers anywhere in the world, have a competitive advantage to send their workers to do business in markets where less resilient companies cannot go.

Finally, Rick Wakida, global travel and card manager for DocuSign, relayed his real-life example of how he and his company handled the terror attacks in Paris with several travelers on the ground there and others headed to Paris shortly after. His first step was to contact his travel management company for a traveler report and within 15 minutes he knew who was in Paris, where they were and who would be traveling to Paris in the coming days. Rick detailed how they communicated with all of their travelers and the steps to ensure they remained safe and understood what actions they should take.

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These events never happen at a great time and can occur in locations we never expect them too, said Erin. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The time to make a plan is when you don’t need one.

The Risk Committee will return next year with a continuation of their Risk Radar webinar series highlighting hot topics the third Thursday of each month. Check the GBTA Calendar for updates and to register for these webinars.

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