At Akvo we travel a lot and we are aware that some of our destinations are more risk-prone than others. Ever since Maaike and I started working at Akvo this January, it has been one of our aims to review all safety and security procedures and to create even more awareness on this topic within the organisation to make sure all of our travel is done in the safest and most responsible manner possible.

What has been done so far?

In order to achieve this, we’ve started taking some actions. To begin with, we’ve long had a traveller safety form and a travel checklist available to our staff. We also put a Crisis Management team in place some time ago. More recently, we’ve had talks with a number of hub managers to discuss their view on this topic. With their input, we’ve started reviewing and updating the safety and security procedures that have been in place, but seem outdated on a few points. This overall procedure consists of a number of safety and security-related policies such as the Akvo travel policy and the Crisis Management team policy.

In case of emergency or other unexpected events – such as an accident, a natural disaster, or a conflict – you want to be able to easily access the telephone numbers that are the most relevant to you. That’s why, together with the Communications team, Maaike created very useful safety cards. A safety card is small enough to fit into your wallet or back pocket, with all kinds of relevant phone numbers you want to carry with you whilst travelling. The numbers on the card can be adjusted to your individual needs with emergency phone numbers in your home country and other relevant information. In the coming weeks, everyone in the organisation will receive an email with the link to the card and instructions on how to prepare and use it.

Above: A proof of our new safety card.

We’ve also added new members to our Crisis Management team, partly to replace team members who left Akvo, but also to add expertise on HR and logistics to the team. This ensures the Crisis Management Team is a well functioning team of people within Akvo that will mobilise to help in case a member of our organisation is involved in a critical incident anywhere in the world. The team meets every three months to discuss progress and the actions taken. We have had two very useful meetings up until now and the next meeting will be held in a couple of weeks.

To make sure this team functions at its best, I’ve had a very interesting training at the Centre for Safety and Development. The training focused on making decisions in the heat of the moment, helping us decide in which situations a crisis management team should be established and how to proceed once the crisis management team has been put in place.

What’s next?
I am taking the lessons learned in the training back to our next Crisis Management team meeting to share the information with all of the team members. I am also working on including the lessons I’ve learned in the training in our overall safety and security procedure.

We are aware of how busy everyone is and how last minute travel plans can be. On the other hand, you cannot avoid some preparations if you want to make sure you are travelling as safely as possible. Keeping things simple and clear is very important.  

In addition to rolling out the safety card to our entire organisation, we are currently defining the five most important steps everyone should take before and during his or her travels for Akvo and we are working on a way to visualise these steps so that they remain on top of everybody’s mind.

We will share additional information about these steps and the visualisation in an upcoming blog. In the mean time, if you have any questions or suggestions, do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Ingrid Budil is Akvo’s office manager in Amsterdam. Follow her @IngridBudil.