+1 800.648.4807

Global Terrorism: Managing an Unpredictable Risk

Today’s attacks in France and Tunisia are tragic reminders of the ongoing threat of global terrorism. By its very nature terrorism is difficult to predict. Today’s attacks targeted a US owned facility and a Spanish hotel, but in recent years violent extremists have attacked a shopping mall, tourist sites, and restaurants as well as government and diplomatic facilities.

Given the unpredictable and persistent nature of this threat, there is no specific guidance that will address the wide range of ways in which these incidents unfold.  Instead, those operating internationally should take some basic steps to mitigate this risk while going about their work and travel. While the likelihood of being involved in a terrorist incident is statistically very low, these measures will also help manage more common (and more likely) risks such as crime.

General risk mitigation:

  • Maintain a high degree of awareness of your surroundings and events that may influence the security environment.  Monitor news through local and global sources including traditional and social media. Understand recent risk trends (terrorism, crime, health) prior to travel and ensure appropriate mitigation measures are in place. If living in an overseas, location keep current on trends and issues that may impact personal safety and security.
  • Limit time to the extent possible in high profile locations such as tourist sites, shopping malls and diplomatic facilities. While in these locations, maintain a higher than usual degree of awareness and know the location of emergency exits.
  • Track travelers to better understand risk exposure and to maintain accountability in the event of an incident. Know travel itineraries including flight information and hotels.
  • Keep contact information up to date to ensure you can communicate in the event of an incident and ensure travelers understand who to call in an emergency – locally and globally. Equip travelers with the tools to communicate; international roaming phones, local SIM cards, etc. Companies or organizations should maintain up to date family/emergency contact details for staff and other travelers.
  • Identify local emergency medical resources in advance. Know where they are and how to access them.  Global medical assistance companies or insurance companies can help.
  • Select hotels or residences with key security features in mind including low profile, access control and screening, secure parking areas, solid doors with working locks, clearly marked emergency stairs and exits, etc.
  • Offices and other property should include effective access control and other physical security measures appropriate for the location and type of facility. Types of measures could include perimeter walls or gates with screening booth, electronic key card doors, and intercom/closed circuit TV (CCTV) access control.  The goal should be to limit access to those with business only and to screen visitors prior to entering the facility.  Plans and resources should be in place to evacuate or have personnel shelter in place depending on the nature of an incident.

Emergency response:

In the unlikely event of being in close proximity to a terrorist or other violent incident, the response will vary depending on the details of the event.  In general, follow the instructions of professional security personnel at the scene or implement pre-planned emergency measures.

Key general emergency response principles include:

  • Assess scene safety — Are you safe where you are? If so, staying where you are is likely the best option since moving may put you at more risk.  Only move if certain the intended departure route is safe. Remember that initial reports from ongoing situations can be wrong; better to stay in a safe location than to make decisions based on bad information.
  • If not safe, relocate but assess departure routes to ensure you are not exposing yourself to more risk (this is where remembering emergency exits can be critical).
  • Assist others ONLY if it does not compromise your safety.
  • In the event of explosions/small arms fire in or around your location, move away from windows and shelter in inner core/interior room, hotel bathroom, stairwell, etc.
  • Avoid temptation to see “what’s going on” at an incident site and focus on personal safety.
  • Communicate to designated emergency point of contact once in a safe location.  Report location and status, exchange information about the nature of the incident, and make a plan for next steps.