What is it and why does it matter?
A good risk assessment can save your life. The more clearly you can verbalise the risks and mitigate them, the more prepared you will be for any eventuality. If you ever find yourself in a risky situation, you’ll be happy to have done as much prep upfront as possible. Any responsible news organisation will expect you to be doing your own risk assessments before you go into a dangerous environment. It’s not about form-filling, but about trying to plan ahead and avoid and lessen risks where possible.
Key elements in a good assessment
- Where are you going?
- When are you going?
- What is your travel plan?
- Any planned interviews
- Rough story outline
So what do I need to think about?
For each section, you’ll drill down into the details of possible risks involved in each section and think about how you can avoid them. Given our work is in risky environments, you can’t always eliminate the risk, so you’ll think about ways you can reduce the risk.
You will need to think about each risk and ask yourself….
• how serious is it;
• how likely is it;
• what measures are you taking to reduce it?
• Project-specific risks:
◦ Sensitive topic? If so, why?
◦ High-risk location, activity or event?
◦ Who do you plan to meet (are they potentially under surveillance, might they be at risk if they talk to you)
◦ Is your security threatened by talking to specific people, visiting or working in a specific area
◦ From armed conflict to crime, corruption, natural disasters or infectious diseases, you need to think about the potential threats you could face into. Ask yourself how serious the threat is, how likely it is, and what measures you’ll take to reduce the risk.
• Useful documents to scan/make note of ahead of time (and send to your safety contact):
◦ VISA details
◦ Press accreditation
◦ Insurance policy details
◦ Blood type
◦ Medical info (e.g. allergies/conditions)
◦ Flight details
◦ Make note of your gear: make & model and serial numbers
• Travel risks
• Health risks – (vaccinations, medical conditions, access to international hospitals, evacuation possibilities, insurance cover…)
• Profile risk – (risk as a result of your gender, age, ethnicity, religious beliefs or nationality).
• Your team – (e.g. local producers and locally hired freelancers). Credentials, experience levels?
• Risk to your gear – (import regulations/restrictions in your destination country).
• Safety equipment – What do you need? (flak jacket, tear gas goggles, helmet… click here for more information on PPE) Can you travel with it? Buy it on location?
• Information storage – (Would loss or confiscation put you or others at risk? Getting material in/out? Back-up?).
• Accommodation risk – (Security measures in situ? Who else resides? Proximity to potential terrorist targets (e.g. embassies, tourist destination, barracks)? Does accommodation affect your profile? Escape routes in and out? Is there a basement? History of problems/incidents?)
• Communication with safety contacts, sources, colleagues and others.
• Continually assess changes in the situation.
• Get your cover story straight (if you need one).
Risk Assessment Template