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Standard Publishing Email Update--Business Travel: Safety and Contingency Planning

By: The Editors at Standard Publishing Corporation (Tue, Apr/22/2008)

As the business world gets smaller and traveling gets chancier, organizations need to weigh the risks and rewards of sending personnel on trips.

What can happen?

British Airways recently opened Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport — amidst serious chaos that led to thousands of flight cancellations and delays, tens of thousands of lost or misdirected pieces of luggage, and untold numbers of unhappy and inconvenienced passengers. Protesters added to the general confusion and disorder. Within two weeks following that debacle, American Airlines cancelled over three thousand flights for emergency safety inspections, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers.

Add to the possible — or probable — inconveniences of airline travel the very real dangers that await travelers when they finally reach their destination in certain areas of the world, and business travel loses some of its attraction. Even domestic destinations present certain dangers to the unwary.

Risk management issues

Many passengers traveling on business get stranded or reach a different destination than their luggage, which raises important risk management questions for their employers. Are all business trips really necessary? Is the intended destination a safe place to travel to right now? How do you keep business travelers — and the business materials they take with them — safe in case of disruptions at airports or in destinations where they may not know the area? How do you deal efficiently with time issues in the face of delays and disruptions? Flying to another city early in the morning to attend a midday meeting with a same-day return flight may sound efficient, but sometimes the plan does not go smoothly. Do you have contingency plans?

Is this trip really necessary?

Increasingly, organizations are reconsidering the necessity of business travel. Technology offers many ways for businesspeople to communicate — even to “meet” virtually face-to-face — without subjecting themselves to the hassles of traveling to other cities or countries. The Internet offers many secure ways to transmit data and to have real-time discussions. The value of having a real person on-site must be weighed against the costs of making that happen.

Is the intended destination a safe place to travel?

In a global economy, business destinations range from mostly safe to quite dangerous. The U.S. State Department Web site (http://travel.state.gov/) contains up-to-date travel alerts and travel warnings, with the address and telephone number of the American Embassy in troubled countries. If a trip to a foreign country is absolutely necessary, this Web site should be consulted for current information and safety advice.

Safety training for travelers
Safety training for employees who “stay put” is an integral part of your business plan. Specific travel-related training should be provided for employees who must go off-site to do their jobs. General information should be imparted to all employees who travel, and destination-specific information may be needed by certain travelers, especially those going to foreign countries.

The number one principle that should be driven home for all travelers is the need to stay alert. Being aware of surroundings at all times is vital in preventing nuisance crimes such as pickpocketing and may help a traveler spot a developing potentially dangerous situation, such as picketing at an airport that may get out of hand, and allow time for evasive action. Being too absorbed in what you are reading or dozing away tedious time in airports can have unpleasant results that could have been avoided. Gawking at tourist sites in a strange city can also divert the traveler’s attention from what is happening nearby.

Protecting valuables is also vitally important. Passports, credit cards, and money zipped into a hidden money belt or inside pocket are much harder for a pickpocket to access. Laptops and briefcases should be locked and held securely, never casually put down on the floor or a nearby chair. Confidential data that are not necessary for the specific trip should never be kept on a laptop or carried in a briefcase while traveling. Strict procedures should be established for handling such data as is necessary while in transit.  Any hand luggage should be closely watched.

There are many more safety tips you will want to include in your training. There are many Web sites that can get you started.

Contingency planning

Contingency plans should be in place in case a flight is cancelled or delayed and the traveler can’t get to the meeting in time or has to stay overnight in a strange city.  Rescheduling the meeting and booking a room in a hotel may be things you want to handle from the home office, so that the traveler isn’t unduly distracted while someone walks off with his or her laptop, etc.

You should know where safe accommodations are located and have contact information at hand before the information is needed.

If the meeting cannot easily be rescheduled, you need a plan to get the information to the meeting, even if the traveler cannot be there to present it. E-mail and Internet solutions may be available. If a representative must be present to conduct negotiations, say, you may have to reschedule to another day, causing the traveler to stay over for an extra day or two. Again, this event should be planned for in advance “just in case.”

The development of contingency plans may actually indicate that the travel isn’t absolutely necessary in the first place.

Insurance considerations

No matter how careful your traveling personnel may be, there are often occasions when travelers get sick or injured or even kidnapped for ransom, personal or intellectual property gets stolen, or other incidents occur. Before you send personnel on a trip, make sure that your insurance is up-to-date. Workers compensation, including foreign voluntary coverage if appropriate; property insurance; liability insurance; and kidnap and ransom insurance if your employee is going to a place where such incidents occur fairly frequently — all policies should be in place, with appropriate endorsements.

Copyright 2008 Standard Publishing Corporation, 155 Federal St., Boston, MA 02110
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