International travel is fast becoming de rigueur for event professionals. With increased travel, comes increased risk. At a recent networking event at the Savoy Grill, event registration specialists Circdata invited Dougie Eaglesham, director at Bodhi360 to share his advice on ‘situational awareness’ techniques for event professionals.
Following a 25-year career in the British Army, including a long stint as a communication specialist in the UK’s Special Forces, Dougie Eaglesham knows a thing or two about recognising and dealing with difficult situations.
“The world is an uncertain place,” he says. “Event professionals can be faced with unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situations both domestically and overseas, and it is essential that they are adequately trained to help mitigate any risks where possible.”
Eaglesham suggests there are three pillars that underpin a successful approach to situational awareness: safety & security; environment, medical & health; cultural, political & social. “Situational awareness is a mindset, identify your surroundings before indentifying the risks,” he explains.
Here Eaglesham shares his top travel tips for event professionals:
Safety & Security
- Airports: It is impossible to eliminate all risk, but by identifying trends you can reduce it. The majority of recent terrorist attacks at airports have occurred landside. On arrival at an airport, move quickly to get yourself airside. Expedite this by ensuring that your boarding pass is already printed or readily available on your smartphone or tablet before arrival and, where possible, only carry hand luggage. Put as much security as possible between you and the airport’s landside. If there is additional security to enter a lounge or departure gate, use it.
- Demeanour: On arrival at your destination, don’t present yourself as a soft target. You may have consumed alcohol during your journey or simply be very tired, pull yourself together and get organised. Look confident and know what you are doing. An essential part of this is organising your onward transportation before you arrive.
- Accommodation: When you arrive at your accommodation, you are happy to take the room assigned to you on the 17th floor, right? Wrong! Request a room no higher than the 6th floor as this is generally the maximum reach of a fire crew’s ladder, and don’t accept a room on the lower two floors (avoiding the risk of an athletic burglar!). Always carry a door wedge with you to secure the entry point to your room. If an intruder is able to breach the door’s security, the wedge will buy you vital time.
- Locale: Visiting the local town may seem like a good idea, but go prepared. Look confident, plan where you are going, travel as a group if possible, and avoid confrontation. Take a mugger’s wallet in case of an emergency. The wallet needs to be convincing to avoid potential escalation. Ensure the mugger’s wallet contains a small amount of cash (US dollars are usually best), an in date credit card (with a very low pre-arranged credit limit), plus some fillers such as old receipts, coupons, an old family photo etcetera. Use this wallet for minor expenses, especially when in public, as this is the time a mugger is most likely to be watching. If you are the victim of a mugging, don’t argue, just hand it over. You can report the incident to the local authorities once you are safe.
Environment, Medical & Health
- Travel Advice: Research before travelling. Check with trusted sources (such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)) to ascertain which vaccinations or other preventative measures are recommended for your destination(s). The FCO, for example, will advise on what medical facilities are available at your destination, as well as other potential risks such as terrorism, kidnapping, natural disasters etcetera.
- Medication: Take double the amount of medication you may require during your trip and divide it between bags (in case of loss). Take a letter from the GP who prescribed the medication in case you are questioned about it. Make sure that you also store your medical paperwork digitally (via Dropbox or other secure cloud-based apps) together with your travel documentation.
Cultural, Political & Social
- Respect: Be aware of the culture you are entering into and respect local beliefs, customs and laws. In some countries, for example, drug offences can carry the death penalty. A good situational awareness technique is to always ask yourself, “what if?”
- Social Media: It may be tempting to share that crazy photo with the world but think before you post! It is not uncommon for the authorities in some countries to monitor social channels, so be careful. You may recall the widely reported story of the four tourists who posed naked on a mountain in Malaysia and decided to share their special moment via social media. The group was arrested, jailed, fined and eventually deported – not to mention the humiliation of having their story splashed across the front pages of the tabloids. Not their finest hour.
To achieve the situational awareness mindset you have to, “recognise that threats exist, take responsibility for your own security, and trust your instincts,” says Eaglesham. “Always research, always plan, always train.”