Global Rescue at work guaranteeing safe travel
She collapsed in a neighbor’s doorway. The pain was so intense it took all her energy to get out of the little house where she was alone, more than a thousand miles from her home county with a language she still stumbled through. Depending on the kindness of strangers, of neighbors just met, the expat was soon recovering from surgery in the local hospital. The expensive scenario was avoidable if she’d set up a safe travel expert relationship before she left home. Travel insurance helps in a crisis situation. It may or may not cover the expenses, it certainly won’t guarantee safe travel, security or help on the ground.
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We live in a world full of challenges. For those of us fortunate enough to indulge our wanderlust, having an alliance with experts who can provide safe travel tools or, should the need arise, respond in a crisis situation, is more important than ever.
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That’s why I wanted to talk with Dan Richards, CEO and founder of Global Rescue.
For more than ten years the company has worked to provide individuals, families, businesses and governments with the services they need to avoid and respond to crises. It’s a tall order and one that is constantly in flux. Richards established Global Rescue after 9-11. He was working in financial services and looking for a company to invest in.
Dan Richards, CEO and founder of Global Rescue

Dan Richards, CEO and founder of Global Rescue

As he explains, “What we found as we were studying the industry for travel insurance and assistance in the post-911 world, was that the resources available to individuals, to enterprises and governments from the private sector, were not as robust as they needed to be. The post-911 challenges exceeded the resource base that most of companies had.”
Global Rescue was set up to help make safe travel possible and to:
1. Provide best-in-class medical aid, evacuation and other types of critical services for individual travelers and enterprises.
2.  To provide advisory support and security services
3. To provide information, intelligence and a comprehensive risk management platform for businesses and people traveling around the world.
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EM – Does most of your work involve individuals or companies?
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DR – We spend a lot of time with both actually. The bulk of our medical work revolves around consumers – individuals and families. Typically these are leisure or business travelers who have purchased Global Rescue for themselves and their families. We do spend a lot of time with enterprises as they grapple with security and response challenges of the 21st century. As you probably know, supply chains for businesses have gotten longer, not shorter, as the world has shrunk and competitive forces have pushed businesses to go further and further afield towards goods and services less and less expensively. There are more people traveling further than ever before so we help these businesses and the individuals who work there deal with these kinds of challenges.
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EM – I imagine it’s become more demanding and complicated given the circumstances that the world has been dealing with recently.  What does Global Rescue offer that is different?
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DR – We set out to create a new paradigm and an unparalleled set of resources that could be brought to bear when crises occurred and  for those who wanted to be prepared, particularly on the enterprise and government side. We would help these enterprises and governments do the planning, the training and the travel risk management that would help them avoid some of these crises to begin with.
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EM – You’re based in the United States but where else are you located with staff and services?
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DR – We’ve expanded pretty seriously over the years, with seven offices in five countries. We have three in the US, in the Netherlands, the Ukraine, in Pakistan, and in Thailand. In addition to those operation centers, we also have teams of individuals who are either on retainer or we employ in parts of the world where we have high operational volume. Sometimes we’ll deploy our own personnel where we know there’s going to be high potential seasonal volume. Nepal is a good example of that because during the trekking and climbing seasons we do dozens of  missions in the Himalayas every year which requires a team on the ground to process those rescues, evacuations and transports; to get those people to the care that they need. There are very few places on the planet that we haven’t been.
There are very few places on the planet that we haven’t been.
EM – That’s an amazing statement to make when you think of all the destinations out there. It’s important to know there are seasonal impacts to be aware of and seasonal risks. Where else would you say is particularly active for your company?
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DR – It really depends. The African Safari season, which occurs late summer and into the fall, is also a popular time, not only for purchase of memberships but the use of deployments of our personnel and transports when they’re needed by our clients. Our government and enterprise clients are not really seasonal because the pace of business tends to be 365 days a year. Interesting to note that the only slow-down on that side is during the holidays when businesses tend to close for Christmas and New Years but really it’s 365 days a year, 24 hour a day business. It’s certainly not a boring business but doesn’t lend itself to getting away from the business either.
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EM – I was just thinking that. When do you ever unplug or do you?
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DR – Well, fortunately, we’ve reached a scale today that we’re able to rotate our teams, so we’re very cognizant, and it’s one of the challenges we have, that we don’t burn our people out, because as passionate as you can be about rescuing and saving people, you can’t do it to exhaustion. You do need to unplug and get away from it and that includes me as well. We make sure that we give our teams time to recharge and reload so they’re fresh and ready to go.
Global rescue lands below base camp.

Global rescue lands below base camp.

EM – Would you discuss the difference between buying an insurance program and what Global Rescue offers?
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DR – We are not a travel insurance company. We sell memberships that have the ability to access services. The biggest difference between what we do and travel insurance is in resources. We are a crisis response company at our core. We have an exclusive relationship with John Hopkins Medicine and the support of their physicians. We employ our own paramedics, security experts and physicians, many of whom hail from the military and special operations community. We are very good at understanding how to deal with these types of crises when they occur and to help our clients plan and avoid these crises in advance.
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Travel Insurance companies are set up to mitigate an economic and financial risk. So, they put a policy in place and you submit a claim and if it qualifies, you get reimbursed. They do have companies who are in the traveler assistance business. Many of these are call center based and have limited operational capability. We are the opposite, an operationally focused company and we have personnel who know how to respond to these crises all over the world. We do business with insurance companies in both consumer and enterprise, and we work together. The old model of simply having an insurance company and call center doesn’t cut it in a post-911 world.
The old model of simply having an insurance company and call center doesn’t cut it in a post-911 world.
EM – I’m happy to hear about the membership model because, for those of us who travel frequently, it sounds like that would cover a variety of trips.
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DR – True. We sell memberships in 7, 14 and 30 day varieties but we also sell annual memberships for people who are frequent travelers. That way you can renew once a year and not have to worry about doing it every time you take a trip. It’s relatively affordable. The 7 day membership starts at $119. The annual membership for an individual starts at $329. Which is not much in the grand scheme of things, particularly if you’re going to out of the way areas where you might have an issue.
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EM – When you’re planning a trip and looking for those off-the-beaten path types of experiences, and I’m talking about individual travelers, what are some of the most important safety considerations to make when you’re planning and then, once you’re there?
The most important considerations for safe travel
DR – Number 1: Perhaps the most important thing to do is to know whether you should go there or not to begin with. We have a service available to all of our members that’s called GRID, that stands for Global Rescue Intelligence Delivery. We have a team of 15 analysts around the world that are publishing research on more than 200 destinations. You can research the destinations that you’re considering and determine whether or not that’s a fit for your risk profile. We’ve had people, as you can imagine, go to places where they shouldn’t be and that’s the number one consideration.
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Number 2When you are going somewhere, you should always bring a means of communication. One of the hardest things for us to grapple with, and not even in remote areas but foreign cities, sometimes is communicating with our members. In order for us to respond, we need to know you’re having a problem. We have an APP you can load onto your phone with a one touch emergency beacon that you can press as part of that APP. You also have the ability to check in with us and provide your last location, again provided you have cell service, so we can see you and our other members when they check in. That’s very important but nothing replaces being able to communicate with our members, either by email or text, or better yet by phone. Bringing a communication device is really important.
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Number 3Have some knowledge of the local customs. When you stick out, you’re a target, potentially. Particularly for Westerners and especially for Americans. If you’re going someplace where you can easily be identified as an American and you’re flouting the local culture or aren’t familiar with it, that can be a problem.
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Number 4 Travel with somebody. You’re much better off not being alone. Let people know what your itinerary is and where you’ll be when. If you miss one of those check ins or you’re not where everybody expects you to be, people can start to go looking for you. This goes hand in hand with registering with the State Department to let them know that you, as an American citizen, are going abroad.
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EM – What do you think about checking in with the State Department when, just for an example, you’re traveling to Turkey? People may say ‘I’m not going to Turkey,’ but the alerts are for only one portion of the country. What would you say to someone who is set on going to Istanbul to handle that?
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DR – Well, I think that an informed traveler is one who will hopefully make the right decision for him or herself regarding what risks they’re willing to take, or not take and what they actually might encounter. When they go to a place like Turkey, which historically has been a relatively safe place to go but there have been events there that would indicate it is less safe place to go. The State Department travel advisories reflect that.
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It’s sometimes hard because the media can skew the way perceptions of whether or not the likelihood of another attack, or if you’re an American, whether you might be involved in one of those attacks. It’s good to get as much objective information as you can. The State Department has a good resource, as I mentioned there are other private resources, and our company is one of them, so you can hopefully get an objective view of what you might be encountering. Then make the decision yourself about whether the risks are acceptable.
Traffic challenges in the Philippines.

Traffic challenges in the Philippines.

EM – Some travelers have told me, with State Department travel alerts on and off about travel in Mexico, may have been spawned politically. What do you think of that argument?
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DR – I think it’s impossible for a government anywhere when you’re out in the public domain, to entirely divorce the political ramifications of what is getting published from the content itself. I think that any informed reader should understand that and that should be one of the important sources of information and tools that they use, but it shouldn’t be the only source of information.
When it comes to trying to assess risk, it’s very much opinion-based.
It’s in the travelers best interest before they go to get any number of opinions, both public sector and private sector.  Then arm themselves with that to make the best opinion. The likelihood, when you’re talking about terrorism or violence in some of these locations, the likelihood that you will be involved in one of these acts is still extraordinarily small. If you go to Syria or other places where there’s active fighting going on, the likelihood is much higher and we would advise against that. But for places that are relatively stable, and have had terrorist incidents recently, like Paris, France or Belgium, the likelihood that you’d be involved is extremely small. But it’s not zero. It goes back to what risks the traveler is willing to take and what precautions they are willing to employ to keep from being a victim of one of these attacks.
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EM – I wondered if not traveling in fear and trusting your gut, your instincts, is how you travel? Do you use that kind of awareness in your training for travelers?
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DR – We definitely do and what we counsel not only our members to do but our employees to do is be situationally aware and alert of what is occurring around you. If one of these events occur and you’re in the middle of it, depending on who you are and what your resources are, there may be little that you can do for instance when an attack or explosion happens. But there’s a lot you can do leading up to events like these. The threat of terrorism or attacks is actually very low. You’re much more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident or contract some kind of illness than being attacked by terrorists. It’s all these other issues that travelers should be cogniscent of.
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The worst thing you can do is to travel and be ignorant of what the risks might be, number one and number two, or to be so fearful that you don’t go.
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EM – You are certainly coming from an expert viewpoint in terms of looking at the world and travel. To hear that you still encourage people to keep traveling is great news for those of us who love to travel.
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DR – There are risks that we take every day from getting into your car, and driving down the street, getting in and out of the bathtub, has risks associated with them. The likelihood that you have a critical event with a motor vehicle accident or an illness or a slip and fall, is actually much greater than one of the events occurring when you are traveling. At this point I would certainly hope that people to continue to travel to most of the world. Do it smartly, in a situationally aware kind of mind frame, but continue to go because there’s a lot to see out there. It’s usually wonderful and a lot of fun.
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This is part of the interview done for the podcast Journeys of Discovery. I hope these tips and ideas will make safe travel easier and more frequent.
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Find out more at: Global Rescue.com or call 617-459-4200, anytime, day or night.
weekend wanderlust April 2016