FocusPoint’s message for travelers impacted by the Haiti Travel Advisory

February 15th, 2019 No comments

Are you or a loved one stranded in Haiti? Here’s what FocusPoint International wants you to know:

  • FocusPoint has a Crisis Assistance Team (CAT) on the ground in Haiti.
  • Clients and potential clients are advised to shelter-in-place until further advised. Ground travel in and around Port au Prince and elsewhere is not advisable due to civil unrest, ad hoc roadblocks by police/military and protestors, accompanied with violence towards persons riding in motor vehicles.
  • FocusPoint Crisis Assistance Center is tracking clients and potential clients. Their positions are mapped along with specific geo-coordinates as well as their current status.
  • Evacuation at this point is not an option because roads into and out of PAP International Airport are attempting to be closed by violent demonstrators.
  • FocusPoint personnel, both in the CRC and on the ground, are working to identify further options.
  • Our CRC is remaining in contact with all clients/potential clients by twice daily check-ins.
  • Anybody needing assistance should contact our Crisis Response Center at +1 619 717 8549 (24/7).
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Risk Alert: High – South America / Venezuela

January 28th, 2019 No comments

FocusPoint International has been reporting on events in Venezuela for our CAP™ members for some time now. In light of recent developments, we are circulating our latest information to clients for review and possible action.

FPI sources indicate that there currently is a high level of risk to personal safety and security in Caracas and elsewhere in Venezuela, as tensions have increased across the country as a result of the ongoing political crisis and anti-government protests. As of January 28, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has rebuffed calls to hold new elections amid growing international pressure, after the governments of Britain, France, Germany, and Spain, issued an ultimatum on January 26 to the hold elections within eight days to determine the country’s leadership.

On January 24, the U.S. State Department ordered all non-emergency U.S. government staff and family members out of Venezuela, and strongly advised that U.S. citizens residing or traveling in the country consider departing. This followed Maduro’s initial announcement that American diplomatic and consular officials had 72 hours to the leave the country, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, as Venezuela’s interim president. Juan Guaido declared himself President of Venezuela before a crowd of supporters in Caracas on January 23. He subsequently left for an undisclosed location and is presumed to be in hiding. He has called for new elections, for the military to support him, and for Maduro to step down. At least 20 other countries have recognized Guaido as the interim president, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Peru. Although the Venezuelan government has since rescinded their order expelling American diplomats from the country, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Venezuela. Moreover, various Venezuelan military commanders still express their support for Maduro.

In the meantime, opposition-led demonstrations have occurred in Caracas and other urban areas of Venezuela, and are expected to continue. According to local media reports, at least 29 people have been killed nationwide, with more than 175 detained, in protests and related violence since January 22. Security forces have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse such gatherings. As of January 25, some looting of supermarkets and stores in Caracas, as well as internet and other communications disruptions, has also been reported. Shortages of food, electricity, water, medicine, and medical supplies are present throughout much of the country. Due to the heightened security environment, further clashes between security forces and protesters are likely, especially if Guaido and the opposition call for a sustained protest campaign.

It is advised to reconsider all inbound travel to Venezuela. In-country residents and travelers should remain vigilant, stay informed of the situation, limit all non-essential movement, and consider their departure options.

If you or your organization is being affected or could become impacted by events in Venezuela, please contact FocusPoint at: +1 619-717-8549 or [email protected]. As a leading crisis response firm, FocusPoint has highly-experienced, multilingual capabilities on the ground, anchored in the communities, and prepared to support you at a moment’s notice—regardless of location. Our specialized risk management, business resiliency, and crisis response solutions include:

  • Residential Security Teams
  • Safe Havens and Shelter-in-Place
  • Controlled Movement and Secure Transportation
  • Evacuation Services – Overland and Air

Our 24/7 medical, security support, and evacuation services are available to assist you now. For help with any questions, concerns, or situations, contact us at: +1 619-717-8549 or [email protected].

Author: Lee Sharon

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Civil Unrest in Haiti: Outlook AFTER the Protests of JULY 6-8

July 25th, 2018 No comments

By: Craig Colburn, Co-Founder & COO at FocusPoint International

While calm has now returned to Haiti after the government’s reversal of a sharp hike in fuel prices that triggered three days of violent civil unrest, the country remains on standby as President Jovenel Moïse prepares to choose a new prime minister to implement a revised fiscal policy in agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Despite the demonstrations, roadblocks, and violence that occurred across Port-au-Prince and throughout the country during the weekend of July 6-8, the IMF insists that Haitian officials re-introduce economic measures that would involve an increase in fuel prices, albeit in stages. A more gradual approach to fuel hikes would still go along with the IMF’s Staff Monitored Program, which requires Haiti’s fiscal policy to ‘focus on mobilizing domestic revenue to make room for needed increases in public investment, including investments in health, education, and social services’. Earlier this year, the Haitian government signed a six-month finance agreement with the IMF that would have given the country access to $96 million in low-interest loans and grants from the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and the European Union. Among the steps to be taken as part of the deal was the removal of fuel and electricity subsidies that account for approximately one-half of Haiti’s annual fiscal deficit, reportedly costing the country close to $160 million a year in uncollected revenue. The country’s economy now faces double-digit inflation, a depreciating currency, and slow growth, with a budget deficit of more than $150 million.

The change in government and the successive institution of IMF-supported economic reforms could open yet another new chapter of political uncertainty for Haiti. Several people were killed, businesses were burned and looted, and tourists were stranded in the eruption of violence that followed the government’s initial announcement on July 6 of a reduction in fuel subsidies, which resulted in temporary fuel price increases ranging from 38 percent for gasoline to 51 percent for kerosene. Although the government was forced to cancel the fuel hikes less than 24 hours later, widespread violence continued for more than two days. The unrest led to the subsequent resignation of then-Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant as well as 18 members of his cabinet on July 14. However, public denouncement of the initial decision to raise fuel prices continues to resonate. Haitians have also demanded the resignation of President Moïse, who has been a target of recent public anger.

Further backlash in Haiti could not have come as a surprise, as plans by the incoming government are to implement revised IMF-backed fiscal reforms and may nevertheless ignore the extent of the country’s political and social fragility. The new government will inherit a country not only with a crushing deficit and debt, but also one in which an estimated sixty percent of the population falls below the poverty line, with 24 percent living in extreme poverty. Moreover, the implementation of a revised reform plan that includes the gradual lowering of fuel subsidies along with compensatory and mitigating measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable may not be politically viable or sustainable considering the multifaceted dilemma within the country.

Renowned for decades of political turmoil, Haiti is distinct among countries of the Caribbean for its relative lack of tourism and scarcity of foreign investment. In fact, few counties have struggled with development like Haiti. Notwithstanding billions of dollars in charity received and the world’s second-highest per capita concentration of NGOs, Haiti remains the poorest county in the Western Hemisphere. In recent years, crime, natural disasters, disease, and mismanagement of humanitarian relief have combined with political instability to make the country highly prone to civil unrest. Corruption remains a serious problem in Haiti.

The country currently has some of the highest recorded levels of crime since the 2004 coup d’état. Violent crime, such as armed robbery and assault, is prevalent throughout the country, especially in Port-au-Prince. Other frequently reported crimes include carjacking, shootings, thefts, and homicides. The kidnapping of wealthy Haitians, international executives, and aid workers are also common.

Haiti’s geographical location, as well as its politically volatile situation, high levels of crime, extreme poverty, and poor infrastructure, render the country extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. Throughout its history, Haiti has suffered strong storms, catastrophic earthquakes, and periodic droughts. Situated in the middle of the Atlantic hurricane belt, Haiti is normally subject to severe storms in the Caribbean from June to October every year. Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall in Haiti in October 2016, left much of the southern and western parts of the country devastated. Those areas are still recovering, and access to clean water and food supplies is still a challenge. With Haiti encompassing the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, the country also lies between two major seismic fault zones. As such, the country is susceptible to occasional earthquakes and potential tsunamis. On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a catastrophic magnitude 7 earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince and ravaged most of the country. The Haitian government estimated the death toll to be as high as 300,000, with more than 1.5 million people displaced. The devastation caused by the earthquake was approximated to be 120 percent of the nation’s GDP.

In addition, unsanitary environmental conditions, which were exacerbated following Haiti’s recent natural disasters, pose an increased risk for the spread of infectious diseases in the country. Malaria, dengue, Chikungunya, Cholera, and Zika are known to be prevalent in Haiti.

Haiti is generally a high-risk travel destination, and potential visitors should reconsider travel to the country due to crime, civil unrest, poor infrastructure, and environmental hazards. If traveling to Haiti, visitors are advised to exercise a high degree of caution. While most visitors to Haiti will likely never feel as though they are in imminent danger, heightened precautions should be taken by travelers to help ensure their safety in the country. It is first and foremost advised that travelers use common-sense security measures and stay alert and aware of their surroundings. However, it is also recommended that visitors make adequate security arrangements in advance to avoid traveling alone in the country. The presence of a professional security detail or one or more vetted traveling companions with reliable local knowledge can help alleviate risk. As the security situation in Haiti is highly unpredictable, travelers should be vigilant at all times, particularly in the capital of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding vicinity, and have a contingency plan for emergency situations.

Businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations that currently operate or plan to operate in a high-risk environment such as Haiti should consider the number of unique security challenges in the country, which is comprised of a variety of threats that typically do not need to be addressed in more developed parts of the world. In other words, from an organizational perspective, decision-makers and managers should adopt an all-encompassing approach when addressing travel security/emergency planning for Haiti. Understanding the extent of the risks involved when traveling to Haiti and identifying appropriate mitigation tactics, organizations will tend to be more successful conducting operations in the country.

Liaising with a travel risk management and specialty risk consulting firm such as FocusPoint International can help build mutually beneficial relationships with security professionals, NGOs, and local contacts that will work to not only help an organization mitigate risk, but also effectively respond when faced with a crisis or emergency situation. FocusPoint adds value by helping organizations develop policies and procedures that promote resiliency, establish business continuity, and ensure requirements are met regardless of location.

The City of Cape Town, as well as the wider Western Cape is currently experiencing the worst drought in a century.

January 25th, 2018 No comments

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What should a ‘best in class’ duty of care program include?

January 12th, 2018 No comments

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There are several key components to a best in class duty of care program.

Policy – A documented travel risk management policy should be up to date, readily available to travelers, communicated effectively and ideally signed off on by each traveler. Most importantly, your policy should be consistently enforced to avoid unnecessary liability.

Pre-Trip Intelligence – Every traveler should receive a pre-trip email or package outlining the current risk profile of the countries being visited, the latest alerts, destination information, visa/passport requirements, emergency contacts, etc. Also, it is a good idea to have the traveler electronically acknowledge that they have read the pre-trip information for audit purposes.

Real-Time Alerts24/7 real-time alerts sent to travelers via email or SMS regarding incidents that have the potential to impact their safety or security. It is equally important is that both the corporate travel manager and TMC immediately receive a summary of any travelers affected by an alert.

Travel Tracking – For many years, travel tracking has been where most companies have placed their time and investment, using traditional itinerary tracking as their primary tool, however as technology continues to evolve, it is being replaced with mobile geo-tracking. Although it is more accurate, it is only effective when the phone is turned on, and it can become costly with roaming charges. However, new satellite technology will soon provide flat rates with affordable monitoring in the near future.

Assistance – In our experience, this is the most underserved area of duty of care. This is the real moment of truth – when your employees are affected by an incident, how will you as a corporation respond.

Best in class businesses provide their travelers with 24/7 access to a crisis response center where they can get immediate advice, the latest intelligence on a situation and receive direction on what to do next. Additionally, they have resources available in country to assist and support travelers whether that is sheltering them in place, safe transport or evacuation home. A well-executed assistance response, when a traveler is in need, becomes truly priceless.

Why is duty of care is garnering so much attention?

January 8th, 2018 No comments

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Why is duty of care is garnering so much attention with both corporate travel managers and travel management companies?

Duty of care is acquiring so much more attention from today’s travel professionals for three main reasons:

  • Legislation and Liability – In many countries around the world, governments continue to introduce new legislation surrounding an employer’s increased responsibility and liability surrounding duty of care. For example, in Canada under Bill C-45 and in the UK under the UK Act, corporations can be held criminally liable as well as be subject to a civil suit. The penalties are stiff and include life imprisonment for individuals and unlimited fines for corporations. It is essential for businesses to stay up to date on the changing legislative landscape.
  • Frequency and Variety of Threats – Unfortunately, the frequency of incidents around the world continues to reach alarming levels. Last year alone, we issued over 23,000 alerts that impacted many travelers‘ journeys. This represents an average of 63 incidents per day, every day of the year. In addition, the type of threats faced by travelers continues to grow. In years past, we were most concerned about medical mishaps while traveling; now we see terrorism, natural disasters, pandemics, violent crime, political unrest and a myriad of other perils.
  • Proximity – The third factor is proximity. For many years, our company was focused on assisting travelers in high-risk places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and several other African countries. Last year alone, we deployed resources to assist travelers in over 115 countries including France, UK, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico and the US. As these events hit close to home, the chances of travelers being affected only increases.

FocusPoint CEO quoted in Vice article discussing concert security in wake of Vegas

October 3rd, 2017 No comments

By:  Francisco Alvarado

Originally published here

When Stephen Paddock turned the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas into the deadliest shooting in modern US history on Sunday, killing at least 59 people and injuring 527 others, it wasn’t the first time in recent memory that a live-music event served as a soft target for mass bloodshed.

In June, a suicide bomber killed 22 people and wounded 59 more at an Ariana Grande concert in the UK, the blast driving dozens of panic-stricken attendees to jump railings as they made their escape. And perhaps most notoriously, in late 2015, an Islamic State–affiliated terrorist cell carried out coordinated attacks in Paris that claimed nearly 100 lives at an Eagles of Death Metal show in the city’s Bataclan theater, where some concertgoers found themselves trapped inside the venue. (Dozens more civilians were killed in other attacks around the city.)

If they were ever a relative safe haven for (mostly young) people to enjoy their favorite artists up close, live-music shows must now be understood as easy targets for mass murderers of any ideology, a new normal that could result in drastic public-safety measures at future concerts and festivals, according to security experts specializing in large-scale events.

“The top threats we have today didn’t exist three years ago,” Jason Porter, eastern region vice president for global private security firm Pinkerton, said. “These heinous acts are something that have to be at the forefront of every major event planner’s mind.”

While it is virtually impossible to plan for an individual with an arsenal of firearms raining down storms of bullets on 22,000 concertgoers, event organizers and security firms they hire will have to dedicate new resources to planning for surprise attacks. That could lead to live showrunners implementing new pre-event surveillance sweeps, hiring bevies of new off-duty undercover police officers, and possibly taking over entire hotel floors.

“Venue locations will be more scrutinized, as well as taking additional steps to secure hotel rooms that face the venue to prevent something like this from happening again,” Porter said. “Although when you are talking about a massive hotel like Mandalay Bay, it could be hundreds of rooms. The cost would be enormous.”

Advances in police technology could also provide event organizers and concert security teams with tools to respond quicker to an active-shooter situation, according to Greg Pearson, CEO of global risk consulting firm FocusPoint International. He suggested promoters should consider holding events in cities where police departments have deployed gunfire detection systems like Shotspotter, even as some experts question the effectiveness of those programs.

If nothing else, these systems do seem capable of helping first responders locate a shooter’s position faster than calls to 911. “They would know where the bullets are coming from, the type of rounds being used, how many weapons are being fired, and if there is more than one shooter,” Pearson said. “In Vegas, the SWAT team came in a tactical formation, but they had no clue what they were walking into.”

The smoke from Paddock’s weapons setting off his hotel room alarm is reportedly what police used to hone in on his location, and as is often the case during mass-shooting events, initial accounts erroneously suggested there might be more than one shooter. Investigators found 23 firearms in Paddock’s Mandalay Bay hotel suite on the 32nd floor, where he carried out his attack. An additional 19 firearms were discovered in his home.

It’s already common for music festivals to design their own apps to help people enjoy the shows, but promoters will now be under new pressure to be ready to deliver emergency messages and alerts to patrons, according to Pearson. “If there is an active shooter, you can notify everyone about shots being fired from this general vicinity and guide them toward exit points,” he told me.

Perhaps most important, promoters and venue operators will likely take new steps to train employees about how to get people out of catastrophic incident. “When an emotionally charged event like a mass shooting takes place, most people will run back to the area where they came in,” Pearson said. “The problem is that everyone is heading in the same direction. That artery gets choked of and people get caught in a death funnel.”

Steve Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, said the Scottsdale, Arizona–based nonprofit organization conducts active-shooter response training for concert security personnel from around the country. “We are training you to recognize what gunfire sounds like in a noisy concert or sports venue,” Adelman said. “We are going to teach you how to fight through the paralysis most people suffer so you can be a shepherd that leads people to safety.”

The alliance is also training concert security workers and event operations managers what to do when an individual drives a vehicle into a crowd or when a bomb is detonated inside or near the venue. “We are teaching people how to get crowds to safety quickly,” Adelman said. “Hopefully in a direction of shelter and away from the bad guy.”

Even so, Adelman doesn’t believe Paddock’s homicidal rampage should—or will—prevent promoters from putting together large shows in concentrated urban areas. “Is the lesson here that we don’t hold open air festivals next door to anything anymore?” he said. “I doubt it. This incident shouldn’t change the way people feel about going to shows.”

Keeping Our Staff Safe Through Irma

September 8th, 2017 No comments

Although our staff already know that we assist clients during natural disasters, we shared this infographic with them to demonstrate how we are managing our employee’s safety at our Plantation, Florida operations center during Hurricane Irma. Given the interest, we also wanted to share it publicly to give everyone some insight into how governments and businesses utilize our services to ensure the safety of their workforce and assets.

Our crisis response center (CRC) is currently tracking the whereabouts of employees, setting up dedicated assistance hotline numbers for staff, deploying crisis assistance teams (CAT) and medical personnel, equipment and vehicles to affected areas and assembling base camps.

Keep safe.

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Hurricane Harvey: 7 Ways We Can Immediately Help

August 29th, 2017 No comments

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  1. We provide: Hurricane Assistance Hotline for Employees
    We can activate dedicated Assistance Hotlines to provide a vital communications link between employers and employees impacted by a natural disaster.  The Hotline is deployed as the primary means of communicating assistance needs of employees impacted by the natural disaster.  The Hotline is staffed by Operational Support Staff (OSS) located within FocusPoint’s Crisis Response Center(CRC).  OSS personnel triage and document all incoming assistance requests and rely the requests to employers via a proprietary communications platform and mapping tool.
  2. We provide: CAT Team (Crisis Assistance Team)
    The CAT Team consists of Emergency Medical Technicians, Swift Water/High Water Rescue personnel, current and retired law enforcement providing search and rescue (SAR) and disaster response support.  The CAT Team is forward deployed in the theater of operations to establish a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and coordinate with FEMA, local, state and federal law enforcement personnel actively engaged in disaster response efforts.  The CAT Team conducts SAR and provides interactive facilitation between employers and Emergency Response Teams to locate and assist employees in need.
  3. We provide: Consulting & Response Planning
    A comprehensive disaster management plan mitigates a company’s losses and potential downtime. Developing a detailed emergency management plan in conjunction with disaster specialists prepares a company to meet immediate personnel and operational needs. It also helps solidify partnerships among local law enforcement and emergency personnel that can be relied on when disaster strikes.
  4. We provide: Asset Protection & Security Personnel
    Even when a disaster occurs; an organization still has a legal and moral responsibility to provide a safe environment during that chaotic time. Protection of assets, property, employees, and information is vital. Contract security personnel will provide additional protection. Highly qualified security and response personnel are trained to make rational decisions under adverse conditions. They will control access to the affected sites, monitor suppliers moving in and out of the area, ensure only appropriate employees are frequenting critical areas, as well as record and audit assets.
  5. We provide: Logistical Support & Base Camps
    Following a disaster, many employees must continue to work in compromised facilities. Corporations may also want to consider the safe housing of employees families so they can engage in worry free “resumption of operations’ for their employer. The ability to supply support services by providing base camps and a large fleet of specialty trailers is essential. Specifically built and equipped trailers that provide logistical support during emergencies can be deployed rapidly, are completely self-contained, and can be set up anywhere. Kitchen trailers which produce culinary creations that are always fresh, appetizing and highly nutritious. Dormitory trailers, shower trailers, restroom facilities, and laundry trailers ensure employees, as well as relief workers, can stay clean and comfortable. If the company cannot continue to operate on-site, a centralized base camp with mobile power generation can be used as a temporary command post.
  6. We provide: Remediation Personnel & Skilled Trade Workers
    A temporary workforce can be assembled quickly to help the company affected by a natural disaster weather the storm. Bringing in ancillary staff with specific skills can minimize down time and relieve highly stressed employees. Workers are accustomed to working in remote locations or less-than-ideal conditions. Their goal will be clear – restore the area to pre-event conditions while eliminating unnecessary costs.
  7. We provide: Emergency Response Vehicles, Personnel & Equipment
    Liaison teams will help to ensure that local emergency personnel respond quickly to any medical situations. Trained medical personnel can even set up mobile triage units to ensure that the neediest cases receive fast attention. Should community assets become overtaxed, a pool of emergency vehicles and equipment can be stationed on a client’s site to provide necessary medical care and transport.

Other ways we can help:

  • Incident Management
  • Asset Protection
    • Facility Security
    • Personnel Security
    • Executive Protection
    • Basecamp Security
  • Aviation and Waterborne Assets
  • Evacuation Support

For assistance please contact:
Greg Pearson
President & CEO, FocusPoint International
861 SW 78th Avenue, Suite B200
[email protected]
866-340-8569

 

FocusPoint Intl CEO Greg Pearson interviewed at GBTA 2017 Convention

July 24th, 2017 No comments

FocusPoint International’s CEO Greg Pearson was interviewed at GBTA 2017 Convention in Boston as a part of the GBTA Industry Voices segment.