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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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

Safety While Traveling Abroad

Traveling abroad can be one of the most exhilarating experiences that you can have – but it can also be one of the most dangerous.

According to statistics from the US State Department – which you can read about in more depth over at Forbes –  843 Americans died abroad from non-natural causes in 2016. This is in line with the yearly average; according to Time magazine, over the past 14 years, about 827 Americans died of unnatural causes while abroad each year.

The good news? That is a mercifully low number, considering that more and more Americans are traveling abroad every year.

The bad news? Anyone’s experience abroad can turn from incredible to tragic in the blink of an eye.

Over the past decade, more than 2000 Americans have lost their lives from homicides while overseas; thousands more have perished as a result of traffic accidents, drowning, and drug-related incidents. Similarly, Americans fall victim to terrorist attacks while abroad with stunning regularity.

We don’t say this to scare anyone away from traveling abroad! There are countless reasons to head overseas, whether you’re traveling to work, to volunteer or provide service, or simply for pleasure.

But it is important that you take time to prepare before for any potential security threats you might face when traveling abroad.

Learn about the culture and the history of the region of the world that you’re visiting.

Take time to research and ask questions such as:

  • What is unique about the culture you’ll be experiencing?
  • Is this a region associated with civil war, terrorism, or sectarian conflict?
  • Is it a country where crime tends to be rampant? What are the relevant stats?
  • Is it a place where Americans tend to die regularly?
  • Are there any travel warnings in effect for this country or region?
  • Is this a region prone to natural disasters?
  • In what ways is this culture similar to your own? In what ways is it different?
  • What are the unique dangers that you’ll be facing when you go abroad?

When traveling abroad, it is vital to understand certain cultural and historical aspects of the region you are traveling in – and vital to understand the impact those aspects have on your security.

Understanding where you’re traveling is a key part of understanding how to stay safe while you’re there – often in unexpected ways. Besides preparing yourself for the very real possibility of violent crime or a crisis situation, you’ll also be better equipped to avoid the common security threats facing Americans abroad, such as theft, financial crime, dangerous driving, and unique environmental conditions.

We cover these topics and more in our Environmental Security Awareness training program. Using practical and classroom instruction, O’Gara will teach you best practices for keeping yourself safe in what can sometimes be precarious situations, particularly where you are unfamiliar with the territory.

 We’ll teach you what to look out for, how to stay safe, and how to respond to incidents should they arise.

Have questions about our training programs, facilities, or instructors? Don’t hesitate to reach out for more information! You can check out our website, or shoot us an email at  For more updates, insights, and news, follow our team on Facebook and Twitter.