A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

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.

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.

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’.

Security Links

Suicide attacks, bomb warnings, damage to undersea internet cables, and SMS service cuts have all conspired to keep me from finishing my comparison of SMS tools so you'll have to settle for some links.

10 Ways We Get the Odds Wrong: Psychology today takes a look at why our brains are so bad at assessing modern risks. There is an interesting if strictly US-centric quiz at the end that will let you test your risk knowledge.

Finding a Job: The AidWorkers Network has a good guide for anyone looking to break into the aid worker job market. Its not limited to security jobs but it doesn't exclude them either.

Travel Safely: Gadling shows you how to create your own DIY personal first aid kit for the road. Note that this kit is for travel related "nuisance illnesses". For field work I carry a larger first aid kit as well.

Aid Agencies Lack Focus on Security: According to a former aid worker who was evacuated from Chad last year some aid organizations don't focus enough on security.

Custom Garmin GPS Maps: NGO Security explains where to find open source Garmin GPS maps. This is a very good resource. I was able to find a street map for Colombo and some good Afghanistan maps.

You Thought My Banana Was a Bomb: The Strategist's take on the Transportation Security Administration's new blog. Funny in a very sad sort of way.

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.

Googling Dangers

Dangers indexed by Google result
xkcd's take on assessing risk with Google. Try it with your own dangers.

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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This work by Kevin Toomer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
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