High Risk Guide


Hostile Environments: Potential Risks

Date: 21.10.2016     Last updated: 13.11.2019 at 17.09
This is a guide to identifying some of the potential risks that you may encounter when deployed to hostile environments or when you are involved in high risk activities. The guide looks at risks and suggests possible mitigation measures and ‘actions on’.

The aim of this guide is to help those who are tasked with completing the High Risk Assessment form. It's important to remember that you should consult with the BBC High Risk Team and other internal and external sources to the BBC to help you in making sure that you have identified and analysed the full spectrum of potential risks to your deployment or activity.

What can go wrong – the risks?

It’s possible that many of the risks that you will face are likely to be common to the majority of hostile and high environments, but you still need to think through and identify the spectrum of likely risks that are relevant to each deployment.

This is your deployment and you need to take responsibility for thinking through the risks that are most likely going to impact on you / your team.

Having identified the possible risks you can then think through how they might be mitigated and, just as importantly, how you are going to act if they do manifest themselves during your deployment. This analysis is the foundation of your risk assessment work and the High Risk Team is available to support you in this important preparatory work.

The range of potential risks in a given country can researched by using the BBC Travel Risk Information System (TRiS). You can access this database through the ‘Hostile Environment Country Pages’ on the High Risk section of the myRisks pages on Gateway.

1. Potential Risks.

Here are some of the most common risks that occur in a hostile environment, but this list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Separation – this could mean becoming separated from whomever is hosting you or it could be that you are one of your crew becomes separated from the others
  • Lost – even with good local knowledge, there is always a chance of becoming disorientated and becoming lost
  • Road Traffic Collision – Traffic accidents are one of the most common and most likely risks
  • Small Arms Fire (SAF / Shooting) – If you are deployed into a conflict zone, then there may well be a likelihood of being involved in shootings
  • Indirect Fire (IDF) – By IDF we mean artillery/mortar shells mortars or rockets exploding close to you. This is ‘indirect’ fire because the person firing the weapon system cannot see the intended target and therefore does not necessarily worry about potential collateral damage. This heightens the risk to you of being subject to indiscriminate exploding ordinance unexpectedly
  • Direct Fire (DF) – DF is the opposite of IDF. It means that the firer has line of sight to his/her target. This is a real risk if you are operating in a conflict zone, where snipers are taking on both military and civilian targets, and you find yourself advertently or inadvertently becoming a target for someone with a gun
  • Kidnap – In many countries around the world, kidnapping is extremely prevalent. It may be politically or financially motivated
  • Contributor Risk – We need to give thought as to whether our actions are endangering our contributors either in the making of the programme or as a result of its transmission

These are just some of the potential hazards that may present themselves on a high risk or hostile environment deployment. You need to spend time thinking through the spectrum of possible risks and select those are of most relevance to you.

2. Mitigation

Once you have identified the risks, then your next step is to think through what practical measures can be put in place to mitigate and thus reduce the risks as far as realistically possible – recognising that very little can ever be entirely risk free!

Your mitigation measures must be both credible and achievable. So taking some the common risks above, here are examples of mitigation measures that might be suitable for certain risks:

A. Becoming separated from the remainder of the production team (e.g. when split between two cars)

Mitigation Measures: 

  • The team will attempt to remain in a convoy of two cars as far as possible
  • We will ensure that we can communicate between vehicles by phone or by walkie talkie
  • We will identify suitable rendezvous points along our routes so that if we become separated we can have a pre-arranged agreement to return to and meet up at a rendezvous point.
  • We will ensure that all crew members understand where the rendezvous points are on the ground.

B. Road traffic collision due to erratic driving in country

Mitigation Measures: 

  • We will, as far as possible, use only trusted and competent drivers
  • We will, as far as possible, use only serviceable vehicles
  • We will ensure that our drivers take into account local road conditions and we will control the speed of our vehicles to reflect these
  • We will ensure that all crew members wear seat belts when vehicles are mobile

C. Coming under indirect fire from across a nearby border 

Mitigation Measures: 

  • We will ensure that all crew members are up to date in their HEFAT qualifications
  • We will carry PPE and make sure that it is accessible at all times
  • Whilst moving we will look for and identify to each other suitable ‘hard cover’ against or under which we can take shelter if indirect fire lands close to us
  • We will continually assess the risks posed by the threat of indirect fire and dynamically adjust our plans as necessary to minimise our exposure to indiscriminate shelling

It’s really important to note that these three examples are just that – examples. The mitigation measures are by no means exhaustive or definitive. However the purpose is to give you a sense of how to think through risk and mitigation. There are many other factors to take into account, all of which the High Risk Team can advise on, and risk reduction may differ between crews and between environments.

Other factors to think through are: 

  • The need for a robust communications plan between the deployed crew and the bureau/head office, that allows for regular communication and dialogue so that key managers and the High risk team maintain visibility over your movements once you are on the ground
  • The possible use of a deployed High Risk Safety Advisor, particularly in very high risk conflict zones
  • The use of tracking systems devices that allow the High Risk Team to monitor your movements in a particularly volatile or isolated environment
  • The absolute need for all crew members to be in date with a valid and appropriate HEFAT qualification
  • The need to deploy with and know how to use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • The need to make sure that locally sourced vehicles are fit for the road
  • The need to take appropriate medical kits
  • If appropriate, the requirement to receive a thorough briefing by any host organisations
  • The importance of avoiding obvious pattern setting.
  • The need, above all, to maintain a low profile

3. Actions On

As we said earlier, nothing is ever risk free. So despite your hard work at identifying risks and employing appropriate mitigation measures, you must be prepared for the worst to happen.

You therefore need to think through ‘what am I going to do if ‘X’ happens?’ So during the planning stage of your risk assessment, it’s vital that all of the deploying crew think through, discuss and understand basic ‘Actions On’.

Again, these are never going to be completely exhaustive, but they are a way of articulating how individuals and/or the crew will respond to something going wrong. And the more that can be done in advance to anticipate these worst case scenarios, then the more chance there is that you will respond calmly, quickly and effectively to a rapid change in your circumstances on the ground.

So using the same three examples, here are some possible ‘Actions On'.

A. Becoming separated from the remainder of the production team (e.g. when split between two cars)

Actions On (in event of separation):

  • Make an initial attempt to re-join the vehicle convoy if practicable to do so
  • Attempt to communicate with remainder of group and explain what has happened and what you propose to do as a result
  • If safe to do so, move back to the nominated rendezvous point and wait for the designated period of time for the remainder of team
  • If appropriate, notify any group that has been hosting you.
  • Inform your editorial chain
  • Inform the Hgh Risk team as necessary

B. Road traffic collision due to erratic driving in country

Actions On (in the event of a road traffic accident): 

  • Check that all members of the crew are injury free
  • In the event of injuries, render immediate first aid, include life saving measures as necessary
  • In the event of casualties, make a rapid assessment for the movement of casualties to a hospital as necessary
  • In the event of no casualties, determine whether your vehicle is sufficiently serviceable and mobile to continue on task
  • Inform your editorial managerial chain, in-country contacts and the High Risk team as necessary 

C. Coming under indirect fire from across a nearby border

Actions On (in the event of indirect fire exploding in close proximity to the crew): 

  • We will move to pre-identified hard cover if safe and able to do so
  • If we are caught out in the open, we will lie flat on the ground and wait for the bombardment to stop
  • Concurrently we will put on PPE if it is not already on
  • We will check for and treat any casualties within our crew, if safe to do so
  • As soon as we judge it to be safe to do so, we will move away from the area as quickly as possible

So ‘Actions On’ are mostly common sense steps, but if they are going to be realistic and relevant, then you need to think them through and discuss as a team; noting down in the Risk Assessment records that you have done so.

The suggestions in our examples are, again, merely that – examples. You must think through and tailor what is going to be relevant and specific to your deployment.

4. Conclusion

Identifying the risks, mitigation measures and potential ‘Actions On’ is a key component of the whole risk assessment process. If you follow this logical process, it should help you to focus on the potential impacts to your deployment and identify the possible ways that you will both reduce the risks and respond if the worst case happens.

We ask you to annotate this thought process in a Risk Assessment so that those with responsibility for authorising your deployment have confidence that your plan has been thought through and planned with an appropriate level of detail.

Furthermore a well written risk assessment will allow your editorial chain to make an informed and balanced judgement on the risks versus rewards equation associated with your deployment.

And remember that the High Risk Team is always available to offer advice and assistance.

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