We are going where?
If your company has people or property throughout the world, or does business throughout the world, it is important to be aware of problem areas and potential flash points. There is a lot of public information available, but it takes time and experience to be able to find it. Then you have to evaluate what you have found and make an appropriate set of decisions. Finding the information is not an investment that companies should make in house, because it is time-consuming: You will need a full-time employee to do it, and this is not cost effective. An acceptable alternative is to use an outside service to provide the information, and internal people to evaluate it and make the decisions.
One good provider (i.e., one with which we trust with our lives) is Specialized Consulting Services (http://www.speconsult.com/), run by Mayer Nudell, a figure well known in the world of counter-terrorism. Specialized Consulting Services offers three products of general interest.
The first is The Traveler’s World Threat Map (annual individual subscription price of $50), a graphical depiction of where one faces danger. It provides a good reminder not merely that a given place is dangerous, but that a place we thought to be merely dangerous has become very dangerous. The second, more important, is the Travel Advisories Subscription Service, which is a daily feed of information from, among other sources, the U.S. Department of State, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the latest travel advisories, information sheets, public announcements, and other documents they issue. The same is done with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, HealthCanada, Australia’s National Centre for Disease Control, Britain’s Department of Health, and other sources of medical information and announcements. This can, on some days, be a lot of information – up to 40 e-mails. The information is invaluable if you need to protect lives and property in a variety of geographical locations. Having ourselves done specialized newsletters, we know how much effort goes into this, and believe it is well worth the $1,000 it costs for an annual subscription, and can assure you that it would cost you at least fifty times that to generate it in-house.
Finally, they have country packets that are very inclusive. If you have a one shot trip, this could be the best twenty-five dollars you can spend.
Obviously, some risks don’t require a lot of research. On a wild guess, there’s not a lot of people in the world who don’t realize that this is not the best time to plan a vacation in Baghdad. It is less intuitive or obvious that São Paulo is now considered at risk for yellow fever…. Again, all the information is available publicly, and would take your staff way too much time to gather. If we had one minor critique of this service, it is that we generally want to sort the headers by country, and that they sometime come with the source listed first. Thus, you may have a set of emails entitled something “Travel Advice for …” or “Canadian Travel Report for …” in this case, you will need to have someone spend a few minutes each day to manually change the title so that the referenced country will be first. Then you can more-easily find all the alerts relating to that country.