Hey Liam, twelve years ago you founded MS Risk, a security risk management corporation. How did you come up with the idea for it? And could you explain to us what MS risk is?
I had a career as a Canadian army officer and whilst a Major I took early retirement in the 90s to work on commercial security projects for mining companies in war zones. This led to a number of dynamic projects around the world. I then joined Tesco plc and was a security director in their international business. I soon realized that if I could manage the protection of 600,000 employees around the world and safeguard $96 Billion of trade I could do this for other organisations. I was encouraged by a Lloyd’s of London insurance company to make the jump to consulting and in 2005 I set up what was to evolve into MS Risk Limited. We are a crisis response and security management consultancy.
Liam Morrissey – Founder and CEO of MS Risk
As we said, MS Risk offers Plan b, a protection for people in acute crisis situations on their travels or in their country of residence. How does Plan b exactly work and what perils are covered?
Having spent many years responding to traditional kidnap for ransom policies we concluded this was missing out a large swathe of the market potential. Many travelers do not have a need for an annual kidnap policy. Furthermore, that type of coverage will not trigger assistance if a policyholder is a victim of violent crime such as assault or if they feel their life is in danger in a city where terrorist incidents may be occurring. When the Boston marathon bombing occurred, it was clear that we could help people in unusual circumstances where they felt endangered. Working with one of our underwriting partners the terms were agreed and the service was launched. It works by giving the client a 24/7 hotline for them report problems or concerns and receive advice and a coordinated response for the situation. We will work for the client for up to 30 days to resolve their crisis and we find this is more than ample time to get the client to safety and away from life threatening conditions.
Let’s assume something happens to me on my next journey and I call the crisis number. How do you and your team proceed in case of an emergency response?
It will depend on the nature of the crisis. At the very least the caller will be able to log their concern and receive advice for their query. Our duty manager can be patched into the call and talk through an issue. This can be a simple confidence boost or reassurance. If the crisis is escalating or a major incident has occurred we will coordinate assistance, give clear instructions to the caller on what to do or what not to do and if required we will coordinate an in-country response support.
What are the perils which travelers are most frequently confronted with?
It is a fear of the unknown when their personal safety is threatened. They learn of a serious incident nearby and they wonder if they are in danger or not. We can help them determine the answer and if needed, create a proportionate plan to deal with it. It can also be they have fallen victim to a crime such as assault, or carjacking and simply do not know what to do.
Does Plan b only provides help for perils with a political background or are other cases of emergency covered as well?
The policyholder must have a threat to their personal safety. It can be a perceived threat, such as being in a city on a business trip or holiday and learning that there are bombings or shootings nearby and seeking assistance to remain safe. It will trigger for the most extreme incidents such as a kidnapping but it does not replace kidnap insurance and has some limitations so it shouldn’t be used expressly for that purpose. It will trigger if the political climate becomes so severe as to require evacuation.
Which measures do you implement to help somebody?
We can arrange for close protection or security escorts to bring the policyholder to a place of improved safety. This could be an airport to depart the country or a safer place in the country to take stock of the situation. We can facilitate liaison with the lawful authorities or consular officers from the appropriate embassy if that is deemed required. We can cover some expenses such as paying some medical bills or purchasing tickets to leave a dangerous area, and we can send our own people to aid the victims under some circumstances. Where groups of travelers have coverage we can pool the expenses budget and in those cases are able to charter our own aircraft or marine vessels to bring groups out of a dangerous place en masse.
In case I get in a crisis situation on my travels, the government of my home country would help me out or doesn’t it?
There is no obligation for diplomatic staff to help you in any physical way and they reserve the right to charge for their services in most cases. The fact is that the traditional “Warden System” which most embassies are supposed to maintain fails to track their travelling countrymen effectively. In a major incident the embassy will be overwhelmed and will struggle to protect its own personnel let alone business travelers and tourists.
Has Plan b validity in all countries or are there any exclusions?
There are some limits. If you contact us from the top of Mount Everest we will struggle to get help to you quickly. I jest, but there are circumstances where we cannot get to the policyholder rapidly or logistical restrictions limit what we can do. What we can always do is know you have a problem and work to coordinate a sensible response. We can agree comms checks and get updates on your condition and feedback the status of response to you. There are some jurisdictional limitations for coverage and they are included in the policy documentation.
But in some cases, such as for example a terror attack or an abduction, I suppose I would not be able to call the crisis number. How can Plan b help me then?
Ensure a responsible person has the phone number with instructions to call on your behalf if a disaster, major security incident or disappearance occurs so we can mobilise and start working to locate the client and determine their status and move to safeguard them if it is needed.
Let´s suppose I am in a city and suddenly a terror attack happens. What is your advice? How do I behave best in such a moment?
The UK government has simple advice which we endorse: Run-Hide-Tell. Ensure you are in a safe place. Account for the people in your party. If you are not caught up in the incident directly stay inside and lock the door and keep away from windows. Close the drapes. Call us and report your situation. We can relay messages to your employer or family if needed. We can also vector first responders to you or establish that you are in fact in a safe zone. We’ll guide you on next steps such as remaining or departing the city or country. If you have access to media, then monitor it for other updates. These events are always fluid, filled with confusing information and ever changing hazards. We’ll help to ensure that you have the information to take safe decisions under the circumstances.
Which was the most impressive experience you had with Plan b?
There are a couple of examples. We were once covering a female aid worker in a war zone. She learned that her departing trip the following day was disrupted by an insurgent attack that closed the airport. She was worried about being trapped in the country. We were aware of the incident and talked through her immediate security situation. Once we determined she was safe for the time being we agreed to speak again in 60 minutes. In that time, we determined a new route out for her and completed the arrangements. When she called back we provided her the details for departing on time the following day and she repatriated safely without fuss. Another example occurred during the Tunisian beach massacre in 2015. As the news broke of the attack being underway we mobilized our resources fearing the worst. Within two hours we had two 767 passenger jets with security teams on standby to conduct a mass evacuation of clients from Sousse. As it happened none of our clients were actual victims and so when we assessed we were not needed we offered the capability to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to augment their requirements.
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