The world is shrinking. Or so it seems, when it comes to doing business. Many enterprises are looking beyond the U.S. shores to expand into emerging markets. However, this trend comes with its fair share of unique security risks.
“Organizations are responding to opportunities in overseas geographies as domestic markets become saturated. Security professionals are now focusing on threats in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, and the risks posed by these threats to investment opportunities, shareholder value and organizational assets,” says John Clune, Director of Risk Management Consultancy at Drum Cussac. “Investment could mean corporate personnel visiting a location for just a few days, or a significant commercial venture lasting for five to 10 years. In either case, businesses have a Duty of Care to personnel in order to ensure that threats are understood and that the resulting risks are appropriately treated.”
Before deployment, Clune says, enterprise security professionals should work with leadership to determine the risk appetite of the business, and determine the appropriate risk management strategy for operations in the prospective geography. Further considerations to address potential exposures include detailed threat assessments, with analysis as to whether state provision of security services is adequate or not, pre-deployment traveler education programs (including situational awareness and personal security seminars), and working with international and/or local private sector security providers to ensure that corporate assets remain safe and secure during an investment lifecycle.
"When traveling or setting up shop abroad, there is a wide range of risks and challenges to address,” says Juan Carlos Bossa, Regional Director, Latin America, for international security services firm The Anvil Group. “Legal uncertainty can make starting a business location a difficult process in some countries, where laws can change rapidly. There can also be corruption at many levels.”
“All of your employees traveling to a region need to be aware of their country’s corruption laws, as well as the laws of the hosting country,” adds Ross Johnson, Senior Manager of Security and Contingency Planning for Capital Power Corp., and author of Antiterrorism and Threat Response: Planning and Implementation. “Americans are governed by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which differentiates between a bribe and a facilitation payment, so employees should be aware of the difference. For a UK citizen abroad, the rules are even more stringent.”
Johnson, who prior to joining Capital Power Corp. did advance work vetting locations for off-shore drilling rig deployment, recommends that enterprise security leaders tailor their security assessments by country, researching thoroughly and calibrating expectations before even stepping foot into the prospective host nation.
“It’s common to get too comfortable with your existing security supply chain, but in a remote or hazardous location, that chain can be long, and small problems quickly become larger problems,” he says. “Any medical problem can escalate quickly, especially when you’re looking at an evacuation to get to treatment. Your security assessment should certainly include assessing local hospitals, local law enforcement, and even transportation resources. A valuable resource in this area, Johnson says, is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Yellow Book: Health Information for International Travel, which he calls “the definitive guide to health issues all over the world.”
“One of the most dangerous things you face overseas is driving,” Johnson adds. He recommends hiring a local “security driver” to keep expats safe. When working in Angola in 2003, Johnson worked with local security drivers to ensure employees did not travel to unsafe locations. Also, if an accident or breakdown occurred, the driver could stay with the car while passengers transfer to another vehicle to get to their destination.
When choosing or vetting a security driver, Bossa recommends reaching out to international companies with a footprint in the region for recommendations, verifying that the service company is licensed according to local law, checking drivers’ training and screening them against local legal and criminal databases.
Bossa notes that gaining a local perspective to real estate is also a key factor in keeping the business on steady ground. “Have a very strict background check and vetting process in place to ensure property really does belong to the seller or landlord, and that legally it’s properly organized,” he says. “Ask an international real estate company with a local branch to review the real estate documents to ensure everything is in order so that you don’t arrive at your new branch location to find out that it was never really for sale.”
Johnson at Capital Power Corp. recommends that employees get visas for the destination country as well as a safe haven country, saying “During times of great stress, the ability to enter a country without a visa, even for an American or Canadian, can end at any time. With a visa, you have formal status with the host nation. Also, if there’s an emergency evacuation, but it’s likely that your employees will be able to return soon, it might make more sense to evacuate them to your (nearby) safe haven country, where they will be able to stay secured until additional decisions are made.”
Reporters and news teams at CNNrely heavily on local security and travel resources, which requires security personnel in the Atlanta headquarters to maintain long-term relationships with trusted vendors the world over.
According to Bart Szafnicki, Vice President, Corporate Security for the Turner Broadcasting System, CNN’s parent company, if reporting teams are traveling to familiar locations like London, they can be sent without much concern. But for travel to dangerous locations, CNNsends a vetted team, including security, with the reporters. The company also uses travel tracker apps and a special call-in procedure to monitoring and track correspondents assigned to high-risk areas.
In addition, in-house staff like Earl Casey, Director of International Planning at CNNand resident of the CNNnewsroom since 1987, can give advice to teams traveling throughout different regions. In early May, his focus was on fostering situational awareness for teams in Nigeria and the Ukraine. In other countries with a Turner Broadcasting System footprint, reporting teams are encouraged to leverage company contacts and resources in that area.
But reporters are not left merely in the hands of contracted service providers – employees being sent to do field reporting are put through a five-day survival hostile region training course, including medical and security training.
Bossa also recommends a range of security education for employees bound for international assignments, especially how not to stick out.
“A clear sign of an American in South America is a man in khakis and tennis shoes,” he says. “This makes you an easy target for common crime. Blending in with your clothing, forgoing any obvious displays of wealth, and varying patterns and routes throughout your stay will help lessen your risk of becoming a victim of crime. ‘When in Rome…’”
In addition, employees should be trained on what information should not be discussed on the street or in front of hired help, Bossa says.
Employees traveling abroad often want to spend off-hours and weekends sightseeing, but that doesn’t mean that enterprises can lose track of them during that time. According to Bossa, employee vacations should be set up in advance, and all vehicles to be used on such trips should be equipped with GPS tracking. The U.S. embassy can provide some insight into which locations are travel-friendly, okay with previous information or instruction, or off-limits.
And these remote or hazardous locations aren’t just abroad. Benjamin M. Butchko, CEO of strategic security consulting firm Butchko Inc., often works on security planning for shale plays or fracking sites, which are often remote operations in the U.S., including the Eagle Ford shale around the Mexican border. According to Butchko, these sites feature numerous risks, including tool and equipment theft; company vehicle theft (often for resale or narcotics/human smuggling operations across the border); threat of confrontation to oil field workers; extended distances to medical help; and product theft, including wet natural gas, which can be stolen by the tanker load.
He is also working to add security sensors that provide greater insights with less infrastructure, including long-range sensors with thermal imagers, low-light and high-zoom surveillance video, and analytics. According to Butchko, these can identify vehicles as known/identified or unknown, as well as detecting fires at the wellhead site or wildfires in the surrounding area. Five well-placed sensor locations can manage a 10-mile by 20-mile location.
"We’re following a worldwide trend at these sites to focus on securing the process, not just the facility,” said Butchko. “This means adding GPS on company and personal vehicles used for work, implementing smartphone apps so employees can check in, and adding cameras and sensors to the wellheads, which helps us both monitor security and operations. An open valve, for example, triggers the cameras so operators can quickly identify the problem and address it. This blending of procedures and technology creates a higher ROI.”
Butchko and Johnson are currently working together as part of the ASIS International Petrochemical, Chemical and Extractives (PEC) Security Council on a “Guide for Operations in Remote or Hazardous Environments,” due out later this year.