How To Provide Medical & Security Assistance For Your Employees That Travel

This globe we all live on seems to be getting smaller every day.  This is largely because travel around the world has become commonplace and just “all in a day’s work” for many company executives and salespeople.  If you, or your employees, often find yourselves galivanting around the globe, you have likely asked yourself “how do I protect myself, and my employees, when out of the country?”  Bad things, both security and medical related, can happen anywhere at any time, but when something tragic happens while traveling the lack of immediate access to your normal law enforcement, security, and medical resources can compound the problem.

We thought we would explore what some of your options are for medical and security assistance while traveling so we met with Matthew Bradley of International SOS to get his perspective. Matt is the Regional Security Director for the Americas for the firm. International SOS is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company. They are, by no means, the only company that provides these services, but Matt told us that “they care for clients across the globe, from more than 1,000 locations in 90 countries. They have 11,000 employees, including 5,200 medical professionals.”

Matt explained that it is very important to understand the integration between travel medical services and travel security services.  He said, “you could have a stomach problem or an earache on a trip or you could get knocked over the head.”  Both could be serious medical situations, but one of them could also be a serious security concern.  International SOS insists that you don’t want to be required to differentiate between these issues “at the moment” so they provide both services. He explained, “we do everything from pre-trip mitigation to medical and security evacuation.  They provide 13,000 medical evacuations each year.

Subscribers to their medical and security assistance service are referred to as members.

Riot police during a student strike in Santiago, Chile.

International SOS began as a medical evacuation company.  Eventually, their members wanted more, however.  Their members wanted them to help prevent the need for an evacuation, medical or security related.  This prevention is accomplished by providing their members with the information needed to make wise travel decisions.  Matt told us, “we have teams scanning 24 hours a day for information that might disrupt a member’s travel.  This could be something as small as a protest in downtown Mexico City that keeps them from getting to a business meeting on time or something as bad as a terrorist attack.”  He went on, “We have four regional security centers operating 24/7.  They are in Phillidephia, London, Dubai, and Singapore.  From these centers, we use software to monitor social media around the world. If we spot a potential problem we hand it over to our investigators to confirm the exact nature of the situation and to determine how it might affect our members.”

Alerts about information that could potentially affect any given traveler is sent to them via an app.  Matt points out that “we are not sending them a deluge of information, rather our members know that if they get an alert from us, it is something they need to be aware of.”  They know what information will be of interest to each traveler by coordinating information that is sent to them from the member’s corporate travel center.  They can be aware of each traveler’s airline status as well as planned hotel and ground travel accommodations. From the time the traveler’s plans are booked, their system starts to watch for possible interruptions or security issues.  More granular information is fed into the system by the travelers themselves.  Often company policies drive the travel to use the app to input check-in, arrival, and departure information.  This enables the system to know the traveler’s location at a near-realtime level. These policies often change dependant on the risk level of the location the member is traveling to.  When traveling in a low-risk location the traveler may not be prompted to enter activity level information but would be required to do so if in a high-risk location.

In the event of a significant event, International SOS’s travel tracker will locate and reach out to travelers that are in the affected area.  As travelers indicate that they are safe, resources can be allocated to those that have not been heard from.  Location and evacuation services may need to kick in at that point.

Matt noted that “Our job is really about enabling travel.  We help members go to even extreme risk locations like Yemen, Syria, and Libya, but we have to have that cultural and national sensitivity to understand the profile of the traveler who can go to these different locations.  Americans should not go to Iran right now, but travelers of other nationalities would be fine there.”

Their website states, “Here at International SOS, we provide travel security solutions for organizations who have employees around the world. We help companies prepare their workforce for travel to unfamiliar and remote locations, and provide training and guidance on travel risk management to help keep workers healthy and safe, wherever they may be. Where your situation requires a more active response, our highly-trained teams use their knowledge of procedures and policies across the world to help provide global medical assistance and security measures. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for employee safety – that’s why we work with your business to ensure your needs are met. Our international medical and security services have been fine-tuned through our work across a number of different industries, giving us the experience to deal with your own unique set of needs.

By: Steven Bowcut, CPP, PSP, Brilliance Security Magazine Editor-in-Chief