Summertime and Travel

May 9th, 2017 Comments off

beach travel

As the summer season rapidly approaches, I think about all the people planning trips overseas. Families taking a special trip to a foreign country, students planning to study abroad and business travelers who may be adding a few days to a business trip to enjoy a ‘mini-vacation‘.  With the current uncertainty in the world, each of these scenarios poses some risk to the traveler whether it is terrorism, political unrest, crime or a natural disaster.  As a security professional, I have been conditioned to assess risk, but I wonder whether travelers have taken risk into account when they plan and book their trips?

Terrorism has unfortunately become a major concern, especially in countries that were once considered safe.  You only need to look at Paris and London to see the very visible increase in police and other security forces patrolling major tourist areas.  Other European cities continue to be on high alert as well.  However, as we know, terrorism can strike almost anytime, anywhere.

Political unrest is an issue that travelers sometimes ignore, that is until they get caught up in a violent demonstration or find their travel plans curtailed due to strikes and other protest actions directed towards governments.

Crime continues to be one of the greatest risks posed to both business and leisure travelers.  Criminals regularly target visitors and identify them at airports, train stations, and hotels.

Natural disasters are also risks that are rarely thought about.  We only need to look at the Italy earthquakes last year that occurred in a major tourist area, just a few hours from Rome.

These risks and others should be considered when traveling.  Pre-trip planning is key.  If your company has a Travel Risk Management program, take advantage of pre-trip information and alerts while traveling.  Ensure you have the number to contact for help in a crisis.  For leisure travelers, speak with your travel company or agent.  They often have programs to inform travelers before a trip and may offer an assistance service at an additional cost.  You can also purchase assistance services online through FocusPoint International.

Wherever you go this summer, get as much security and safety information about where you are going before your trip and practice good ‘situational awareness’ while you are there so that you will not become a victim of crime.  Make sure that if something does happen, you know whom to contact for assistance.  Have a good summer and safe travels.




It is Not Just About Terrorism

April 6th, 2017 Comments off

Business Travel

With the recent incidents in London and Moscow, it seems that almost weekly we are seeing a terrorist act reported in the media.  According to statistics, a terrorist act occurred somewhere in the world every single day in 2015.   These attacks are becoming a growing concern for business travelers, but there are other risks that you should be prepared for when making travel plans.

Crime continues to be a concern in many cities around the world.  Visitors easily stand out, and they are frequently the target of criminals looking to steal bags and purses or pickpocket.

Natural disasters also seem to continue to occur daily.  Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and other weather-related disasters could occur without warning.

Traffic and other types of accidents frequently affect business travelers, and medical issues can ruin any trip.

Although terrorism continues to be of great concern, it is not the only potential risk to business travelers.

These risks highlight the need for a good travel risk management program.  Giving business travelers information during the planning stages of a trip, informing them of incidents while they are traveling and providing advice and assistance are all critical in ensuring duty of care responsibilities are met by a company or organization.  While being concerned about terrorism is understood, it should not be the only reason for good travel-related security planning.



Should I Go or Not?

March 13th, 2017 Comments off

The statistics have shown that there is an increase in terrorist incidents, natural disasters, kidnappings and many other risks to travelers over the past 20 years. It seems as though there is an extreme weather incident somewhere every day.  I am often asked whether it is safe to travel to Europe, to Israel or even to some cities in the US.  My answer is usually, yes, as long as you have a plan in case of an emergency.

Risk ratings and other pre-trip information are very helpful when deciding whether to travel, but sometimes the trip is necessary for business or other reasons.  Pre-trip planning can go a long way to having more confidence while traveling.  Having a crisis assistance service is critical.  If your company does not have a formal program, you should look at getting one for yourself.  These programs typically provide you with pre-trip information and alerts of incidents before and during your trip.  Most importantly, they can offer 24-hour assistance if an emergency occurs.

Nobody can predict whether you might fall victim to a crime, suffer a medical emergency or be in an area when an earthquake occurs.  These types of things happen every day around the world.  While having information before your trip is helpful, the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can call one number for advice and assistance, and that on-the-ground help is available, is worth it.

You can pretty much travel anywhere safely, but depending on ‘it will never happen to me’ is an enormous risk.

Why Duty of Care Matters

February 16th, 2017 Comments off

With business travel increasing and the way the world is trending, any organization that has people traveling on their behalf should be aware of their responsibilities and the ‘duty of care’ that is required of them.

Management is often unaware of how to address duty of care and can be difficult to find a complete solution.  We at FocusPoint International have developed Crisis Assistance Plus (CAP, a solution that is cost effective and meets duty of care requirements.

CAP™ is a fully funded membership program that provides the critical elements of ‘inform, advise and assist’ to travelers both before they travel and when a crisis occurs.  CAP™ is not an insurance or access program.  It provides organizations and their employees the peace of mind that they will receive assistance both before their trip and if and when a crisis occurs while traveling.

CAP™ is both cost and operationally effective. For an organization, it provides the visibility of a traveler’s location via travel tracking and the ability to immediately contact them to ensure they are informed of any crisis and how they might be affected.  For a traveler, it provides 24-hour consultation services and immediate response in the case of an emergency.  Response services are included in the membership, and there are no claims or additional costs after an incident occurs.

The CAP™ program is comprehensive, providing assistance for 14 medical and nine security related risks, some of which are not typically covered by insurance or other travel risk products.  It was developed to provide comprehensive services with a low barrier to use.  The main differentiator of CAP™ from other travel risk management products is that all of this is included in the membership cost.

All organizations have a responsibility to provide the best possible care to their people who travel.  Duty of care matters.  It is not only a legal requirement, but it is the right thing to do.  Employers should do everything possible to keep employees safe.  Employees should know that if something happens while traveling, someone is there to help.  CAP™ is a perfectly tailored solution to meet those standards and provide real assistance to employees in crisis.

The Experienced Traveler

February 7th, 2017 Comments off

When speaking about travel security and travel risk management, invariably some folks are quick to say, ‘I travel all the time and nothing has ever happened to me’, or ‘our company has thousands of travelers, and we’ve never had a problem’.  The trouble is bad things do happen, crisis situations do occur, and given the way the world is trending, someone in your company will at some point need some help.  The possibility of a medical emergency, the increase in terrorist attacks, the unpredictability of political unrest and the potential for natural disasters all add up to the fact that odds are, you or maybe someone you work with will need some travel assistance in the future.

The idea that ‘it will never happen to me or us’ is not enough.  Companies have duty of care responsibilities for their employees.  They need to inform them of risks before they travel and provide them with assistance if a crisis occurs.  Leisure travelers should consider an assistance product as well.  Nothing ruins a vacation like a medical or security related emergency.  Having an assistance product that covers you during the trip gives yourself and your family some peace of mind.

Experienced travelers can sometimes be at greater risk than a first-time traveler.  As they often travel to the same places, stay at the same hotels, etc., they become complacent and not situationally aware.  This is why a robust duty of care program is so important.  The first step of providing pre-trip threat/risk information is critical and reminds travelers of the security situation at the location they are visiting.  Equally important is notifications of alerts or incidents while on a trip.  These alerts serve to inform and remind the traveler to take caution and be aware of their surroundings.

The experienced business or leisure traveler can be a great asset to any travel risk management program as their on the ground experience can benefit others, but only if they take precautions and remain situationally aware when they are away from home.

Major Event Security

January 18th, 2017 Comments off

With the release of the new movie about the Boston Marathon bombing, I was reflecting on the fact that event security has become more of a concern now than at any time in my career.  Given the most recent attacks in France and Israel where vehicles were used as weapons, any large gathering of spectators and participants, or events of almost any size can be considered targets for an attack that will cause maximum panic and guaranteed press coverage.

Securing large crowds requires constant preparation and participation of both government and private sector security organizations.  Although the media mentions some of the preparations and the number of law-enforcement resources that will be deployed, the amount of planning that goes into the security of almost any size event is often overlooked.

In the coming weeks, we will see a massive security presence at events such as the Presidential Inauguration and the Super Bowl.  What the general public may not be aware of is the amount of time that is required to create an in-depth security plan for these types of events. While smaller local events such as road races, sporting tournaments and others may seem to be less significant; they too require planning and coordination to ensure they can be held safely and successfully.

Event security planning is not easy, especially when resources are stretched thin in local municipalities, but getting started as early as possible, having good coordination between event planners and security resources are essential to ensuring that everything goes well.

Millions of people around the globe will be watching Super Bowl, and I am sure that, just as in previous years, things will go smoothly with regards to security and safety.  What some folks may not realize is that detailed security plans were developed before last year’s event, have been refined and improved over the past year and have involved hundreds of professionals working diligently to protect all who will be attending.

No matter what size event you may be involved in, early planning and coordination are the keys to success.

Where Are Your Travelers?

September 22nd, 2016 Comments off

Soon after the recent bombing incidents in NYC and NJ, I received calls from relatives and friends to ask if my family and I were safe and whether we were affected by the incident.  It made me think about how important it is for companies to know where their folks are during a crisis, whether it is a natural disaster, terrorist attack or any other occurrence that might happen.

Many organizations have a large number of travelers around the globe.  When something happens, senior management will want to know if any employees were affected and concerned family members may call as they cannot get in touch with their loved ones.  Knowing where your people are, is key to establishing and staying in contact with them and providing advice and assistance.

Most mid-size and smaller companies do not have a way to track travelers.  All employers have the same type of Duty of Care responsibilities, no matter what size.  Knowing where employees are and being able to communicate with them in a crisis is an integral part of any good Travel Risk Management Program.

Taking the attitude of ‘it won’t happen to us’ or scrambling to find employee contact numbers after something has happened is no way to address risk.  Business travel continues to increase, and the world is not trending well.  Every organization with people traveling should take a critical look at their crisis response plans and their ability to communicate with their employees.


An Unsafe World

August 16th, 2016 Comments off

Global media is full of stories regarding imminent threats almost daily.  Europe once considered a ‘safe’ destination for US travelers has suffered a series of high-profile terrorist attacks attributed to ISIS. Authorities in France and the UK predict that it’s only a matter of time before there are more attacks.  Palestinian attacks in Israel are on the increase, and no country seems to be immune to security related issues.

How is all of this affecting the global travel industry?  I have noticed an increase in tourists on the streets of Manhattan this summer.  Numerous families from the US and abroad are wandering around enjoying the sights. Along with the typical groups of European students taking English classes for the summer. Is the US or NYC safer than Europe?  If you listen to law enforcement authorities, it isn’t.  New York City remains a prime target for Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups.  The NYPD has implemented a large task force that is focused on combating terrorism and keeping the streets of the city safe from attacks.

What this illustrates is the perception of safety or security.  I believe that in order for a security program to be completely effective, people need to feel safe and secure.  Some complain that airport screening and other measures implemented after September 11th are just a ‘window dressing’, but how many would refuse to travel if these measures ceased to exist.

I won’t argue whether one location is safer for travelers than another.  I believe that risk always exists, whether it is crime, terrorism or natural disaster.  The question is what is our perception and tolerance of those risks.

If you’re traveling, situational awareness and a good emergency plan are the basics of a good program to ensure you return home safe and sound.

Travel Safe!

Mickey Winston’s advice on Rio 2016 in Safe Travels Magazine ‘Expert Advice: Is It Safe To Go To The Olympics?’

August 2nd, 2016 Comments off

Expert Advice

Mickey-Winston-profile-picMickey Winston at FocusPoint International

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @mickfpi

FocusPoint is a Global Specialty Risk Consultancy with a focus on Travel Assistance/Crisis Response. We worked in over 100 countries last year and have been responding to crises and evacuating persons for over 30 years.

Mickey has over 25 years in the security industry and has held management positions with several Fortune 100 companies and spent over 10 years managing security for a high net worth Family managing all aspects of both personal and corporate security for their financial firm.  He has extensive experience in corporate investigations, crisis management, physical security and executive protection.  Mickey is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, serving 7 years as both an infantry NCO and a Marine Security Guard at US Embassies.

How safe is it to go to the Olympics?

In my opinion, you can travel to pretty much anywhere, depending on your appetite for risk and willingness to implement security measures to ensure your safety.  With regards to Rio De Janeiro, I think it’s safe to attend the Olympics.  The chances of being a victim of a terrorist incident are slim, but the chances of being a victim of a kidnap, robbery or violent crime are more likely.

What are the biggest risks?

The level of street crime is dangerously high and although there will be a massive police and/or military presence in and around the Olympic venues, other areas of the City will not have coverage.  There have been several reports of athletes being victims of express kidnaps and robberies pre-Olympics, and this will probably increase during the Games.

What are the overlooked risks?

While everyone is focused on crime and terrorism, I think the risk of political unrest, getting caught up in some kind of violent protest action is high.  Travelers could unwittingly be cut off from their hotels or groups and then be vulnerable to injury or arrest etc.  The probability of a vehicle accident and/or medical mishap occurring is very high.  The availability of quality medical care and emergency response services will certainly be tested throughout the Olympics.

How should people mitigate this?

Have a plan.  Ensure your plan extends beyond the sights and sounds of the Olympic experience.  Situational awareness is key.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Know the contact numbers for your Embassy or Consulate.  Make sure your mobile device works overseas and you know how to use it locally in Brazil.  Identify medical facilities ahead of time and make sure your insurance will cover you if needed.  If your existing insurance will not cover you, purchase protections that will.  Keep abreast of changing threat dynamics through available media outlets – newspapers, television, social media, etc.  Secure transportation ahead of time and avoid public transportation as much as possible.  Know what to do and where to go if a crisis event occurs during your Olympic experience. Speak with hotel staff or Brazilian friends about what is going on.  Stay away from the area of official Government buildings that might be the focus of a protest or terrorist incident.  Make sure you can get in contact with your fellow travelers, groups in case you get separated.

Travel Risk Management

July 25th, 2016 Comments off

In the past few years, I’ve had to learn a lot of new terms and acronyms such as TMC, FBT, PNR, Duty of Care, TRM, and so many others.  It seems that the travel industry, much like the security industry and others, love its acronyms.  For someone new to the industry it makes you feel like you need an interpreter when speaking with other professionals.

For me, Duty of Care is probably the most significant term of all.  In my opinion, it means taking care of your people (employees, students, clients, etc.), and making sure they know the risks involved with traveling. For me, the most important aspect of Duty of Care is providing the traveler with a way of communicating and requesting assistance in case a problem or crisis occurs.  I am aware that there are legal definitions related to Duty of Care and that all types of companies and organizations have been quick to ensure they have a program in place, but how effective are those programs?

The most significant concern that travel, risk and security managers have is what are they going to do when their people are in trouble? Who can they turn to for advice?  Who’s going to providemedical assistance? What will it cost? Travel insurance is great, but what does your policy really cover and what exclusions are in place?

Business travelers need to feel confident that their company or organization is going to assist them in every possible way.  Students and their families need to know that they are going to receive help from their school.

In today’s unpredictable world, the risks posed by travel are too numerous to count.  Destinations that were once considered low risk aren’t that way anymore.  Organizations and individuals should ask themselves a couple of important questions:

  • Who am I going to call and who’s going to help me when I have a problem or an emergency?
  • Who’s going to help me get home safe?

Take a close look at your organization’s Travel Risk Management program and whether it gives you the peace of mind to travel with the confidence that someone ‘has your back’.


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