Ebola may become the great equalizer of business risk.
Arlington, VA (October 15, 2014) – Companies with international operations should take a hard look at how well prepared they are to deal with an employee with possible exposure to Ebola. That was the clear message from Dale Buckner as he discussed the security challenges that companies with international operations are facing today.
Buckner, a former Army Special Forces Colonel and the CEO of Global Guardian, the international security firm, spoke to an international audience of nearly 500 at KPMG’s Global Mobility Forum in Chicago on October the 7th. Although Buckner discussed regional issues such as the growing threat from ISIS, the situation in the Ukraine, America’s pending exit from Afghanistan, and the expansion of drug cartel activity throughout Mexico and Central America; the issue that resonated with most was the potential risk from the spread of Ebola.
“Ebola is a real and growing problem,” said Buckner. “The U.S. has missed the window for controlling this outbreak in West Africa with a slow and under resourced response. Now, as the crisis grows, the U.S. is entirely reactive in its response, and many of these reactive moves are still too passive. The outbreak will continue to grow and spread throughout Africa and into the U.S. and Europe,” he added.
While many businesses have medical and evacuation insurance plans designed to support employees who become sick or injured while traveling overseas, Ebola presents some unique challenges. The standard of medical care in the West African countries dealing with the Ebola epidemic is so far below that of the U.S., that even basic protocols for treating the symptoms of the disease are scarce or unavailable. Further, as the health systems of these nations face greatly increased demand for treatment, many are overwhelmed. Another concern is the fact many medical evacuation insurance policies have specific exclusions for hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola. This potentially leaves business travelers unable to get adequate local treatment and companies unable to transport those employees to the U.S. for care.
“The usual plan for most businesses with a sick or injured traveling employee is to evacuate them to a western hospital with a high standard of care. The hard reality is that there are very few commercial aviation companies with the willingness and capability to transport Ebola patients. Those aviation assets will become a highly demanded resource if the disease continues to spread,“ said Buckner. Buckner urged attendees to ask about their company’s response plan to a possible infected employee, what if any support they may have in place, and who to contact within their organization if they suspect they have been exposed. He urged travelers to educate themselves on the disease and how it spreads, and to limit travel to the affected areas as much as possible.
“Ebola has the potential to be the great equalizer of business risk. Regardless of whether you’re in financial services, technology, manufacturing or oil and gas - if you have employees that travel internationally – they, and your business may be at risk,” said Buckner.
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