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Posts Tagged ‘Travel Safety’

FocusPoint Intl Vice Chairman Peter Martin interviewed at GBTA 2017 Convention

July 24th, 2017 Comments off

FocusPoint International’s Vice Chairman Peter Martin was interviewed at GBTA 2017 Convention in Boston as a part of the GBTA Industry Voices segment.

FocusPoint International’s CEO Greg Pearson interviewed at GBTA 2017

July 24th, 2017 Comments off

FocusPoint International’s CEO Greg Pearson was interviewed at GBTA 2017 Convention in Boston as a part of the GBTA Industry Voices segment.

If It Ain’t Broke, You Can Still Fix It

April 27th, 2017 Comments off

biking

We have seen the last of the snow around our corporate offices, and most people are coming out of hibernation and prepping for the spring and summer months. My wife’s bicycle needed a tune-up, so I brought it into a local bike shop that has been in town for many years. The shop was packed, with only a thin walkway through the center between the rows of bikes waiting for a tune-up.

I was given a numbered ticket that matched up with the bike. The owner said it would be ready in a week and someone would call me when it was ready, but if I did not hear back by then, I should contact the shop. The owner was very nice, knowledgeable, and appeared to be in his element as he had been doing it for years, however, there was room for improvement.

When I called back the shop a week, and two days later, I was asked for the ticket number. Since there was no record of my name or ticket number, the owner told me to stay on the phone with him while he walked up and down the path of bicycles. He then asked, “What kind of bike is it? Did you say it was red? No, you didn’t say, did you…let me see…I may have passed it…when did you drop it off?”

He did not find the bike but promised it would be ready for pick-up the following day. I believed him. I do not think a bike has ever been lost at that shop, but I am sure there have been delays, as I have experienced. Upgrading his system to use software, or even just record info in a logbook would work wonders.

Whether it is a local shop or large corporation, people can become complacent and trust in the motto, ‘If it ain’t broke’.

I have heard comments from travel managers stating that they have never had an incident with their security plan and do not need to change it. Complacency can backfire. Travel security policies need to be reviewed and constantly updated with new and improved services available.

For example:

Terrorism insurance coverage has quadrupled in the last three years

  • Here is the article
  • CAP™ exclusively by FocusPoint, has travel assistance memberships that cover terrorism amongst other travel risks

Epidemic of infectious decease is a concern for travelling workforces globally

  • CAP™ exclusively by FocusPoint, is the first assistance company to offer pandemic coverage

If it ain’t broke, you can still improve upon it.

Peter Martin of FocusPoint International quoted in Sun Sentinel article ‘Fort Lauderdale airport shooting reveals security flaws’

January 19th, 2017 Comments off

sunsentinel

Until he turned his gun on tourists, Esteban Santiago hadn’t broken any laws flying to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with a semi automatic handgun and bullets.

No rules were bent or ignored, no red flags raised.

Security experts and public officials say the shooting — the first of its kind in America — exposes weaknesses in a system designed to protect travelers on airplanes, but not necessarily in airports.

Until now, no one in America has ever gunned down airport travelers after flying with a checked weapon. But under airline and federal aviation rules, experts say, an airport attack like Santiago’s could easily happen again.

“It’s no more surprising than someone walking up to you on the street and shooting you,” said Jeff Price, an author, security trainer and professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Department of Aviation & Aerospace Science.

Santiago is accused of killing five tourists and injuring six other people in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, after checking only a 9 mm handgun in Alaska and flying one-way across the country to carry out the attack.

Video shows Santiago opening fire in an area where the public can freely come and go without a security check. He told the FBI he emptied one magazine, reloaded and emptied the other, shooting the first people he encountered. Law enforcement officers were about one minute away, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has said.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, airports have been wrapped in a cocoon of safety regulations. That might give travelers a false sense of
security, Price said.

For complete coverage of the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, click here.

Travelers can’t take more than 3.4 ounces of shampoo on an airplane; theirbodies are scanned by high-tech machines; their hands are sometimes
swabbed for bomb-making ingredients; and their bags are sniffed by trained German shepherds.

The areas of the terminal beyond the security checkpoint are protected because anything there could end up on a plane. In 2016, 3,391 guns were seized when people tried to carry them onto airplanes in the United States, according to Transportation Security Administration data. Four out of five were loaded.

Yet, the federal government leaves it up to airlines and local or state legislators to set rules for public areas like baggage claim.

In Florida, for example, concealed weapons can’t be carried in airports. But a gun in a case is fine, and people entering the baggage claim area aren’t
screened, anyway.

The policies remain in place even after previous shootings proved airports to be vulnerable. In November 2013, gunman Paul Ciancia took a Smith &
Wesson semi-automatic rifle into a busy terminal at Los Angeles International Airport and opened fire, killing a TSA agent and wounding three others.

Ciancia was not traveling. But no major airline prevents someone from entering with a gun as baggage, checking it and picking it up at the end of a
flight.

Delta spokesman Michael Thomas in Atlanta declined to discuss specifics about the ticket agent’s encounter with Santiago in Anchorage. But in general, he said, a traveler with a gun would approach the airline counter and sign an affidavit declaring the weapon is unloaded.

Following standard procedures, Santiago then would have opened the gun case and placed a Delta bright orange placard inside, declaring “FIREARM UNLOADED.”

The gun must travel in a hard case and must be locked, with only the traveler carrying the key to open it at the destination, according to TSA regulations. The case can be placed inside another piece of luggage, but the federal complaint against Santiago says he checked only the gun box.

The checked gun would be turned over to the TSA to be scanned for explosives, then stowed on the airplane.

Airlines require no gun permit when checking a gun for domestic travel, no proof of gun ownership, and no permit to use the gun in the arrival city or state, Thomas said.

“All these details are applied the same regardless of airline,” Thomas said. “We’re just applying the federal regulations.”

Gun policies posted on domestic airline websites show their rules differ from one another only slightly. Some airlines specify how ammunition is packed or how much it can weigh. Airports, too, generally follow the same guidelines when it comes to travelers with guns. Travelers must heed the gun laws in the states they travel to, but many states honor another state’s gun permits.

Jesse Davis, chief of police at the Anchorage airport, said his agency had no contact with Santiago and detected no sign that he planned violence.

“As far as the question about flying with just a gun case,” the chief wrote in an email, “there would be no way of knowing whether he had a traveling companion and that person had checked luggage under his/her name that belonged to both of them, or whether the other person may be holding onto the carry-on bags while the other traveler is declaring the handgun. So, it would not raise any red flags or warning signs.”

Santiago would have then boarded the flight from far-flung Alaska to balmy South Florida, knowing his Walther 9mm semi-automatic handgun and two magazines were tucked securely aboard.

Barring a baggage mix-up, Santiago could be assured his gun would emerge on the conveyor belt at Fort Lauderdale airport’s Terminal 2, around the lunch hour, as TSA announcements or a welcome message from Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief blared from the speakers.

Retrieving the gun was as easy as plucking it off the baggage belt. The government does not monitor how weapons are returned to passengers at the end of a flight.

“The reuniting of checked baggage with passengers is the responsibility of the airlines,” TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said.

After the shooting on Jan. 6, the broadcast message soon turned dark, with a female voice warning, “There has been a report of an emergency. Proceed calmly to the nearest exit and leave the building immediately.” An alarm sounded as pandemonium broke out.

The shooting has brought new scrutiny to airport security, but one security expert cautioned against focusing on airports, given that the attack could have occurred in any busy place.

“If the person wasn’t able to carry it on the plane, would it have stopped the shooting? No,” said Peter Martin, CEO of the international security firm FocusPoint International and a Plantation resident. “It would have changed the location, for certain. But he’s not going to just go home and watch TV.”

John Parrott, director of the Anchorage airport, said the employees appeared to have gone by the book in Santiago’s case. Whether the rules themselves are adequate, he said, is beyond his purview.

“It appears that in this incident the required procedures were followed,” Parrott said by email. “As to whether or not those processes are adequate, that is part of the national discussion that is taking place.”

AFIMAC CEO Peter Martin’s interview with Security Insider ‘How to stay safe in Rio’

August 5th, 2016 Comments off

AFIMAC CEO Peter Martin’s interview with Security Insider ‘How to stay safe in Rio’.

FocusPoint International: Mickey Winston’s advice on Rio 2016 in Safe Travels Magazine ‘Expert Advice: Is It Safe To Go To The Olympics?’

August 2nd, 2016 Comments off

Expert Advice

Mickey-Winston-profile-picMickey Winston at FocusPoint International

Email: mwinston@wwfocus.com
Website: www.focuspointl.com
Twitter: @mickfpi

FocusPoint is a Global Specialty Risk Consultancy with a focus on Travel Assistance/Crisis Response. We worked in over 100 countries last year and have been responding to crises and evacuating persons for over 30 years.

Mickey has over 25 years in the security industry and has held management positions with several Fortune 100 companies and spent over 10 years managing security for a high net worth Family managing all aspects of both personal and corporate security for their financial firm.  He has extensive experience in corporate investigations, crisis management, physical security and executive protection.  Mickey is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, serving 7 years as both an infantry NCO and a Marine Security Guard at US Embassies.

How safe is it to go to the Olympics?

In my opinion, you can travel to pretty much anywhere, depending on your appetite for risk and willingness to implement security measures to ensure your safety.  With regards to Rio De Janeiro, I think it’s safe to attend the Olympics.  The chances of being a victim of a terrorist incident are slim, but the chances of being a victim of a kidnap, robbery or violent crime are more likely.

What are the biggest risks?

The level of street crime is dangerously high and although there will be a massive police and/or military presence in and around the Olympic venues, other areas of the City will not have coverage.  There have been several reports of athletes being victims of express kidnaps and robberies pre-Olympics, and this will probably increase during the Games.

What are the overlooked risks?

While everyone is focused on crime and terrorism, I think the risk of political unrest, getting caught up in some kind of violent protest action is high.  Travelers could unwittingly be cut off from their hotels or groups and then be vulnerable to injury or arrest etc.  The probability of a vehicle accident and/or medical mishap occurring is very high.  The availability of quality medical care and emergency response services will certainly be tested throughout the Olympics.

How should people mitigate this?

Have a plan.  Ensure your plan extends beyond the sights and sounds of the Olympic experience.  Situational awareness is key.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Know the contact numbers for your Embassy or Consulate.  Make sure your mobile device works overseas and you know how to use it locally in Brazil.  Identify medical facilities ahead of time and make sure your insurance will cover you if needed.  If your existing insurance will not cover you, purchase protections that will.  Keep abreast of changing threat dynamics through available media outlets – newspapers, television, social media, etc.  Secure transportation ahead of time and avoid public transportation as much as possible.  Know what to do and where to go if a crisis event occurs during your Olympic experience. Speak with hotel staff or Brazilian friends about what is going on.  Stay away from the area of official Government buildings that might be the focus of a protest or terrorist incident.  Make sure you can get in contact with your fellow travelers, groups in case you get separated.

Monkey Business

July 25th, 2016 Comments off

I had no idea what to expect; nobody did.

FocusPoint had never been an exhibitor at the GBTA show, and we needed to get the company brand in front of as many eyes as we could.

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Booth 773 at GBTA 2016 before the Expo opened.

We took the same approach that our clients use when they contract our services. If they are not travel, safety or security experts, they get our help and build a plan.

    • We invited Michael Thompson from our sister company, ISB Canada, for his years of experience in the travel business
    •  

    • We also requested the presence of our partner Don Churchill from e-Travel Technologies, for his years of expertise in the travel business
    •  

    • Peter Martin and Greg Pearson scheduled a weekly one-hour online meeting for everyone attending the trade show to run through the breakdown of companies and competitors that attend the show, service reviews, role playing scenarios for potential ‘on the floor’ discussions and more

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      Line up in front of our booth at GBTA 2016.

    • There was a team dinner the night before the trade show to rally the group, discuss strategy, and introduce partners
    •  

    • We held a debrief at the end of each trade show day to discuss the pros/cons

Every one of my twenty colleagues that attended the show were superstars. We had a plan, but without the team executing it, it would not be successful.

Oh, and we had rescued monkeys at our booth. That helped too (check out photos here). We had a lineup each day and were able to meet and have great conversations with the attendees about CAP travel assistance memberships, exclusively by FocusPoint.

We didn’t monkey around, and it paid off.

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AFIMAC Global VP Ruben Mena discussing airport security on NBC Impact

July 6th, 2016 Comments off

AFIMAC Global Vice President Ruben Mena discussing airport security in the wake of the Istanbul attacks on NBC WTVJ Channel 6 on “Impact with Jackie Nespral” . Originally aired Sunday, July 3, 2016.

AFIMAC CEO Peter Martin quoted in USA Today article “Experts: U.S. airports need more armed officers outside terminals”

July 5th, 2016 Comments off

Capture

In the aftermath of the deadly bombing Tuesday at Istanbul’s international airport, security experts urged airports to assign more armed officers at terminal doors to prevent attackers from reaching crowds of travelers farther inside.

The three suicide bombers killed 42 people, but the death toll was likely lower after an encounter with guards at the doorway forced them to split up and set off the explosives earlier than planned.

“The explosive effect of that same bomb going off (farther inside the airport) is exponential, the collateral damage and casualties is exponential,” said Anthony Roman, president of Roman & Associates, which consults on security and risk management. “It would have been hundreds dead.”

All three attackers arrived together at the lower-level arrivals hall; one went inside, opened fire and then detonated his explosives, an Interior Ministry official and another official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

The second attacker went upstairs to departures and blew himself up. The third man waited outside during the whole episode and detonated his explosives last as people flooded out of the airport, the officials said.

One of the attackers drew the attention of guards posted outside the terminal because he wore a jacket in 80-degree summer heat, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported. The guards followed the suspect as he met up with two other men. When the men realized they had police attention, they hurried to hit their targets.

“When the terrorists couldn’t pass the regular security system, when they couldn’t pass the scanners, police and security controls, they returned and took out their weapons out of their suitcases and opened fire at random at the security check,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildririm said Wednesday.

The airport’s new security approach of placing armed guards at the doors came after bombings at Brussels airport and a nearby subway station killed 32 people in March. Brussels airport shuttered for weeks after suicide attackers detonated bombs at a checkin area, causing extensive damage. The explosions in Istanbul caused far less damage, and the airport reopened Wednesday.

The Brussels attacks spurred calls for the Transportation Security Administration to move security checkpoints to doorways, but experts pointed out such a move would only push crowds of travelers onto sidewalks or parking lots where they would remain targets.

A better goal, security officials said, is to post armed officers such as local police or National Guard members at all terminal doors to gauge the behavior of suspicious travelers before they enter the building. Checkpoints inside would still screen passengers and bags for weapons and explosives.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey posted more armed police and National Guard members Wednesday at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports.

Any checkpoints should be behind bollards — short vertical posts that can halt a vehicle — to reduce the threat of car bombs, according to Jeff Price, an aviation-security professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver.

“Putting screening checkpoints too close to the entrances creates an additional vulnerability as you’re exposing those waiting in line to a much more powerful vehicle bomb, versus a less powerful backpack or suicide bomber farther inside the terminal,” he said.

Peter Martin, CEO of AFIMAC Global, a consultancy that assesses threats at airports and gauges risks in high-risk environments such as Istanbul, said the key is to push security out as far as possible to blunt the impact on crowds.

“There’s not anything really designed to keep those areas from being overrun,” Martin said. “This is a prime example of people targeting where the people are.”

Martin said the hope is for security to appear the strongest so that terrorists will move on to a different target. “You don’t want your target to be the softest perceived target,” he said.

Another tactic, adopted by Los Angeles airport, is posting armed officers along airport roads to observe vehicles that appear weighed down with explosives or are carrying people who look uncomfortable or suspicious.

“You need to have armed personnel outside the terminal, as well as inside the terminal, so that if a threat is engaged, it’s engaged effectively,” Roma.

FocusPoint International CEO Greg Pearson quoted in Travel Weekly: Bad news is good news for travel insurance vendors

April 25th, 2016 Comments off

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Terrorist attacks, virus outbreaks and other bad news for the travel industry typically translate into good news for sales of travel insurance. So it’s little surprise that a world in which violence, disease and extreme weather appear to be on the rise is producing steady growth for risk-management products within the retail channel.

In 2008, the U.S. Travel Insurance Association (USTIA) reported via its market survey that Americans had spent just over $1.58 billion on travel insurance the previous year, according to executive director Megan Freedman.

“If we fast forward to 2014, that spend was about $2.2 billion, so a noticeable increase,” Freedman said.

The number of Americans covered by a USTIA member’s plan also increased in that time frame from 28 million to 33.4 million, Freedman said, “so in the number of people covered and the number of dollars they’re spending in the industry, we’re certainly noticing increases.”

The USTIA will conduct its next market survey in 2017, she said, and if the trend continues, sales should be even higher.

Freedman pointed to several factors that are pushing the increase: the economy, the growth in leisure travel in recent years, “and, really, an awareness of the different things that can interrupt your travel — extreme weather, natural disasters, things like that.”

Dean Sivley, president of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, also pointed to growth in the leisure market and the strong U.S. dollar. He, too, said there are spikes in inquiries and sales whenever violence or other troubles are heavily publicized anywhere in the world. In particular, he cited the Brussels terrorist attacks and the increasing spread of the Zika virus.

“There always have been events which do remind people that it’s good to get travel insurance, and you do see spikes,” Sivley said. “But interestingly enough, I don’t think that they’re necessarily lasting effects.”

Typically, he said, Berkshire Hathaway sees “somewhere in the 15% to 20% range in terms of percentage of additional bookings that happen during those periods,” increases that tend to last for a few months.

Daniel Durazo, director of communications for Allianz Global Assistance, said bumps in inquiries and sales are largely driven by media coverage.

“It’s the crisis of the moment that drives a lot of interest in travel insurance, and there will be a next crisis,” Durazo said.

Isaac Cymrot, vice president of industry relations with Travel Insured International, agreed: “Anytime there’s something that’s perceived negatively in the world that could impact travel, it’s going to have a positive effect on our business because people are naturally better in tune to, ‘If I want to go, I’m going to be protected.’ ”

To be sure, negative events are not solely responsible for spikes in business. Insurers are already anticipating an increase in U.S. travelers headed to Cuba as travel restrictions to the country are loosened.

“We see a direct correlation between the type of trip people take and the percentage of people who take insurance,” said Beth Godlin, president of Aon Affinity Travel Practice. “So the more exotic or risky the location is, or the more underdeveloped the medical infrastructure is, the higher the percentage of people who take insurance.”

Insurers said they also felt their industry was growing because of a better general awareness of travel insurance among U.S. consumers, not just as a result of spikes caused by global events.

“Travel insurance is available in many more places than it ever was before, so there’s a much higher degree of awareness of the product and the value,” Godlin said. “Because of that — because of the sheer sort of exponential increase in distribution points for the product — more people are seeing it, more people are buying it.”

In addition, Jason Schreier, U.S. CEO of April Travel Protection, attributed an increase in the amount of insurance sold to a “heightened awareness” of insurance. He said education about what insurance can do for travelers is important, especially in the U.S., where travelers traditionally buy travel insurance less than in other markets.

Robert Gallagher, COO of AIG Travel, agreed. Within the U.S. specifically, he said, “education and awareness about the value of travel insurance is a key marketing objective for us.”

Companies that are focused more on travel risk management are seeing increases in business, too. For example, On Call International’s chief security officer, Jim Hutton, said the company is seeing increases of 30% year over year in requests for information about both insurance and risk-management services, particularly in the security, political and natural disaster coverage realms.

FocusPoint International, a security and risk-management firm, targets business travelers, but has seen an increase in leisure travelers recently, CEO Greg Pearson said. This time last year the company had about 10% leisure clients, but that is expected to grow to 30% by the end of 2016, with an end goal of a 40/60 leisure-business mix.

The value of travel insurance is not lost on agents, who often recommend the product to their customers.

Kimberly Wilson Wetty of Valerie Wilson Travel said, “The best advice we give our travelers is to buy insurance and protect their investment.”

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