Advice for organisations operating in high-risk environments

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) leads the British Government’s response to crises involving British nationals working overseas.

The FCO’s first priority is to support all those affected, including the families of those involved.  Our partnership with employers is essential to achieve this.

You will find advice here for organisations operating in high-risk environments on:

  1. Key principles for protecting employees in high-risk environments

  2. What the FCO and other government departments can and cannot do for those operating in high-risk environments

  3. Where to get further advice and help.

In providing this advice and information the FCO does not assume or undertake any legal responisibility to those who read it and choose to take it into account when making any decisions, or to those affected by their decisions. 

1 – Key principles for protecting employees in high-risk environments – recommendations


  • Recognise the scale of the risk when considering operating in high risk areas.

  • Follow FCO Travel Advice and subscribe to FCO travel alerts.

  • Provide professional deployment and security briefing for all employees.

  • Consider providing employees with professional hostile environment awareness training.

  • Collect ‘personal risk profile’ data on all employees and subcontractors.

  • Ensure you have up-to-date maps, plans and photographs of work locations and accommodation. Copies should be readily available at a secure location away from the high-risk location.

  • Consider investing in tracking and remote monitoring technologies.

On the ground

  • Establish robust and effective security systems. If necessary, seek assistance from a bona fide private security company (PSC). We encourage companies to contract with a PSC that has signed the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers (ICoC – more information available at Signing the ICoC demonstrates a company’s commitment to operate in accordance with the high human rights standards set out in the ICoC.

  • Ensure all staff have a reasonable level of safety and security for working and living areas.

  • Where working alongside other companies and subcontractors, ensure your respective security and emergency procedures are compatible.

  • Regularly test your systems. Run drills and crisis exercises with all staff, including subcontractors.

  • Plan and manage movements and be able to deliver a reasonable level of safety for in-country movement as well as options for evacuations.

  • Regularly test the resilience of your communications equipment.

2 – What the FCO and other government departments can and cannot do for those affected by a terrorist incident overseas

The FCO can:

  • Provide Travel Advice about developments in the terrorist threat.

  • Where possible, use our relationships with the authorities in the affected country.

  • Provide access to specialist expertise, such as hostage negotiation.

  • Support the families of those affected.

  • Assist with media handling.

  • Assist with documentation and logistics for departures/arrivals.

  • Seek to coordinate the response of other governments with nationals involved in the incident.

  • In some circumstances, deploy staff to work alongside you in your crisis centres and embed your staff in our crisis centres.

  • In exceptional circumstances, and where conditions allow, assist with evacuations. 

However the FCO cannot provide security overseas.  Companies must make appropriate arrangements for their employees and ensure the employees of any subcontractors are covered by similar arrangements.

See also How to deal with a crisis overseas

3 – Where to get further information and help

The FCO provides constantly updated Travel Advice, including information on terrorist threats.  This Advice applies to businesses as well as holiday makers.  You can get our Travel Advice via the gov.ukwebsite, and you can subscribe to email alerts for updates.

We have embassies and consulates in around 270 locations around the world, many of them in high-risk environments.  UK businesses are encouraged to build links with our staff in country.  Let them know if you have security concerns.  They can often help raise issues with local authorities.

The FCO provides opportunities for organisations to visit its London crisis centre.  Where possible, the FCO will arrange discussions with staff with experience of managing a crisis, and run table-top learning exercises. We run a number of these a year, normally around August and January. If you are interested please call our main switchboard during office hours on 0207 008 1500 and ask for Crisis Management Department.

Where available, the FCO will consider sending staff to observe and participate in companies’ crisis exercises. Priority will be given to companies with UK nationals in locations where there is a significant threat from terrorism.  To apply please contact us via [email protected]with details of the exercise.

Depending on demand and availability, the FCO periodically holds presentations on threats in certain high-risk regions. If you are a UK based organisation and would be interested in attending our presentations please contact us via [email protected]with details of: the name of your organisation; the region you are interested in; the approximate number of British nationals for whose security you are responsible there. Please note that this email address is not monitored continuously and should not be used if your request is urgent.

Protective security advice is available from the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office, (NaCTSO). This body advises on areas such as protection of crowded places and reducing opportunities for terrorism through vehicle and environmental design.

The Government has published its new Cyber Security Strategy. For more information see the press release on the BIS websiteand visit the Cyber Securitypages on the BIS website.

Topics: Insurance & Risk
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