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Stay safe on overseas trips

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Our global economy becomes more global by the day. And that means more U.S. managers are heading abroad on work-related assignments.

Don't assume that if you work for a domestic corporation, you'll never go overseas. Every year, foreign companies are acquiring American banks, manufacturers, retailers and other types of businesses. As a result, managers find themselves making periodic trips to the parent firm's headquarters.

Preparation increases your odds of staying safe when you travel abroad. Know your point of contact: Who will greet you at the airport and at the office? Designate an emergency contact in case problems arise.

Think through how you'll reach your emergency contact. Even if your cell phone is supposed to work in the country you're visiting, assume it won't. Then what?

Regardless of where you're traveling, research the neighborhoods to avoid and the local scams that can ensnare unwary visitors. Work closely with your colleagues overseas to plan your trip and minimize risks in transit.

You're most vulnerable when you face what crisis management experts call "transition points" when you're expecting someone to pick you up at the airport or you're awaiting a ride from your hotel. Kidnappers or other criminals tend to prey on foreigners who aren't sure what to expect, warned Gene M. Smith, president of Smith Brandon International, a global business intelligence and security consulting firm in Washington, D.C., in a speech she delivered in June.

"You should have a clear plan that addresses all travel considerations," she told the Women in International Regulatory Law Symposium in Annapolis, Md. "And you should also have a checklist that's geared specifically to your proposed city and country."

Lessons Learned

Kidnapping victimizes more than 10,000 people each year, according to the United Nations. Devise a crisis management plan that includes:

Ongoing communication. The sooner your family and colleagues know you're missing, the better. So create a system for checking in with them at regular intervals. That way, they will detect your absence quickly.

Memorizing key phone numbers. Under duress, you may need to call your contacts for help (whether you're kidnapped or injured after a car accident). If your cell phone isn't available and you borrow a phone, do you know how to reach the right people?

Assessing the local police. Don't wait for a crisis to evaluate the quality of police enforcement at your destination. Instead, work with your colleagues abroad to understand the best way to involve (or not involve) the local police in the event of a kidnapping.


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