Madison International Trade Association: International travel security experts provide guidance on staying safe

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Jen Pino-Gallagher

Communications Director

Madison International Trade Association

Ph: 608-516-3257

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From natural disasters to kidnappings, travelers must prepare for the unexpected when abroad

MADISON – From natural disasters, like the earthquake that hit Japan today, to kidnappings and medical emergencies—international travelers face a plethora of situations that can compromise their personal safety and the security of their companies while abroad.

Last Tuesday, March 8, three international security experts addressed the issue of international travel safety to nearly 50 international business professionals at the Madison International Trade Association meeting. One of the presenters, Dwight Kartchner, Senior Consultant, Clayton Consultants discussed kidnapping and how international travelers can avoid this growing threat. According to Kartchner, there are four things you can do to reduce kidnapping risk by 80% to 90%.

* Varying the routes taken from the hotel to the work site.

Kartchner pointed out that frequent business travelers are creatures of habit. Staying at the same hotel on every business trip, using the same routes to go to work in the morning; these steps all give hotel staff, taxi drivers and others a chance to learn the traveler’s habits, exposing him or her to risk.

* Vary the time of your departure. Leaving 15 minutes earlier than normal could disrupt a would-be kidnapper’s plan to intercept the traveler en route.

* Identify places of security between the hotel and the worksite such as banks, shopping malls, grocery stores or other sites where there are large groups of people. If a traveler finds himself in a potentially threatening situation, stopping suddenly at a public place and drawing attention to what is happening can discourage a criminal from completing the intended crime.

* Trust your instincts.

“Ninety percent of kidnapping attempts are successful. Your instincts could save your life,” Kartchner stated.The Madison International Trade Association organized the travel safety session because of a growing international trade.

“The earthquake in Japan is a prime example of why business travelers need to prepare for the unexpected when doing business abroad,” stated Ken Wasylik, President of the MITA board. “Japan is our fourth largest trading partner. At any given time, there could be hundreds of Wisconsin citizens in Japan doing business. Companies need to know how to protect their employees. The information shared at Tuesday’s session can do just that,” he added.

Also presenting at the lunch-time session were Wes Gould, Global Security Coordinator for the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) and Charlie Acosta, Vice President and Regional Manager, WorldSource, Chartis, Inc. a security focused insurance company. OSAC established in 1985 by the U.S. Department of State fosters the exchange of security related information between the U.S. Government and U.S. private organizations. The agency keeps U.S. organizations informed of security risks, political unrest and international “hot spots” through regularly published security warnings on its website, http://www.osac.gov. “We have staff available 24 hours a day to respond to an organization’s security concern, whether it’s a natural disaster or a terrorist incident,” said Gould. Gould stated that the fastest growing segment of international organized crime is cyber crime. He said it is imperative that travelers protect their personal data and their company information while abroad. He added that smart phones are a growing target for criminals.

Gould encourages business travelers to scan their laptops and mobile devices for malware and spyware when returning from a foreign trip. He warned travelers about a technique used by cyber criminals called “elicitation”. A stranger may strike up a casual conversation. Questions such as “What do you do? How old are your kids?” may seem harmless, when in fact, the criminal may be gathering information that could be used to create a “virtual you” to guess passwords and access your private or business information via a stolen laptop or smart phone. The consistent message across all three presentations was the need for companies to prepare a Crisis Management Plan (CMP). The CMP details how an employee and a company will react if an employee comes in harm’s way while traveling.

About MITA

MITA is a Madison, Wisconsin-based organization whose mission is to foster understanding of the issues, practices, information, legislation and trends that affect and influence all aspects of international trade. Membership includes a broad spectrum of professionals interested in and involved with international trade throughout the state of Wisconsin. Membership, meetings and information are open to all interested parties of the public, and professionals at all levels of international organizations participate in MITA activities. Member companies include manufacturers, food companies, and services providers such as freight forwarders, banks, law firms as well as universities and governmental institutions. More information is available at the website: http://www.mitatrade.org/.