Travel Emergency Planning: 7 Strategies for Creating a Resilient Organization

All organizations, no matter their size or scope, will at some point face a crisis situation. However, when a crisis develops overseas, responding and recovering can prove even more challenging, especially with unique, unfamiliar challenges outside the organization’s familiar environment.

Achieving resiliency is often what organizations set out to accomplish when developing or revising their business continuity strategies and emergency action plans. So what exactly does it mean to be a resilient organization during a crisis abroad? Truly resilient organizations have an intangible quality, a perfect mix of policy, personnel, resources, and strategy that allows them the ability to quickly and efficiently respond when a crisis strikes. Furthermore, resilient organizations take it a step further and have the ability to quickly recover operations after an incident.

Therefore, it is important that all organizations, especially those with global operations, understand the importance of addressing resiliency in their travel risk management programs. Creating a resilient organization doesn’t simply mean having policies and plans in place to handle a crisis; but rather, it’s a holistic, all-inclusive approach to operating and handling travel risk. In this blog, we will explore some steps to begin creating resiliency in any organization.

1. Adopt a holistic approach.
Resilient organizations use resiliency itself as one of their guiding philosophies. In every decision they make, whether developing a new position or choosing a new building for their headquarters, resilient organizations consider the ramifications for the entirety of their organization. For example, if trying to decide whether or not to implement a work from home policy, a resilient organization would consider how such a policy would affect their overall resiliency. They may decide to allow employees to work from home occasionally, so everyone becomes familiar with the process and how to effectively conduct business remotely. In the event this organization’s office becomes uninhabitable, their staff will already have an understanding of how to successfully continue operations remotely. From big decisions to small, organizations should consider how it impacts their resiliency.

2. Understand your organization’s unique risk exposure.
Organizations should conduct a comprehensive threat assessment to understand what puts them at risk. When operating in a specific location, consider things like the area’s economy and unique topography that make it vulnerable (e.g. New Orleans’s position below sea level or Saudi Arabia’s extreme temperatures). When conducting an organizational risk assessment, organizations should consider everything from the locations they operate in to their reliance on key utilities like the electric grid or Wi-Fi connection.

3. Develop flexible plans.
During a crisis, policies and plans are fundamental to success. Organizational plans and policies should be comparable with risk exposure—it’s probably not prudent for a small company to prepare and plan for an event that may only occur once every thousand years. And, having a five-hundred page Emergency Action Plan can actually be more of a hindrance than a help during a crisis. Resilient organizations will have flexible plans that allow them to react to threats while being adaptable to the situation.

4. Be proactive in prevention and budget for resiliency.
Resilient organizations take proactive steps to mitigate risk and work resiliency into their financial strategies. Organizations that value resiliency will consider paying more for something upfront if the greater cost ultimately results in greater sustainability. Furthermore, organizations trying to adopt a culture of resiliency should develop their annual budgets to account for implementing proactive measures that protect their critical assets. However, organizations must set priorities; resources will always be constrained, so organizations should look for creative ways to build in resiliency and consider ways to combine budgets to make the overall process more efficient.

5. Avoid dependency.
Resilient organizations strive to be diversified and avoid relying too heavily on any one specific element for success. For example, would an organization be rendered inoperable if the electricity went out at any one location or if all air traffic was grounded in a specific country? How would an organization get in touch with a traveler during a crisis abroad if mobile and landline phone communications were down in the traveler’s location? Organizations should consider developing contingency plans that provide multiple options to maintain operations during a crisis and develop local partnerships and resources to leverage in the event of an emergency.

6. Empower the right people.
A strong leadership team that buys into the concept of resiliency can be paramount to success. However, a hierarchical organizational structure often doesn’t allow for the flexibility and nimbleness necessary to act quickly when a disaster strikes. Resilient organizations lead from the top but don’t micromanage. They provide administrators, crisis team members and even their travelers with the tools and authority to make quick decisions when faced with adversity.

7. Hire the right people.
Resilient organizations look to hire people with a wide range of skills and who are capable of taking on unique assignments on short notice. Their employees embrace the idea of resiliency and understand their roles in the process. Furthermore, resilient organizations invest heavily in their employees through training, education, and development—creating diversified skill sets and a pipeline of talent that can readily assume new roles and responsibilities.

Truly resilient organizations are few and far between. However, it’s these organizations that suffer the smallest losses when disaster strikes and manage to maintain operations in the most dire of circumstances. Resilient organizations are the ones that are able to most efficiently and effectively respond to both the small issues that arise on a daily basis and the large-scale disasters that may only occur once every decade. When operating within a resilient organization, emergencies can seem like minor inconveniences and large-scale crises become unique challenges—not devastating catastrophes.

For over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and global assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Contact us today and watch our video to learn more. You can also stay in touch with On Call’s in-house risk management, travel health and security experts by signing up for our quarterly Travel Risk Management (TRM) newsletter.

For more information on travel emergency planning, organizational resiliency, and holistic travel risk management, contact us today.