July 17, 2024

Weather warning

David Grant, Associate Consultant, Healix, shares expert advice on how to prepare and protect business travellers in extreme weather situations

We’re seeing stories about extreme weather published nearly every day. Recent headlines reveal the impacts of Storm Henk hitting the UK, causing thousands of homes to flood, and wildfires north of Perth, both events becoming more frequent owing to climate change.

If we look ahead, it’s safe to assume 2024 could rival 2023 for being the hottest year on record. The travel industry, including airlines, hotels and tour operators will continue to be affected, which is a big consideration for businesses whose staff regularly travel the globe.

Encouragingly, businesses do recognise the risk of extreme weather as a long-term issue. Our latest Risk Radar report, which surveyed 500 travel and security risk managers across eight sectors, revealed that 43% see extreme weather as the biggest risk to their operations by 2030. Worryingly, 25% don’t have a plan in place to mitigate risk around climate or sustainability.

Who is at risk?

When we consider location, extreme weather is indiscriminate. When once extreme weather events were expected in only certain parts of the world, climate change is now a truly global threat. Low risk environments are increasingly experiencing natural disaster events – such as the 2021 flooding across swathes of Western and Central Europe. Although less developed countries are far more likely to be heavily impacted by these events, and sustain greater casualties, no country is exempt.

When drilled down, our research shows certain industries should take extra care. Media, for example, is ranked as a highly impacted industry at 83% thanks to the risks involved in reporting on extreme weather events at source. The manufacturing industry is even more highly impacted (86%), due to operations being widely dispersed across physical environments.

Monitor intelligence and trends

Firstly, those organising business travel need to stay abreast of developments in the country the employee is travelling to – using data from multiple reliable sources. Office locations overseas (and at home) should undergo routine risk assessments, especially if located on a flood plain or vulnerable to wildfires or landslides. External suppliers or embedded analysts can be valuable for collecting and analysing intelligence, identifying new or evolving risks and monitoring long-term trends.

Make a plan, and test it out

Using verified information, businesses should develop comprehensive travel risk policies as well as emergency guidelines to extract staff from challenging environments, looking at; staff exposure, infrastructure, evacuation routes, ports of departure, operational issues and escalation signals that indicate a deterioration in the local environment.

Actionable and tested plans should include evacuation plans, established primary and secondary methods of communication, and the assurance that personnel, assets, and sites are all well-equipped to handle natural disaster risks. Staff need to be made aware of all safety and emergency procedures, with ‘Dos and Don’ts’ clearly communicated.

Understand personalised risk profiles

Understanding the personalised risk profile of the person travelling, is imperative. For example, their level of travel experience, their ability to speak the country’s language or whether they have any health issues like asthma – leaving them more vulnerable to poor air quality.

Once these distinctive circumstances and characteristics have been established, businesses should put the best support in place. Can travelling staff be trained in first aid? Can they be appointed a translator? Do they have their medication to hand? Do they have access to emergency helplines and a clear step-by-step procedure?

Insure to reassure

Finally, businesses need to have the correct travel insurance, and general insurance, in place to protect their staff overseas – to cover them for all risks. Without it, there could not only be injury or loss of life, but also catastrophic financial costs, and major damage to reputation.

In conclusion

Ultimately, it is impossible to eliminate all travel risks, but proactive planning and a cautious approach can significantly reduce potential hazards. By incorporating these recommendations, businesses can maximise the safety of their staff while working overseas.