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Business travel safety course

In the May 2015 print issue of Professional Security magazine, issue we introduced the business travel safety course by Profano, and spoke to the e-learning training company’s MD and founder Andy Neal. In the June 2015 issue, we went through the opening part of that travel course.

Travel risks are the same, whether you travel for business or pleasure. Even outside Bath Abbey, in that tourist centre, where Andy Neal was filmed at the start of the module, pick-pockets are a risk. How then to assess the risks? That’s the point of the online course, to take you through how to plan and prepare for travelling, and once you are there – perhaps in a place unfamiliar to you – to identify risks through your observational skills. The course stresses ‘situational awareness’, though it also goes through what some might call common sense, and things not strictly security; such as packing medical essentials and taking out insurance in case of an emergency. You don’t need a hair dryer, but you might be glad of a door stopper, to wedge under the bottom of your hotel room door at night to keep out intruders; or tape to repair broken luggage. As the e-learning sets out at the start, we all assess risks differently, because we have had different upbringings and experiences. Hence Profano suggest you think in terms of traffic lights; green, you have good observation of an area, and have exits in sight. Whether you are entering an airport, hotel, cafe or car park for the first time, ‘read’ it in terms of its risks. A tourist – and while you may think of yourself as abroad on business, the criminal will see you as a visitor – makes the perfect victim, Profano point out, as laden with valuables, snatchable from a scooter. Whether the threat comes from child thieves in gangs, terrorists, or corrupt police at checkpoints, try to avoid looking like a tourist – and that applies also to social media. Be discreet about yourself and your plans.

The course stressed how much you can and should do, before you travel. Check online; is the country going through political upheaval? An advantage of any e-learning is that you can take it when it suits you, at your pace. While e-learning can be as dull as any droning human teacher in a classroom, Profano with neat touches make their learning more digestable. For instance, when asked what are essential items to pack, you drag and drop what you think you ought to carry into a suitcase on screen (such as glue, candle and compass). Some of the course you may take for granted – such as remember your travel documents, and photocopies in case the originals are stolen – although as the e-learning points out, people do turn up at the airport only to have forgotten their passport. Among the good ideas:

– carry a ‘false wallet’ with old credit cards that you can give up if you’re robbed;
– a money belt is well-known among travellers – but also robbers of travellers; have you thought of safety pins, to pin banknotes to clothes?
– you may be well prepared enough to carry a wind-up radio to hear the news, and a torch, preferably head-worn to leave your hands free in a power cut; but have you thought also of spare batteries?
– you will need a watch, but do you need to take your highly valuable one?

Profano also go into ‘social media considerations’. They advise that you post your holiday snaps after you have returned home; otherwise, not only do people know exactly where you are, they know you are not at home, and may burgle you. While the course does cover strictly security matters such as terrorism and organised crime, Profano are careful to make it digestable to the non-security reader; and to walk the balance, in tone and content, between giving the learner enough information to make the course worth taking, and not so much that they can’t take it all in. As for tone, it’s in terms of risk – not seeking to frighten or put people off, but to equip them to put themselves less at risk, whether of crime or illness (would it be wise to pack water purifying tablets?).

Speaking later to Professional Security, Andy Neal said that the courses were being translated into several languages; and he reported interest from Brazil, South Africa, the Middle East and China. Many business travellers, he pointed out, pick up their ticket and fly in without an idea of what dangers they may face. He advises travellers to at least look at Foreign Office website advice, besides carrying out what he terms ‘on the ground tactics’. For example, if you are staying in a hotel, tell the concierge where you are going. If you are going to the same workplace from the same place you are staying each day – which can make life easy for the kidnapper or robber, doing reconnaissance and then the actual crime – vary your route, and the time you take it. When you enter a room, look around; can you leave it as easily as you entered it? Is there anyone inside that might be a danger? Does anything, or anyone look not right? Reading of situations comes naturally to former military men such as Andy Neal; Profano’s training is in part about offering such ‘reading’ to non-security people; mums and dads; back-packing young people seeking adventure but maybe unwilling and unable to appreciate that there’s bad out there besides good; and business travellers and overseas students. Those at risk are as likely to be Asian students at UK universities as English-speaking corporate executives flying into Jakarta or Bangkok. Lastly, let’s recall one of the most distressing of many stories from the riots and looting in England in 2012 was the Malaysian student in London who was assaulted, and then another rioter – while pretending to help – stole from the back of his rucksack. While such a breakdown of order is not the norm in most countries, let alone Britain, that’s a reminder how it’s too late when you have fallen into the clutches of rioters. It’s far better to keep up with the news and to ‘read’ the streets and rooms you’re on and in, and stay out of ‘hostile environments’.



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