Serious medical emergencies, political unrest and devastating natural disasters – these are just a few of the dangers business travelers face as they travel the world on behalf of their companies. Even seemingly smaller travel issues, such as a lost prescription, a stolen passport or even a cancelled flight can wreak havoc on one’s travel plans at the worst possible moment. All of these risks are abundant in business travel, and as employees circle the globe, it’s your responsibility to protect them from these risks with proactive crisis management.
A key component of any well-rounded Travel Risk Management (TRM) strategy, proactive crisis management can help organizations meet their Duty of Care objectives and prevent issues from becoming even more serious. Companies must be ready to deal with crises as opposed to simply just reacting to them – and this knowledge can only come through experience. This experience is best found by incorporating crisis response exercises into your company’s TRM strategy. Here’s how:
- Know What’s at Stake
Understanding what is at stake and why it is important to uphold a company’s Duty of Care responsibilities are essential first steps in formulating a business travel risk management plan.
When the pressure is on and consequences are high, it’s not always easy to react in a measured, responsible manner. Crises and rash decisions may go hand in hand, but impulsive behavior isn’t acceptable when employee welfare is on the line – in fact, not having a travel risk management program in place could be a violation of Duty of Care legislation. In many North American and European countries – including the U.S. and Canada – Duty of Care legislation holds businesses liable for protecting the health and safety of their traveling employees. Failure to do so could mean severe consequences for the offending company, such as civil and criminal liabilities.
- Focus on Strengths and Weaknesses
When companies have a good grasp of their strengths and weaknesses, it becomes easier to move forward with a plan for improvement. To test your company’s weak spots, perform a thorough audit of your company’s emergency procedures. Dysfunctional processes can trigger or worsen a crisis situation, so it is vital to identify any cracks or unnecessary layers of complexity before an emergency strikes.
- Set Sound Objectives
Crisis response exercises can provide constructive and in-depth problem-solving discussions – but these exercises only work as a preventative measure if undertaken before an emergency strikes.
With that in mind, exercises should be undertaken with as much realism as possible. This means every stakeholder who would be involved in a true employee travel emergency should be present so there is ample time to discuss potential roadblocks and associated solutions. Objectives should be centered on the training in and familiarization with roles, procedures and communication chains to ensure the best emergency response from a duty of care standpoint. Communication with your company’s travel risk management provider should also be a priority to ensure your company can best leverage and align resources accordingly.
- Create a Scenario
When a worst case scenario strikes, your company needs to be prepared for those unimaginable “what ifs.” While companies do their best to ensure these scenarios never happen – such as death, critical hospitalizations, evacuations or legal issues – the best line of defense is preparation.
Emergency narratives are the foundation of crisis response exercises, as they allow companies to comprehend and prepare against the chain reaction that occurs when disaster strikes. As emergency narratives should be as realistic as possible, they need to address multiple hazards and consider a broad set of unexpected occurrences. These narratives should also be customized to your specific organization, including any unique jargon or agencies your company would encounter during a crisis situation.
- Figure Out Logistics
In a true emergency, deadlines and schedules tend to fly out the window. But when it comes to reducing travel risks by staging an emergency exercise, following traditional logistical procedures is a great way to keep participants engaged and focused: have a schedule, keep a timeline and recruit third-party observers to take notes and facilitate your company’s crisis response exercises. Keeping participants engaged and on task will ensure a pattern of action which will better prepare your company for any true crisis.
- Establish Next Steps
Once your emergency training exercise is complete, the true works begins: taking stock of what succeeded and what did not and creating a plan for your company’s risk management initiatives going forward. The last thing you want is a list of dilemmas without a solution in sight – to protect against this, secure buy-in from key stakeholders and executives, ensuring problems and trouble spots will be addressed before a true emergency occurs. By ending the training exercise on a strong note, your company sets in motion a plan for improvement that will reduce risk for your company and your employees.
With crisis management training exercises, companies can control their risks and liabilities – and most importantly, help create a stronger, safer network for business travelers around the globe.