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!

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.

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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Beretta Tactical Summit

“O’Gara employs some outstanding driving instructors, as good as I have ever seen. It is amazing how fast and agile the old-school Crown Vic with the police package performs. I teamed up with Guns & Ammo editor Eric Poole, who has played this game before as well, for my driving partner. Somehow we managed not to total our car, though one of us did skid off the track in a 720-degree turn.” – Clay Martin (