Part one of a series on Hostile Environment Awareness Training
Many organizations, ranging from the US State Department to large corporations, to non-government organizations (NGOs) of all sizes, require employees who will work in high-risk environments to attend a form of HEAT prior to traveling overseas. This is a vital part of an organization’s duty of care to protect its people.
What is a HEAT package supposed to look like?
While there some common skills that are usually part of every package, such as medical training and self-defense, a strong training package should be specifically tailored to the unique risks you expect to face. HEAT is a risk mitigation measure coming at the tail end of a long risk assessment process. It is the last opportunity for a firm to prepare its employees for the rigors they will encounter on the job. It should be undertaken with the utmost of care and attention. To paraphrase a popular saying in the military, “In a crisis, no one rises to the occasion, everyone sinks to their level of training.” The goal of HEAT is first and foremost raise that training level high enough so an employee will successfully manage and resolve an emergency situation.
How do you build an effective HEAT package?
To plan and develop an effective training package, risk assessment is the first step. If the top risks in the area of operations are traffic accidents and diseases, then a self-defense training segment may not be worth the cost. It would be wiser to invest in trauma medicine training and education on the prevention and identification of the most common diseases in the region. If an area poses a high risk of kidnapping, counter-custody training is a must. A thorough and robust risk assessment will ensure value for every dollar spent on training.
This is often a great unknown for many organizations. Many of the HEAT-related skills are usually well outside a firm’s normal activity, and it is tough to find instructional ability in-house. Without any resident expertise, it is also difficult to find and vet quality instructors and training venues. Finding a good service provider should ideally take the same investment of resources as hiring a new employee. Culture fit with your service provider is worth seeking out. A long-term relationship will yield not only training that is more closely aligned to your organizational needs and values but a program that will evolve as your firm grows. Research is critical. There are many open forums and social media networks where organizations help each other find quality providers. It is best to start with a pilot training package with a few students to minimize any losses if the instructional value is not up to par. Every training segment should be rigorously evaluated for the quality of the instructors and the venue.
Training is part of a continuum. To be truly effective, it needs to continually evolve and adapt to meet an organization’s changing risk profile and operational needs. The evaluation phase is a critical factor that is often ignored. In addition to the on-scene evaluation right at the course, there needs to be feedback from the field. An after-action review program needs to be established where employees operating in the high-risk area submit reports on a regular basis. Feedback should cover on whether the training accurately represented the conditions and challenges present in the field and whether any changes need to be made to the program. That is why it is ideal to either build an in-house training capability or develop a long-term relationship with a service provider. A consistent service provider will able to evolve along with the organization and provide bespoke training.
In closing, hostile environment awareness training should never be a “check in the box” training. With the right attention and investment, it will be a vital component of an organization’s duty of care program.