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.

Cigna Global Health Benefits Launches Crisis Assistance Plus – A Solution for Globally Mobile Customers in an Unpredictable World

May 25th, 2017 No comments

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CIGNA GLOBAL HEALTH BENEFITS LAUNCHES CRISIS ASSISTANCE PLUS – A SOLUTION FOR GLOBALLY MOBILE CUSTOMERS IN AN UNPREDICTABLE WORLD

23 May 2017

WILMINGTON, Del., 23 May, 2017 – Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI), through its globally mobile business segment, Cigna Global Health Benefits ® , today announces the launch of their newest solution, Crisis Assistance Plus TM (CAP), an enhancement to their suite of global health care products.

This solution allows for a worldwide, comprehensive crisis assistance program, powered by FocusPoint International®, and responds to the unique needs of Cigna’s globally mobile customers who currently do not have a program in place today under our 2-20 expat products and our MBA product for international business travellers. It helps promote peace of mind by providing services that include time-sensitive advice and coordinated in-country crisis assistance, as well as political evacuation services for nine different risks that impact, or have the potential to impact, them while on assignment or traveling on international business. In the event of a covered event, the CAP program provides customers and their covered dependents immediate access to rapid response teams and dedicated CAP managers who are deployed globally within 24 hours, experienced security personnel for field rescue, shelter in place and ground evacuations, and highly experienced kidnap-for-ransom and extortion-response specialists.

From natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes, to acts of terrorism, blackmail or extortion, hijacking and other violent crimes, CAP provides coverage for services of up to $250,000 per covered person, per incident. This unique and comprehensive service is included as a value added benefit and reinforces Cigna’s commitment to its customers and reputation in the marketplace as a leader in global health benefits.

Heather Schleeweis, Product Manager for North America, commented, “CAP is not only a market differentiator for Cigna, it also directly supports our mission of helping individuals improve their health, well-being and sense of security. Now more than ever, security threats are a concern for today’s global travellers. CAP enables us to provide our customers with comprehensive global health benefits that include peace of mind.”

Contact:

Cigna Corporation
Robyn R. Ray, +1 302 746 3338
[email protected]

Terrorism Strikes Again – The US and UK Ban Electronic Devices Larger Than a Cell Phone

March 22nd, 2017 No comments

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Out of an abundance of caution, the US and UK have introduced new aviation security enhancements for select ‘last point of departure’ airports with commercial flights going to the United States and the United Kingdom.  The US Department of Homeland Security was quick to issue clarifications through a Q&A https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/03/21/qa-aviation-security-enhancements-select-last-point-departure-airports-commercial.  But unless you knew where to look, you most likely learned about this from the media, or worse yet, when you boarded your flight from one of the 10 Middle Eastern or North African airports impacted by the new ban.

 
As travelers scramble to understand the ban and come to grips with the inconvenience of giving up access to their laptops and tablets on long-haul flights, we are reminded of the impact terrorism has on our liberties.  Long gone are the days of casual encounters at airport bars and restaurants.  No more hanging out with a family member or friend until they board a plane or showing up with just minutes to spare and expect to board your flight with a bag in tow.  Terrorism and the insatiable pursuit of bad actors have forever altered our way of life.  So now it seems, air travel from select destinations have forced us back in time.  A time when reading a book and making an effort to engage in a conversation with the person sitting next to you was in vogue.  Oddly enough, the absence of technology in response to changing threat dynamics may increase our appetite to have meaningful conversations with complete strangers. Go figure!

 
The news of these changes and the inconvenience that comes with it will undoubtedly have an impact on leisure travel.  But what about business travel?  Several companies depend on their ability to access the markets directly and need to get work accomplished and stay connected through in-flight Wi-Fi.  How will the business community respond to the idea of checking in laptops and tablets?  I can already hear corporate security managers warning their executive teams about the very real possibility of theft, loss or damage to company property.  Not to mention the threat of data being compromised or theft of intellectual property.

 
I expect a visceral response by the business community to avoid flying directly to the US and UK from the ten airports impacted by the ban.   But if the airline industry and the business community are smart enough to make those adjustments – don’t you think the bad actors are as well?

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