By: Steve Krystek, CEO, PFC Safeguards
With foreign business and leisure trips reenergized around the world, there are basic steps for safe travel to help ensure a secure journey. PFC Safeguards has developed comprehensive best practices and planning points for client families and executives requiring Foreign Travel Security. This article will highlight elements of the security planning process and provide pre-travel considerations for any international trip.
Like any well-defined plan, we should first understand the nature of the trip. What part of the world are we going to visit? Are we going to one destination or multiple stops on this journey? Will our trip be in a region that has moderate or significant security concerns?
Prior to any trip, travelers should be evaluated for regional risk and interest due to their personal or business status. Part of any proper planning will include a Travel Risk Assessment (TRA) for the intended destinations. Depending on the scenario, certain high net-worth clients may require travel security support, such as a local advance team, drivers, protection agents, medics, or translators.
The following is a brief overview of fundamental steps in foreign travel security planning.
Basic travel administration includes a current passport that has at least a six-month date prior to expiration for most countries. Are Visa(s) correct and current? Are other required documents correct and in hand before the established traveling date? For added convenience if not flying private, is the traveler registered in the DHS Global Entry Program? Each traveler should make photocopies of all credentials and documents prior to departure. Any Kidnap & Ransom Insurance must be in place and all protocols regarding this coverage accounted for. An annual look at coverage and restrictions should be accomplished to make sure that any designated person is fully and properly insured while on international travel. Part of coverage requirements may be travel safety training, such as the custom programs offered by PFC Safeguards. This training is recommended for any executive or high net-worth family member traveling internationally.
Know before you go. Knowledge is power; should we travel to this location? Use of PFC’s Location Risk Assignment Tool (LRAT) is a valuable resource to rate your destination using data and metrics. Also, PFC Safeguards can provide current local area intelligence reports in advance of any international travel. These reports include proprietary and human intel sources, as well as information from U.S. Government agencies such as the Department of State, CIA, FBI, etc. Select information will address local religious situations, seasons, festivals & special events, and local political situations (elections, protests, unrest, etc.). Also considered may be positive or negative American history in-country as well as the anticipated reception of U.S. Citizens at the destination’s port of entry.
As with any trip planning, especially international travel, proper airport identification and selection are key for efficiency, safety, and convenience. Ground transportation should be properly coordinated to account for all passengers (known and unknown), baggage, local conditions, and public profile/visibility. Hotel research that considers safety, security, comfort, and convenience is paramount. As so much hinges on the hotel or resort, any trip can turn sideways if the lodging selected fails to produce expected results. Other points to consider may include special cargo (shipment, reception, handling, storage), driving routes, local mass transit, and waterborne transportation plans, if applicable.
Communications are a vital link while we are in the U.S., and even more important while we are traveling internationally. Company-provided or traveler-owned devices (phone, computer, hot spot) should be prepared for travel, which may include electronic security measures or “clean” devices. Local network connectivity and compatibility issues should be reviewed and addressed before departure. Consideration of special or adaptable chargers for different voltages (plus extra batteries and boosters) may be prudent. Part of the planning may also require a new, generic email account while on travel. Finally, learning the basics of the local language, local signage, and rudimentary phrases should be available for ready reference prior to travel.
Traveling families should be fully prepared for global travel. Knowledge of the local currency is smart for reducing exposure, especially if the traveler expects to use cash for most transactions. It’s recommended that an American based credit card be used for most transactions to take advantage of better daily exchange rates, security limits on fraud, and the convenience of a smaller amount of cash carried by the traveler. While we expect smart phones to provide mapping, directions, and recommendations in the U.S., international destinations may not always offer the information required. It’s advisable for you or your security support to possess local area maps and pre-vetted resource information for minimal surprises during movements. Your nearest U.S. Department of State location/embassy/consulate and Regional Security Officer contact information should always be accessible.
If desired by clients, PFC Safeguards offers a Travel Security Assignment Guide available for evaluating risks and security decision making. This guide, coupled with other information assessed, will provide a clear outline for your future travel security requirements and planning. Results of this security assignment model may include recommendations such as on-call security professionals, drivers, drivers and protection agents, medics, special vehicles, trip monitoring & protective intelligence, etc. These service requests may take days to confirm so maximum lead time is paramount to secure the best local resources.
While most international travel will be normal and uneventful, travelers should always plan for contingencies such as alternate hotels, alternate airports, alternate ground transportation, or a substitute vendor for local support of any kind. Plan for the worst, then you will be ready for anything. And if you want professional assistance on-call 24/7, the PFC Safeguards Executive Security Operations Concierge (ESOC) Center is a one-stop shop for managing any travel contingency or emergency.
In the U.S., most locations and facilities have emergency plans. These plans are well defined, exercised, and have first responders that are professional, helpful, and well qualified to meet immediate needs. International travelers should plan for emergencies and not fully rely on the local authorities and practices if they exist. Regional emergency plans may vary from a very good U.S.-modeled plan to no plan at all. Does your hotel have multiple escape routes and exits, or does your hotel expect you to use the rope in your room to escape out the window? Other extremes and destinations may require a security Escape & Evasion (E&E) plan. This may include E&E equipment that will be provisioned by your security team. Proper planning prevents poor performance when it matters most.
A wholistic family protection program addresses six major components of security; and travel security is near the top of the list. The best way to manage international risk is with professional planning and coordination. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And when foreign travels are in your future, it’s wise to make the right moves early for the best experience later.