Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Developing Safety and Security Worldwide

At People to People Ambassador Programs, the safety and health of all delegates and citizen ambassadors is our top priority. We strive to have a solid working knowledge and understanding of the current state of affairs in all corners of the world, especially the countries we visit. In order to stay current with world affairs, we use multiple resources to ensure we have the latest information.

Utilizing Worldwide Partners
First and foremost, we rely on our worldwide partners. These organizations are incredibly well connected within their respective areas and are in a unique position to pass along current and relevant information. We also rely on our past experiences. We have been operating programs around the world for more than 40 years and we have many proven safety and health procedures that provide the greatest opportunity for a positive experience for our students. In addition to these sources, we rely heavily on the U.S. Department of State and their available resources. One of these resources is the Overseas Security Advisors Council (OSAC), which employs highly skilled regional coordinators who collect and analyze the most current intelligence from all corners of the world.
One example of how OSAC supports People to People Ambassador Programs happened in late March. Each morning, I receive a summary of current events from around the world. On this day in March, I received a report of a young boy who reportedly had contracted H1N1, or swine flu, as it is commonly known. Within a few days, another alert reported the first death in Mexico. These alerts allowed our organization to start making preparations for our summer season in the event the disease spread, which it soon did. By the time we received reports about the first U.S. case, our organization was already planning communication with our delegate families and preparing to prescreen travelers.
Thanks to the information we received from the OSAC and our worldwide partners, we successfully traveled thousands of students to countries with sophisticated screening processes at airports, such as China, New Zealand, and Japan, and we did not travel one student with the virus, nor did any student traveling on our programs come down with the swine flu. Based on these results, I have now been asked by organizations such as the United States Tour Operators Association and the Student Youth Travel Association to share our practices at their conferences to reduce the chance that other students contract the virus. We clearly would not have been as successful without the early intelligence provided to us by the OSAC.

Keeping Up with Safety and Security
As a federal advisory committee, the OSAC promotes security cooperation between the U.S. Department of State, American businesses, and private sector interests worldwide. Essentially, the OSAC comprises government specialists who collect and share safety and security information to businesses around the world.

On November 18, the OSAC hosted their 24th annual briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., and I attended as a representative of People to People Ambassador Programs. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled to open the conference, but she had to attend a meeting in China the night before with President Obama, and was unable to return in time. Daniel Weber, the OSAC executive director, opened the conference instead. I was pleased to spend some time with him during the two-day event. Jeffrey W. Culver, director of Diplomatic Security, also presented at the conference.

In addition we heard from Ambassador Eric J. Boswell, assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security for the U.S. Department of State.

After hearing from these individuals, I am confident we walked away with the most current and accurate information available, which will help us continue to achieve our safety goals.

The presentations gave us current intelligence on conditions in all parts of the world. Participants also had opportunities to hear and share best practices that we can incorporate into the People to People Ambassador Programs' safety, health, and security processes to ensure the continued safety of your child.

The conference theme was "Confronting Global Risks." Each presenter was highly specialized in their area of focus, and the subjects ranged from hotel safety to global finances' impact on security.

Among the attendees were some of the top corporate security specialists in the nation. For example, I was able to share many stories and ideas with Michael A. Mason, the chief security officer at Verizon Communications. Mason served as a public servant for 28 years, first as a military officer, and then in the FBI prior to joining Verizon. When the conference ended, Mason attended a meeting with the newly established Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), a domestic version of the OSAC. In this group, the FBI serves as the chief liaison with businesses, instead of the State Department as with the OSAC.

As this group develops, People to People Ambassador Programs will stay involved to help ensure the continued success and safety of our domestic programs, such as our World Leadership Forums held in Washington, D.C., and our Leadership Summits at high profile universities including Harvard, Rice, and Stanford. The information gained from the DSAC will also help us develop safety practices for our "Leadership Summit: Remembering Hurricane Katrina" in New Orleans this summer.

Next year, the OSAC will celebrate 25 years of providing critical information to U.S. businesses that enables us to travel the world safely. We thank them for all they have done, and wish them the best during their 25th anniversary. We plan to attend their annual conference to continue to develop our safety and security practices at People to People Ambassador Programs.

With that, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life.


1 comment:

  1. The article is very nice. While traveling it is necessary to follow safe travel tips.