A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Aid Worker Killed in Road Accident in Ethiopia

A volunteer with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) was killed in a vehicle accident in Ethiopia on Saturday. 61 year old teacher David Evans was apparently killed after he was struck by a vehicle as he walked with colleagues.


Maritime Safety Resources

Today, following on from yesterday’s flight safety resources, we have some maritime links.

The weekly Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report is published by the Office of Naval Intelligence. It contains a summary of recent piracy acts and hostile actions against commercial shipping (including ships transporting relief goods) worldwide.

Anti-Shipping Activity Messages include the locations and descriptive accounts of specific hostile acts against ships and mariners. The reports are useful for recognition, prevention and avoidance of potential hostile activity.

The World Port Index is a good place to find useful information for all but the world’s smallest ports. If you need to be sure that a port can support the ship your evacuation plan relies upon this should be your first stop.

Safer Access has a Safety Guide for Use of Boats in Relief Work. It’s basic but so is boating safety and you might be surprised at what you’ve overlooked.

Volunteer Aid Worker Killed by 'Freak Wave'

On 3 June 08 an Irish volunteer aid worker drowned in Ghana after a freak wave dragged her out to sea.

Natalie Higgins was paddling with two colleagues at the water's edge when the wave struck and pulled all three into the Gulf of Guinea. A rescue effort managed to save her friends but Natalie was pulled under water. Her body was found a while later.

Natalie had been in Ghana for 10 days as part of what was to be a three month stint with UK-based Projects Abroad.

Body of drowned aid worker flown home.
'Freak wave' killed aid worker.

Flight Safety Resources

As an NGO Security Advisor sooner or later someone is going to ask you if it is safe to use a particular airline. While I think it is generally best to leave the assessment to the experts it is obviously not always possible. These resources can help you out.

The EU’s list of airlines banned within the EU (pdf) is a good place to start when assessing airline safety.

The Aviation Safety Network’s Aviation Safety Database is updated every week and contains descriptions of over 12,200 airliner, military transport category aircraft and corporate jet aircraft safety incidents. I find list of incidents by departure/destination airports especially useful when assessing risk.

The FlightSafe Consultants' Airline Safety website can be a very valuable resource but unfortunately it was not working last time I tried it.

Finally you shouldn’t overlook the simple expedient of googling the airline name along with ‘accident’ or ‘safety’.

In Case of Emergency - ICE

In Case of Emergency (ICE) is a program that encourages people to enter emergency contacts in their cell phone address book under the name "ICE". This enables first responders, (paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and of course NGO security officers) to quickly search an unresponsive victims phone for the ICE contact who can identify the victim, provide emergency medical information, and next of kin details.

Of course this is not a panacea. It comes with the usual caveat; you'll need to adapt the system to your local context and your organization's methodologies. For instance it might not be appropriate in Afghanistan where Taliban supporters have been known to search the phones of passers by for foreign names. However, with a little bit of adjustment you should be able to use this idea to help ensure the safety and security of your staff.

If you want additional videos like the one above W. David Stephenson has done a number of videos at least one of which I have used before. You can find out more at his website or at his YouTube channel. Don't be put off by the Homeland Security 2.0 label he uses. His short videos are intended help empower ordinary people during times of emergency or disaster.

Mick Farmer on Armoured Vehicle Mods

Mick Farmer has an interesting post on the inadvertent problems that poorly thought out armoured vehicle modifications can cause. Part I covers issues ranging from side view mirrors that can't be adjusted from the safety of the armoured vehicle to hub problems.

Smart Clothes for Disaster Relief

Disaster relief workers may soon benefit from a new 'smart' suit being developed by I-Garment. The suit is intended to help remedy safety and communications problems faced by fire fighters but I can see its utility for humanitarian disaster response as well.


The suit is intended to address three familiar problems;

1. the unavailability of standard communications means during disasters,
2. the lack of information as to the whereabouts and safety of relief workers during emergency efforts, and
3. the problem of acquiring and distributing timely geospatial data during an emergency.


If one were to combine the suit with CSIRO’s proposed power generating shirts it could even be self powered.

Surviving an Air Crash

Popular Mechanics has an interesting article on how to survive an airline accident in "Safest Seat on a Plane". It seems there is some benefit to being unable to afford first class.

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