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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How to Stay Safe on New Year’s Eve

Every year, more than a million people crowd into New York City to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. Countless more people pack concert halls, house parties, and hotel ballrooms around the world, eager to ring in a fresh start surrounded by friends and family.

While New Year’s Eve is a time for fun and celebrations, it’s also a night full of densely packed crowds, freely flowing liquor, and dangerous conditions. It’s important for you and your group to take responsibility and to be ready for whatever urgent situations may come your way.

Here are five ways to empower you to take responsibility for your safety as you ring in the new year

1. Travel In a Group

There is safety in numbers, just look at how gazelles travel in herds in Africa. They have learned they are safer in groups with each protecting each other and even signal when a threat arises. As you make your plans to head out on New Year’s Eve, be sure to leave, arrive, and travel to any events in the company of a group of trusted friends or family members. Avoid leaving anyone behind or isolated with someone you don’t trust or know well as this increases their risk to becoming a victim. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.

Make sure that individuals that you trust are aware of your plans for the night, and be sure to communicate your whereabouts if your itinerary changes at any point.

2. Maintaining Situational Awareness is Critical.

Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. Whenever you enter a new building or room, be sure to scope out your emergency exit routes. If anything were to happen, you may only have just a few split-seconds to make your move, so it can’t hurt to prepare ahead of time.

If a room seems unsafe, don’t hesitate to get your group together and leave. As Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, recently told U.S. News & World Report: “Places that are fire traps and fire hazards often look like they are fire traps and fire hazards,” and if your eyes tell you to leave, you should listen.

At the same time, keep an eye on your surroundings, particularly if you’re in a crowd, and remember the old adage – “if you see something, say something.” Practice situational awareness; keep your head up and avoid getting glued to your smartphone, and be on the lookout for anomalies in your environment, such as threatening or abusive behavior on the part of another partygoer. If you’re ever uneasy, don’t hesitate to take care of your own safety and alert someone who would be able to step in, such as the host of the party, a police officer, or the venue’s security or management team.

3. Keep an Eye on Your Drink

As Karen J. Terry, PhD, a criminal justice professor and author, once told Cosmopolitan, “The person at greatest risk to become a victim is someone who is alone late at night and is also under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

According to statistics published by WalletHub, 360 million glasses of champagne or sparkling wine are consumed on New Year’s Eve, and the average blood alcohol content for revelers is somewhere around .09%.

If you’re planning on going out on New Year’s Eve, there’s a high probability that you’re planning to imbibe. It’s important to stay safe while drinking. Remember to keep a close eye on what you’re drinking. Never leave a drink unattended, and don’t accept a drink or other handout from anyone you don’t know. If you have any doubts about your drink or believe it’s been tampered with, stop consuming it and seek help immediately. Trust your instincts and remember that if something seems off, it probably is.

4. Come Prepared

While most people expect their New Year’s night to be fun and carefree, the reality is that it’s impossible to predict what could happen to you over the course of the evening.

Always be prepared to communicate. Ensure you have your phone, it’s charged and you have access to a portable phone charger.  People have been victimized when they leave their friends to retrieve a phone charger from a dark and lonely garage or find themselves in a Convenience Store robbery or mugging.

It might also help to wear sensible, closed-toed shoes, should you need to get away from a dangerous situation. In a worst case scenario, should you need to defend yourself, consider kicking, yelling and screaming for help. According to experts, drawing attention to yourself, especially in a crowd will often deter a would be crime.

5. Think About How You’re Getting Around

New Year’s Eve is one of the most dangerous nights of the year on the road. According to WalletHub, more than 41,000 people get injured in car crashes over the course of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with auto accidents peaking during the prime time of 8 pm to 2 am, according to a report from ABC News.

Even individuals who choose to walk aren’t immune from danger; according to the New York Times, New Year’s Day is the deadliest day of the year for pedestrians in America.

The bottom line? Always have a plan for how you’re getting from point A to point B on New Year’s. Don’t drink and drive. At the same time, don’t adopt a false sense of security when getting into a taxi or ride sharing vehicle; you’re still getting into a car with a stranger, after all. Stay alert and engaged, and be ready to react if you need to get out of an uncomfortable situation.

The same goes when you’re walking from place to place. Predators tend to look for people who are vulnerable or unaware. Travel in a group whenever possible, and avoid getting distracted by your cell phone or walking with your head down. Instead, stay alert, scan your surroundings, and avoid looking like a soft target.

Remember, the most important thing you can do is to take responsibility for your own safety and security. On behalf of the entire O’Gara Training and Services team, we wish you a happy, safe 2018. If feeling safer and better prepared for emergencies is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!