In our four-part travel risk management series, we’ve discussed potential gaps in duty of care programs, tips for filling those gaps, and the role data plays in implementing a successful risk management (TRM) program. In our final installment, we turn our attention to guidance on how to respond when duty calls. In order to fulfill duty of care obligations when an employee or traveler finds themselves in harm’s way, a comprehensive plan on who and how to respond to emergencies needs to be in place.
Executing an Emergency Response Plan
To be positioned to effectively respond to a duty of care incident, a master plan should be established. This should not be a plan you set and forget, but rather one that is continually tested and reviewed. Your response plan should include the following components:
- Monitoring Around the Clock. If your organization is working with a travel management company (TMC), they most likely shoulder most or all of the monitoring for risk-related events. However, for organizations that do not use a TMC, you will need to coordinate a monitoring system with internal resources, or partner with a vendor that provides a set of tools and services that can monitor, alert and assist employees and travelers in need.
- Establishing Response Roles. To successfully respond to an incident, your organization needs to define who will be doing the responding. You should coordinate a team of stakeholders with roles and responsibilities defined well in advance because, “When something goes wrong, time is not on your side,” as expressed in a report by travel management firm Reed & Mackay. The BTN Group advises that internal stakeholders be cross-departmental, and the GBTA recommends additionally that a leader and team be defined for specific types of incidents. External stakeholders should also be included (TMC, TRM provider, travel suppliers), and the traveler themselves should be a key stakeholder by training them how to respond in specific situations.
- Reliable Communications. Organizations need to be prepared with a multi-channel communications plan in the event technology systems are impacted or strained at the onset of an incident. If mobile communications go out, some organizations are now relying on text, social media and apps as a back-up means of communication. For a comprehensive communication strategy, organizations need a tool that pulls together location data from travel itineraries, supplier and expense data, and a functionality that allows for proactive communications with impacted travelers and assistance providers.
- Integration of Tools. As fulfilling duty of care obligations continues to gain priority for organizations, the tools they use for risk management needs to evolve and become more integrated with aggregating data from various channels, with traveler tracking tools, and with two-way communication tools for a seamless experience for responding to impacted travelers and employees.
- Practice, Review and Repeat. A plan is only effective if it can be executed efficiently. Once a plan is in place with roles and responsibilities defined, and the necessary tools for responding to impacted travelers – organizations should establish clear guidelines and processes for employees to follow, and roll out practice drills for different emergency scenarios with all stakeholders. Additionally, after a plan that has been executed during a real response scenario, organizations should conduct a review analysis following the incident to make recommendations on continually improving protocols for future emergencies.
Your people are your organization’s most valuable asset, and with a comprehensive response plan combined with robust risk management tools and partners, you’ll be able to effectively locate, respond to and assist any employee or traveler who might find themselves in harm’s way.