Posting On Social Media Can Be Dangerous

Social Media and Traveling:

How your awesome Instagram Stories are actually endangering your safety while traveling.

In the days of social media, it seems almost wrong to go on vacation and not post a million pictures of your adventures abroad, showing everyone what an amazing time you’re having. Posting shots of your day’s adventures, along with what you plan to do tomorrow seems harmless enough, right?

Sadly, you would be wrong. While it seems intuitive these days to post about your adventures as they’re happening, it would actually be in your best interest to save the Facebook posts for when you’ve returned home from your trip. Posting on your social media account about your trip – while you’re still on your trip, is almost as bad as inviting burglars into your home! You’re announcing to the internet, “hey! We’re not at home right now- we’re not even in the same country!”. Not exactly the wisest decision. If you’re also tagging family or friends who are with you on this vacation, you’ve also just endangered their safety as well. Furthermore, depending on the GPS settings on your phone, you may have just given away your exact location to friends and strangers alike via geotag.

While you should absolutely be making sure that someone you trust at home has your travel itinerary, just in case something goes awry on your vacation, you should NEVER post your itinerary or travel plans on social media!

For the same reasons above, this not only lets strangers know that you are not home, but it also lets others know exactly when you will be and where while you’re vacationing!

Its completely understandable that you would want to share all of the amazing highlights of your vacation, however, for your own safety, please reconsider posting until after you’ve returned! Here at O’Gara Training and Services, we are committed to spreading our motto of “Safety, Security, Survivability” to everyone.

In the spirit of this goal, we offer Travel and Safety Abroad courses for groups as well as organizations and higher education! If you, or someone you know is going to be traveling soon, and has not taken a travel safety course, please do not hesitate to contact us! Traveling should be an enjoyable adventure and knowing that you are prepared for anything while traveling makes it that much easier to enjoy your trip!

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Building Acceptance for Aid Workers

Building Acceptance as a Key Safety Measurement for Aid Workers:

Key Components

There was recently a situation in one community in East Africa where a conflict between two groups had escalated to the point where both groups had armed themselves, with the military on standby. However, instead of breaking out into violent conflict, both groups requested that an NGO who had been working in the community lately step in to help de-escalate the conflict. The chiefs even provided a security guarantee to ensure the safety of the staff members of the NGO.

In a different community, an aid worker vehicle was attacked, and all the money, mobile phones, and other possessions of those inside were taken.  However, with the help of the villagers the aid workers had been working with, they were able to recover all of their stolen items, except for the money.

In both of these situations, things could have been so much worse. The conflict between the two groups in East Africa could have broken out into violent conflict, and the aid group that was attacked could have never retrieved their stolen items. In both of these situations, the one thing that made the difference was acceptance – both groups had worked very hard to be accepted as members of the community they were working in.

Among the four general methods that aid workers can use to improve their safety, acceptance is the optimal choice for humanitarian workers to utilize, as it is the method that is most in-line with aid worker values and codes of conduct.

The overall goal of acceptance is to become accepted as a member of the local community you are working with, and thereby reduce other’s desire to kidnap, rob, or harm you. Using acceptance as an approach to security requires humanitarian agencies to spend time learning about and understanding what locals think about their presence and program in the area. The way that the organization is seen by local populations not only impacts their security, but the overall success of their program as well.

Because acceptance is such a wide topic, with many different components to acceptance being of key importance to aid workers looking to build upon their safety, we will be discussing acceptance in three parts. The first part of this discussion will cover the key components of acceptance. Other articles will focus on implementation of acceptance followed by a discussion on assessment of acceptance.

One of, if not the most important part of acceptance is the principle and mission of your group.

Your organization must be clear in their identity and how they would like to be perceived within the country/location/or greater program that they are working in, as well as across the communities they are targeting. Clarity on organizational identity and acceptance strategy can come from the security management documentation (your security policy/manual, incident reports, or risk assessments), program related documentation (mission statement, project proposals and plans, actor/stakeholder mapping, or monitoring and evaluation documents), internal and external communications (media reports, website content, letters of support or affirmation of your organization’s work), and human resources (organization’s policies, job descriptions, code of conduct, or training materials).

Following that would be stakeholder and context analysis. This can be key in determining the appropriate parties needed to engage in dialogue and negotiation to enhance staff safety and security. This involves identifying and analyzing motives, capabilities, attitudes, and relationships of those actors who might have an impact on your program’s success. You should also identify those who might block or harm your program and staff. You should also note whether or not your organization receives any security information from other NGO’s on various stakeholders. Finally, you should know how involved the national staff are in sharing and analyzing security information with your organization.

Program management is also very important to your acceptance in the field.

While your program may be very involved in the community and have established great partnerships with some of the locals, you should also be aware that your program could be having an adverse effect on specific actors or political, economic, or social power structures within the community. Program management comes into play in that you should consider some of the following questions while trying to make sure you mitigate as many of those effects as possible. Do your organizational values guide your programming decisions? Have you conducted a context analysis for your local programs or projects? What elements does your context analysis include? There should be a stakeholder analysis, relationships between other stakeholders, power relations, etc. Does your monitoring and evaluation processes include acceptance assessments, and assessments on how that is impacting your staff and security?

Finally, we have human resources. While it might not be immediately obvious that staffing could be a key component to your acceptance strategy, staffing decisions can impact your acceptance in many ways. First, the people you hire may or may not possess the skills to gain acceptance and communicate effectively with local populations, and therefore will fail in building meaningful relationships with them. Additionally, your staff should be willing to respect local cultural norms -which can sometimes be counter to their own cultural values. The composition of your staff also plays a key part- nationality, gender, age, religion, social status, and ethnic background may need to be taken into account when looking to hire local staff in order to gain acceptance. You should also take into account the fact that your recruitment, firing, and compensation practices can affect the perception of your organization. Finally, you also need to be careful of situations where local acceptance is linked to a single individual – should that individual leave the organization, it could create a potentially volatile situation for your organization.

O’Gara Training and Services is committed to ensuring the safety and security of humanitarian workers.

We believe in their mission and want for every aid worker to be well trained in safety and security so that they can continue doing good work and providing life-saving aid to those communities in need. If you and your organization would like to hear more about our training offerings for Humanitarian Aid organizations, we would be happy to discuss our HEAT and TACT courses with you!

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Country Security Profile: Pakistan

What should you know before traveling to Pakistan?

One of the keys to being safe while providing aid overseas is knowing about the country you will be working in. As part of our effort to help keep our valuable aid workers safe, O’Gara has decided to publish articles focused on the security concerns of the top countries visited by humanitarian workers. Aid workers face dangers not only while on the job, but also while enjoying their time off and taking in all the location has to offer. For this reason, we will be covering a wide array of threats in these articles. This article will cover the country of Pakistan.

Due to natural disasters and the flood of refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan has become a popular destination for aid workers. There have been numerous organizations operating within Pakistan for quite a while now. These organizations state that the most important thing to remember when working in Pakistan is to be sensitive to their particular cultural and political underpinnings. If organizations can do that, they will be successful in their endeavors in Pakistan.

However, security is one of the largest concerns for NGO workers in Pakistan. It should come as no surprise that over the past decade, various regions of Pakistan have endured high levels of insecurity. There have been attacks ranging from attacks on law enforcement and schools to sectarian violence and targeting medical professionals providing vaccinations, demonstrating that there has been no distinct pattern to the violence. The only constant throughout these instances of insecurity have been the high price paid by the civilian population of Pakistan.

This high level of insecurity is the reason that Humanitarian Outcomes has listed Pakistan as one of the top five most dangerous places for aid workers.

Aid workers in Pakistan have experienced very violent attacks in the past, and analysts suggest that this trend will continue. One of the biggest threats to aid workers in the region is kidnapping.

At the moment, the US Department of State suggests reconsidering traveling to Pakistan due to the heavy threat of terrorist attacks. Targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and NGO employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel are very common. Terrorists in the area have targeted US diplomats and diplomatic facilities and have also resorted to kidnapping for ransom.

Particular regions in the area that have been identified as highly dangerous, particularly to foreigners, due to terrorist activity and the potential for armed conflict. Those areas are: the Balochistan Province, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Azad Kashmir. Aid workers are mostly located in the KP and FATA, and over the years half of the attacks on aid workers in Pakistan took place in these regions.

In order to stay safe when traveling to Pakistan, the US Department of State has made the following suggestions:

  • Practice situational awareness, and pay particular attention to your surroundings and local events.
  • Vary your travel routes and timing, especially for routine trips (this will help keep you from being the victim of kidnapping
  • Try to keep trips to public markets, restaurants, government or military institutions or other locations short.
  • Try not to have too many US or other Western nationals gathered in any one location at a time.
  • Avoid staying at hotels that do not employ stringent security measures.
  • Take a photo of your passport, entry stamp, and Pakistani visa, and keep the copies with you at all times. Also keep digital copies of these documents in a secure, electronically secure place.

For more travel updates, you can visit the US Department of State’s website here.

O’Gara Training is dedicated to educating individuals about Safety and Security while traveling abroad, especially when they are on such an important mission as NGOs/NGOs often are. If you are interested in taking our HEAT course for NGOs/NGOs to further the safety and security of your aid workers, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Airport Safety Tips For The Summer Travel Season

As summer gets into full-swing, more and more people will begin traveling for their yearly summer vacations, crowding airports and highways on their way to enjoy some fun in the sun. Unfortunately, this also means that criminal activity at airports will be on the rise as well. Airports are what we would call a “target rich environment” for criminals – every person traveling in an airport has the potential to become a victim. Travelers are often tired, wary, or distracted, making them the perfect victims. For these reasons, O’Gara Training and Services has compiled a comprehensive list of Airport Safety Trips that you should certainly keep in mind the next time you find yourself flying the not-so-friendly skies.

Before you head to the airport:

  • Backup important files and records to a separate hard-drive, or the cloud, or both before you leave for the airport. If your laptop ends up being lost, stolen, or you end up needing to leave it behind, all of your important files will be safe and lessen the impact of losing your laptop.
  • Be sure to leave an itinerary of your trip with someone at home. This way, someone back home will have an idea of where you are supposed to be, at which time, on the off chance something goes wrong.
  • Make sure to put luggage tags on all of your luggage but be sure to avoid putting your home address on there! Only put down enough information for someone to contact you in the event that your luggage is lost or stolen – such as an email or a phone number.
  • Make a list of those objects that you have packed in your checked luggage – that way you can know if anything is lost or stolen in transit.
  • Protect yourself and your valuables by placing your medicines and expensive items in your carry-on. Also be sure to safely store important documents, such as your tickets, passports, or travel insurance docs.

Getting to and Leaving the Airport:

  • Do not leave your GPS visible in your car, if leaving your car in a long-stay parking lot. Criminals will break in and use them to find your home address and then rob your home while you are away.
  • Do not use unofficial taxis. Once in the cab, sit behind the driver so that you can see them, but they cannot see you. Pay while you arrive at your destination and are still sitting in the vehicle.
  • Never share a taxi with someone when leaving the airport. Criminals and human traffickers can use this to identify your location and could come back later to rob or kidnap you.
  • If you are picking up someone from the airport, try not to sit in the pick-up areas for too long. This can make you a target as well.

At the Airport:

  • Dress sensibly. For women, this means avoid wearing skirts, stockings, heels, flip-flops, or shorts. All of these clothing items could interfere or impede movement if you find yourself needing to run in the event of an emergency or needing to use the emergency slide in-flight. You should also avoid wearing any clothing that would cause you to stick out from the crowd – it makes it easier for you to be targeted and followed by criminals.
  • Keep your personal belongings with you at all times, never leave your luggage unattended.
  • Do not use the bathroom when it is empty – criminals could be waiting outside to follow you in, corner you, and proceed to rob or attack you. If you notice the bathroom is empty, turn around and leave and wait outside until someone else goes inside.
  • Take phone calls in private. You never know when someone could be trying to listen in on your conversation to pick up valuable information that they can use to follow you, or to find out your home address.
  • If you feel unsafe, always remember that you can ask for an escort.

In-Flight Safety

  • You should keep the following items on you at all times: wallet, passport, cash, credit cards, medication, printed list of emergency contact numbers, and a cell phone. These items should be kept in a travel wallet, small cross-body bag/wallet, or fanny pack. Do not remove this item, even during the flight. This way, in the event of an in-flight emergency, you will not lose precious time trying to locate your personal belongings – your travel wallet or cross-body will have everything you absolutely need.
  • Pay attention to the safety demonstrations. They may seem tedious and boring, but they provide crucial information for your survival in the event of an in-flight emergency.
  • If you are using your own devices for in-flight entertainment, be sure to pause your device whenever the crew is speaking – you might miss out on important information if you ignore it.
  • Avoid drinking too much when flying. It is important that you maintain your situational awareness while traveling, and drinking will impair your judgement and senses.
  • Do not overshare information with the person next to you on the plane. While it is perfectly fine to enjoy a conversation with your seat-buddy, make sure to avoid giving too much information about your destination, or your travel plans.

O’Gara is dedicated to spreading our mission of Safety, Security and Survivability to all. If you wish to learn more about how to keep yourself safe while traveling, please do not hesitate to contact us!

You can find more information about our Travel Safety and Awareness Training, you can visit our website or email us at

Do Aid Workers Need Safety Training?

The idea that groups of individuals who have dedicated themselves to helping those in dire need of humanitarian assistance could become the target of violence is hard to fathom, and yet, it is a harsh reality that we must all face. In 2016, there were 158 major attacks on aid operations, with 101 workers being killed, 98 wounded, and 89 kidnapped (Aid Worker Security Report, 2017).

Recent trends show violence against aid workers is a major safety concern.

While exposure to some violence in areas requiring humanitarian assistance to be expected, it does not explain why aid workers are sometimes the actual targets of these attacks. After all, they’re only there to help innocent civilians – they haven’t taken up arms, so why would they be targeted?

Due to the nature of aid work, these individuals are thrust into austere environments, and because of the rules of engagement, are armed only with good faith and intent as aid workers for protection. Sometimes, aid workers are in the field because they possess certain knowledge or subject matter expertise, such as doctors or medical workers. Other times, they are responsible for delivering critical care, medicine and much needed supplies to the local population, such as vaccines, water, or food. It is in these situations that their aid organization t-shirts and flags can sometimes become targets, rather than forms of protection.

According to the Aid Worker Security Report for 2017, published by Humanitarian Outcomes, most attacks on aid workers come from national-level NSAGs, or Non-State Armed Groups who seek to take control of a territory/state.  Targeting aid groups serves the NSAGs two-fold: for one, it helps them to dominate the populations and territories the seek to control, and secondly, it helps them to delegitimize the government in power. Global-level NSAGs, such as ISIS, Abu Sayyaf, al Shabaab and other terrorist organizations, launch more lethal attacks on a smaller scale, meaning that they are more specifically targeting aid workers. The unfortunate truth is, aid organizations are seen as a possible threat to the authority of every NSAG group – no matter what level. That, combined with the fact that most humanitarian organizations have ties to Western Civilization, makes them prime targets for violence from these groups. In addition, due to global aid organization mandates, requirements and international law their personnel do not take up arms and are known to be soft targets for violent extremism.

It is for these reasons that NGO’s need to invest in the duty of care and the personal safety and security of their workers. While hiring armed protection and building high walls and enacting other physical security measures might seem like a short-term solution – it often has the opposite intended effect. It often sends the wrong message and creates an environment of mistrust and demonstrates to the local population that they are not trusted. However, by having each individual employed at your NGO attend a training course such as HEAT or FACT, you are helping to ensure their personal safety, security and survivability in a way that does not send messages of mistrust.

Each individual who works for an NGO should be trained in subjects to include; situational awareness, cultural sensitivity, transnational terrorism, hostage survival and surveillance detection and includes instruction on how to utilize critical government resources.

The O’Gara HEAT and FACT course training offerings provides participants working abroad in hostile and high-risk environments with the knowledge, skills and confidence to effectively identify, avoid and mitigate risk and deal with the most common threats. Our purpose-designed training has been developed to support personnel and organizations such as government and program supporting civilian employees, academic representatives, students studying abroad, executives, those in the entertainment industry, project managers, journalists, NGO’s and humanitarian organizations. The methodologies, techniques and procedures taught by our subject matter experts have been operationally employed and proven.

At O’Gara our focus isn’t just to educate and empower those we train to mitigate risk, but to focus on the philosophy, planning, techniques and strategy of not placing yourself in a crisis situation to begin with!

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What CEOs Need to Know About Security for the Workplace

We live in a complex world. Spaces that once seemed safe or inoculated from danger are now open targets. That includes workplaces. Now, more than ever, it is critical that corporate and institutional leaders understand the very real risks that their organizations face – and take action to ensure the safety of themselves, their facilities, and, most importantly, their employees in the event of a crisis.

Every year, two million Americans report that they have been the victims of workplace violence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, incidents of lethal violence in the workplace increased by 23% from 2015 to 2016; nearly 500 workplace homicides occurred in 2016, the highest figure since 2010.

The most vital thing to remember is that, today, deadly violence can erupt anywhere, at any time. From schools to government offices, hospitals to corporate office parks, no workplace is immune from the threat of an attack or other emergency event. Proper business resiliency starts with planning for any potential business interruption and ensuring your organization is ready. Risks from natural disasters, pandemic outbreaks, workplace violence, active shooter events or even acts of terrorism can cause lasting problems for organizations of all sizes.

Preparing yourself and your employees for the event of a crisis is an ongoing process, and it’s one you can start right now.

O’Gara Training and Services is here to assist your corporation, organization, or institution with safety and security at all levels, including:

  • Creating and executing a crisis management plan tailored to your organization
  • Evaluating overall security risk management programs and program governance in partnership with your security integrators and security consultants
  • Conducting drills and training exercises for all levels of the corporate or institutional structure, in strict adherence with all U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidelines (HSEEP)
  • Enhancing executive protection incident readiness
  • Conducting regular security audits through threat and vulnerability assessments
  • Providing situational  awareness training for employees at all levels, empowering individuals to mitigate risks and respond to threats

Our hand-selected cadre of instructors are experts in identifying threats and training people of all backgrounds and experience levels on how to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Whether you oversee a corporate office, an NGO, a hospital or medical center, an education facility or institution, a tech facility, or a manufacturing plant, O’Gara can provide safety, security, and survivability solutions honed by years of experience, and tailor-made for your distinct needs.

Our team combines real-world, hands-on experience with proven methodologies to provide the most accurate security assessments and training possible. Our subject matter experts are some of the most qualified individuals in the world, with experience ranging from U.S. Intelligence Agencies, Department of State, Department of Defense to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Our training and consultative services are specifically designed to prepare individuals and organizations to recognize, avoid and mitigate risks while responding to threats in a complex world.

We can travel to you or we can offer access to our state-of-the-art facilities, conveniently located in Montross, VA and Alton, VA.

Do you have questions about our training programs, consultative services, facilities or support teams? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information or  drop us a line at 571-446-4929.