says the Canada-based company. Another offering on the market is that of Voyager Insurance Services in the UK, which includes with its security and business- focused travel insurance products a free downloadable smartphone app that, with one touch, connects the traveller directly to a 24/7 emergency security and medical assistance service. Carl Carter, Managing Director of the company, says: “When travelling to extremely austere or remote hostile locations, services are available from our assistance provider for employee tracking so that an employer knows where staff are, which is especially useful in the event of an emergency situation in a specific area or region.”

Effective crisis management … relies on having appropriate and effective risk management systems in place

Lloyd Figgins says: “Te good news is that there are some great tech devices on the market, which vary from travel tracking apps that travellers can have on their smart phones, all the way through to covert trackers, which can be concealed in a shoe. One of the best devices I have tested is the In-Reach Explorer by Delorme, which not only has the ability to track users, but also has text capability. Terefore, in the event of an incident, those on the ground can send an alert via the SOS feature, to a control centre, informing them of an incident, but also, and critically, let them know by using the SMS feature, the type of incident it is. Tis allows the incident management team to apply appropriate resources to the situation.” Charlie LeBlanc, Vice-President of Global Risk and Client Management at UnitedHealthcare Global (UHG) in the US, points out that tech has already acted as a great enabler when it comes to contacting insureds in times of crisis, helping to evaluate the response needed: “Take the attacks in Paris, Brussels and the UK; you know that you probably have a very small part of your population who are going to need help, but you’ve got to find out who they are, so that you can focus your efforts on them, knowing that all of the others are OK. Technology has been a great driver in this. It’s allowed companies like ours, working with our clients, to say OK, we’ve got 300

6 | International Travel & Health Insurance Journal

people in Paris and we’ve heard back from 290 – they’re fine – so now I have to worry about only 10 … a much easier number to work with.” UHG’s text-based proprietary product – Travel Security Manager – tracks people’s flight itineraries. It was called into action following the shooting in Las Vegas last year. LeBlanc explains: “Immediately we got word of the Las Vegas shooting in October last year, we checked all of our clients’ flight itineraries and within literally a minute we had the names of all the people who had flown into Las Vegas. Tat didn’t mean they were in Vegas, because they could have rented a car and left town. But we could instantly text message that entire group, and ask them a simple question: Are you OK? Tey quickly responded with a yes or a no. Once we have a list of those who are OK, we can focus on those who aren’t; people who have not answered our question, or those who have told us they’re not OK.” UHG uses text messaging services because it has learned that during attacks such as those in Las Vegas, mobile phone towers quickly become overburdened.

Looking ahead at what the continual evolution of technological services could do for travellers in need of help, McIndoe points out that global communications systems are constantly evolving, with many new satellite systems being deployed. “Tis,” he added, “will result in almost constant voice and data connectivity anywhere on the globe and will not rely on ground systems that can be damaged or out of service during a crisis. In the current environment, many people do not have or turn off their data connectivity while travelling or do not have a phone enabled at all.” Te other area of technology evolution is the increasing granularity of information (intelligence) available around

the clock that can be automatically pushed to the people on the ground to warn them of impending dangers or specific incidents such as a bridge out, spreading fires, or disease outbreaks. CEGA’s Brown also pointed out that as travel threats change, travel tracking and intelligence apps can be as useful in historically safe destinations as in their more challenging counterparts: not least in the context of European terrorist attacks.

A joined-up approach

With the ability to communicate, important messages can be sent out to keep people informed of the situation, let them know what to do and to co-ordinate getting help

As is often the case when talking about the positive impact that technology can have, there is a case to be made for offering it as a complementary service, as opposed to a lone ranger. Figgins concludes: “Technology is continually evolving and if it’s available and effective, it most certainly should form part of emergency response planning, but this needs to work in tandem with appropriate and effective training for those operating overseas. Training needs to be commensurate to the type of activity those deployed overseas are engaged in. Your

two-day urban first aid course isn’t going to cut it if you’re operating in remote regions where evacuation is likely to be delayed. You need a course that deals specifically with longer term care in a pre-hospital environment. Equally, travellers need to be familiar with any technology they are taking with them and test it regularly. After all, it could save their life.” ■


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