In our recent response to a Wall Street Journal article on the growing interest in corporate duty of care, Savoya’s president Robert Dobrient pointed out that the tracking of business travelers can be useful in responding to crisis. But, he notes, our real objective should be proactive – keeping people out of those situations in the first place.
A more proactive approach requires many things. First, as Robert pointed out, it takes an awareness of the real risks facing travelers; auto accidents, for example, represent a statistically greater risk than many of the threats travelers worry most about, such as terrorism. But it also requires a system for identifying threats before they occur, so that they can be avoided (or, at least, that their impact can be minimized).
One component in this system should be threat and disturbance monitoring. The specific form this takes will vary based on an organization’s unique needs, but it could encompass anything from reviewing existing intelligence, to establishing a local presence in the area of travel, to tapping into technology that can automate the process of threat notification in an intelligent way.
Is your organization doing all it can to monitor emerging threats and disturbances? Read on to learn more about what threat and disturbance monitoring involves, as well as the ways it benefits secure ground transportation.
What is Threat and Disturbance Monitoring?
“Threat and disturbance monitoring” means different things to different organizations. Some consider reading a travel brief before visiting a new location to be enough. However, this barely scratches the surface of a safety spectrum most travelers don’t even know exists – despite the fact that their safety depends on it.
Reviewing Current Intelligence
The easiest threat and disturbance monitoring activities to execute involve reviewing existing sources of intelligence. Specific tasks falling on this end of the spectrum include:
- Reviewing travel briefs before departure
- Monitoring intelligence reports for the areas in which travel will occur
- Researching recent news or active alerts affecting travel areas
- Keeping the local news channel on when the traveler is on the ground
- Looking up travel risk ratings that are specific to cities or countries
- Listening for threats posed specifically to the executive or organization, versus an external event or incident
Establishing a Local Presence
When full preparedness requires more investment – for example, because of the traveler’s profile or dangerous conditions at the destination – security teams may elevate their monitoring activities to establish or leverage a local presence.
This may mean deploying close protection or other on-the-ground personnel with the traveler. However, it could also be as simple as having partners conduct route reconnaissance or location scouting in advance to identify and mitigate potential dangers ahead of time.
Leveraging Technology Solutions
In addition to the manual actions described above, technology can be used to support threat and disturbance monitoring efforts. And just as the actions above fall on a spectrum from low to high investment, technology solutions vary in terms of their scope and the nature of the information they provide.
For instance, technology solutions may involve anything from automated notifications filtered for regions where your travelers are operating to systems that mine data provided by news and social media channels to detect emerging situations.
The key to using technology effectively for threat and disturbance monitoring is being able to validate, evaluate, and distribute the information effectively and efficiently. The last thing anyone wants is to be overwhelmed by information that either won’t impact or isn’t relevant to the situation they are monitoring.
Defining the Scope of Threat and Disturbance Monitoring
Clearly, there is significant variation between these activities in terms of their complexity and the level of preparedness they facilitate. While your organization likely has its own security protocols in place, be aware that the activities taken by any travel providers you partner with impact your traveler’s security in the field as well.
It’s critical that you determine exactly what these partners mean when they say they offer threat and disturbance monitoring. Start with the following questions:
- What is encompassed by your threat and disturbance monitoring program? Is it manual or technology-enabled?
- What criteria trigger escalation?
- How are you notified when threats or disturbances occur? How do you communicate these alerts to your team?
- What steps do you take to manage active reservations when a threat or disturbance occurs?
Having not just a strategy for identifying potential threats, but for reacting to them is a must for executive travelers and other high net worth individuals (HNWIs).
Threat and Disturbance Monitoring in Practice
To understand the importance of defining an appropriate threat and disturbance monitoring plan, consider an example.
Imagine you’re in New York, coordinating the travel of an executive in Miami on business, when it’s announced that a hurricane is approaching the city. Not only is your executive’s safety potentially compromised, their travel arrangements must be reconfigured as quickly as possible to either keep them safe in place or to remove them from the area.
How well you’re able to manage this scenario depends on the threat and disturbance monitoring practices carried out by your company and by the vendors you partner with.
Imagine, for example, that your ground provider uses the kind of proactive social media and news monitoring described in the section above. With access to real-time data about changing conditions on the ground, your drivers may be able to determine which specific roads are open or closed, which bridges are out or even which gas stations still have fuel. Without information like this, your traveler may wind up stuck in a risky situation for an extended length of time.
Of course, situations don’t need to be quite so serious to result in major schedule disruptions. Blown manhole covers, for example, have the potential to snarl city traffic by shutting down entire blocks. Advance warning of these instances – as facilitated by proactive threat and disturbance monitoring solutions – enables drivers to select alternate routes before they’re stuck in gridlock traffic and at risk of disrupting traveler itineraries.
Facilitating Secure Ground Transportation
The right approach for facilitating secure ground transportation will vary from company to company. There’s no “one size fits all” solution, given the variable nature of risk as determined by mission type, geographic destination and traveler profile.
The process begins, however, by partnering with providers who understand ground to be part of the duty of care chain – who see their jobs at being more than getting travelers from Point A to Point B. Look for a partner who’s committed to putting smart people behind the wheel, as well as to equipping them with the technology and processes needed to keep travelers safe.
If your ground partner isn’t as dedicated to your travelers’ safety and their schedules – as seen in their vetting standards, threat and disturbance monitoring offerings, and related efforts – as you are, it’s time to look elsewhere.
Are you concerned about your ground transportation provider’s threat and disturbance monitoring offerings? Share why or why not by leaving us a note below.
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Mr. Hooton serves as Savoya’s Vice President of Operations, giving him an insider’s perspective into the challenges faced by travel managers. His contributions are grounded in this insight, and emphasize travel and safety best practices for travel coordinators and the teams they serve.