Terrorism, along with the general economic downturn, has exponentially increased costs for airline flights, rental cars, lodging and food have all contributed to a decrease in business travel. Many companies are cutting back on travel and are turning to technology—such as Webinars and Internet-based meetings to conduct business. Still, there are millions of people who drive or fly in order to do business. One of the most significant psychological factors affecting people's decisions to travel during times of crisis is "controllability." While the powerful forces that drive the world's financial markets, and the radical actions of terrorists, are beyond immediate control, personal safety is not.
Safety is, and should be, an overriding concern among business travelers. Ultimately, when you take a meaningful degree of control with your own safety and security, you venture out into the world with greater confidence and ease. Adjusting your own thoughts and behaviors is the place to start making your world safer and less fearful.
Here are five tips for fearless business travel:
1. Remember you are never a passive observer to your own safety. Your safety is a shared responsibility between you, law enforcement, and security professionals. Pay attention to your surroundings, including fire exits, bottlenecks in crowds, announcements and general conditions. The police and security staff cannot be everywhere at once. You must be your own first line of defense; be alert, aware, and proactive.
2. Don't run from danger; run toward safety. While this is counterintuitive, running from danger, especially with a crowd or mob trying to escape, may very well put you at greater risk. Running toward safety requires advance planning and awareness. Mentally rehearse escape routes or survival behaviors before something actually happens. Whether checking into a hotel, or selecting a seat in a restaurant or theater, be cognizant of your surroundings and possible routes of escape.
3. File a "Flight Plan." Just as a pilot plans and documents a route, let others know where you will be throughout the day and how you expect to travel from place to place. Whether you're driving or taking an international flight, share your approximate itinerary with someone. If they hear about a problem on radio or TV, they may be able to warn you. If you're in a jam and your family and colleagues know where you are expected to be, they can mobilize assistance if you don’t arrive as scheduled. Create a communications plan to share your flight plan ahead of time.
4. Know before you go. Civil unrest, military conflicts and health risks such as disease outbreaks can surface suddenly and turn a business trip into a nightmare. The U.S. State Department, and other sources, publishes travel advisories and warnings in real time. Visit www.state.gov or www.firstgov.gov and consider bookmarking them on your mobile phone or e-mail.
5. Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is. If you feel uncomfortable in your travels, give yourself permission to leave. Don't worry about how you will be perceived or what your co-workers will say. You can always return later, on your terms, when you feel safe. Don’t ignore your internal security system.
In addition, if you're not familiar with the place you are going, or are worried about it, do some preliminary research on the location, community, and more. Take a look at the local newspaper online to learn about their recent local current events. You may be able to learn about bogus bomb threats that closed the airport, an investigation into cab drivers and crime or other information that can help to keep you informed.
Finally, if you feel so stressed and worried that you can not participate in your usual daily activities, reach out to support groups and professionals for counseling and help.
For more on safe business travel strategies, read SMM Columnist Ed Lee's "Global Issues: Lessons Learned from the Mumbai Attacks."
Steven Crimando and XBRM specialize in workplace behaviors and psychology that are related to organizational emergency and disaster preparedness. The firm trains employers and employees in the growing field of the human factor of crisis management. This includes responding to economic and financial turmoil, disasters, workplace violence, terrorism, and other crisis situations. XBRM is a division of AllSector Technology Group, Inc. For more information, visit www.xbrm.com.