5 ways NGOs can tighten safety protocols in 2020

With 2020 in its infancy, what better time to take stock and ensure your organisation has the necessary protocols in place to ensure the safety and security of the men and women who fill your ranks?

The new year is a time of making fresh starts.

If you’re part of an NGO operating in a high-risk or remote environment, that may involve tightening the safety and security protocols that keep your staff safe from harm.

Employees and volunteers of humanitarian organisations can be found on the frontlines of some of the world’s most devastating crises. Conflicts, famines, floods, large-scale displacements – they routinely act as the final bulwark against even greater suffering and injustice.

That’s why aid organisations globally must do their upmost to ensure the safety of staff members facing violence, illness or psychological trauma in the field.

battleface understands this more than most. Specialising in travel to high-risk, remote or unstable destinations means we’re immersed in the threats facing travellers and professionals abroad.

From the outbreak of civil war to a localised terrorist attack, from flooding to airport closures, we understand how rapidly changing situations on the ground can have grave consequences for the people caught up in them.

We’ve set out five main areas which are sometimes or often overlooked when preparing safety protocols for humanitarian staff. Many of these have solutions which are easy to implement but can drastically improve outcomes when a crisis develops locally.

Communication breakdown

Maintaining reliable and up-to-date lines of communication with every in-country staff member is essential for ensuring you can reach them when you really need to. This may be because a natural disaster has cut off overland transport routes or because you need to ascertain their status in the event of a terrorist attack.

Regularly update contact lists with the latest mobile numbers, email addresses and social media profiles.

Getting from A to B

Getting into, around, and out of a country are three distinct issues where forethought can pay dividends in averting a crisis. What are your protocols for flight cancellations? Airport pick ups? Hire cars or drivers? Should staff be able to rent a scooter for the day? Or take a local bus across town?

Knowing the risks associated with each – and having procedures in place to deal with those risks – is the best way of putting together a comprehensive policy.

Medication and health issues

Understanding the pre-existing health concerns of employees – and, crucially, any medication they may be taking – is of paramount concern when arranging a posting abroad.

If they’re cut off by bad weather for two weeks and cannot replenish their heart meds, will they survive? You need to know and be able to plan accordingly.

Understanding your role in an emergency

In a crisis, headless chickens bring very little benefit.

What the situation needs instead is a clear understanding of responsibility for the various actions which need to be taken. Who will call the assistance company? Who will ensure all employees are accounted for?

Decide this way beforehand or expect to see those proverbial chickens up close.

Risk assessments

The country may have been safe two weeks ago when you were booking flights. But what about now?

Out-of-date risk assessments are useless in situations where politics, weather or public discontent can force an abrupt right turn on proceedings. Having access to regularly updated risk assessments means the decisions you make are guided by today’s reality – not yesterday’s.

Adequate cover

Going into harm’s way without adequate insurance is asking for trouble.

Your insurance policy should be tailored to the particular circumstances and risks of the country you’re operating in and the tasks you’ll be expecting to perform. This means that when things go south, professionals are on hand to ensure employees are assessed, treated and, if necessary, repatriated quickly and efficiently.