Plan your dive and dive your plan

One of the most important rules of SCUBA diving is that every dive should be planned and the plan followed as completely as possible, to ensure safety. Divers know that not following their plan can lead to catastrophe, decompression sickness, and even death. It has been my experience in the safety and security world as well. Parents are always worried about the fine balance between autonomy and safety every time one of their kids goes out, as are ministry leaders, NGO managers, and media leaders. The question is always how to ensure safety without being a micromanager.

Almost 90% of the Kidnap and Ransom cases I have responded or been involved with have happened because plans and safety protocols were not followed, or the individuals involved were never trained on the plans, policies, and procedures. Some of the kidnappings took place within a mile of the secure facility where the individuals worked. Others happened within sight of their work location, and the individuals who were kidnapped did not have their phone, beacon, or other communication devices with them. Another factor is an all-too-often lackadaisical security staff, and managers who stop enforcing the standard in favor of less inconvenience.

Kidnappings for Ransom can happen in seconds, and every minute that follows exponentially lessens the ability for the victim to escape or for responders to rescue. The victim may lose their phone, beacon, radio, and other devices within the first few minutes of a kidnapping event. In several cases that I worked, the NGO staffs had no idea that one of their own people had been missing for over six hours following the kidnapping. In each case, the victims were well over 50 miles from the location where they were kidnapped, by the time notification happened.

The constant in every one of these cases was simple. There was zero effort to enforce travel standards, and no disciplinary action for anyone who violated security policies. In most instances the security staff was untrained/undertrained, and the victims themselves were either untrained or had received what I call “Jedi Hand Wave” training. Jedi Hand Wave training is simply handing the new person the security policy book to read and the acknowledgement paper to sign without testing knowledge or enforcing the standard. In essence the company, NGO, or mission believes they are covered by just maintaining their compliance book. That is not enough. My thought is this it may be enough if you have $4.2million US Dollars to spend on ransom, or if you can afford to explain to parents and families why their loved one was kidnapped.

Plan your dive and dive your plan is a very simple rule. If people show up to your compound and have not been properly briefed, and the plan is sitting in someone’s desk collecting dust, you have already failed. If your own security people do not know what the plan is, than you have absolutely failed. I have seen and witnessed this trend, and continue to see it repeated over again almost everywhere I go. Just as Smokey the Bear says “Only you can prevent forest fires.” It is safe to say that if you lead an organization in any overseas location, only you can prevent kidnappings. If you have not been trained, it might be the time to get trained.

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