Insurance cover in a hostile environment

Hostile environment training is defined as preparing for the risks and challenges faced, when operating in unfamiliar and intense situations worldwide. Sovereign Insurance Services’ Chairman, Geoff Trew, sheds light on a little-known area, setting out insurance solutions to consider, and is a direct link to one of the world’s leading training providers in the field.

What comes to mind on hearing the words “hostile environment”? The most obvious are conflict zones or natural disaster areas but the list can be much longer. Change the wording to “high risk” and it is clear that the definition can be very wide indeed. Sovereign Insurance Services (“SIS”) provide access to specialist insurance products designed to cover the personal safety and wellbeing of employees and consultants operating in high risk zones. They take into consideration individual circumstances and the reason for the business to be in a hostile environment in the first place.

But do people travelling or working in such areas know the type of risks they are facing and how to cope with them? Are they even aware of the potential risks, let alone how to mitigate them or deal with the consequences? Indeed, where would they start?

It’s not just about being insured – although it is Sovereign Insurance Services’ business to ensure that client firms and their staff benefit from insurance cover in a hostile environment. They have formed a unique partnership with Hostile Environment Training (“HET”), the UK-based market leader in such training courses ( Thus, Sovereign’s clients can rest assured that in addition to the relevant insurance, they and their staff also possess the requisite knowledge and training to deal with the unexpected when operating in hostile territory.

Sovereign and HET are totally separate businesses, each focussing on their respective specialist areas and have both become market leaders in their own respective fields. Clients benefit from a unique combination of being able to work with both firms under the partnership created between the two businesses. It won’t take away the risks entirely – nothing ever could – but it does mean that clients and their staff can take comfort knowing that they are better prepared before embarking – or continuing if already in the field – on their assignments. There is no charge for introductions between Sovereign and HET – and no obligation on the client’s part to take up any services being offered.

What type of risk is typically covered by the Sovereign Insurance Services specialist team in the area of hostile environment insurance? The following list is not exhaustive by any means but when considering work in hostile environments, suitable cover to consider may include:

  • Medical
  • Personal Accident
  • Evacuation / Repatriation
  • Additional Expenses arising from an emergency
  • Kidnap & Ransom
  • Wrongful Detention
  • Emergency Assistance Facilities
  • Legal Expenses
  • PTSD Assessment / Counselling following a hostile event

The insurance risks are wide-ranging and are best addressed prior to employees being deployed into potentially hazardous environments.

Almost all areas of business may have hostile elements. This area is not limited to “a clear and present danger” such as in a war zone or even physically challenging terrain. Hostile environments can be encountered in the most modern and otherwise fully developed countries – the circumstances can differ widely. What may be considered “hostile” by one firm or its employees may be thought merely routine by another. Early risk assessment is essential, and HET can provide the appropriate advice to help prevent avoidable problems. Sovereign Insurance Services can provide the insurance programme that best protects the employees and their employers when problems occur.

Employers have a duty of care to ensure that their personnel are equipped with the knowledge and tools to deal with the challenges and risks they may face. It costs nothing to have an initial conversation and it could save a great deal of expense, trouble, management time or even lives in the future. A timely introduction to hostile environment awareness training could prove highly beneficial.

HET’s training courses combine both theoretical and practical elements. They are delivered by highly skilled, experienced, current, and competent professionals.

The training courses HET provides will depend on the client. Typically, they are of one to four days’ duration, during which, a significant amount of targeted tuition will be provided. This is followed by in depth practical exercises all designed to prepare delegates for real-life hostile environment situations. The objective is to provide “ultimate protection” so that following the training, clients are fully prepared for the unexpected.

HET has received testimonials over the years from numerous clients. Several report fires and traffic accidents in hostile territory where normal rules which we may be used to are not followed.

It may be helpful to consider a couple of real-life examples where clients who underwent rigorous training had cause to thank HET further down the line.

One charity worker reported being involved in a car accident, with the driver and others injured and the vehicle badly damaged. The radio was used, and the injured teammates were taken to the hospital. The correspondent reported that “the incident was less intense than the training scenario we went through so we all felt confident”. Lives were saved thanks to prior training.

Another case was described by an international journalist who assisted a member of their group who had had a heart attack whilst on assignment. Not only identifying the correct action to take, due to HET training, the insurance put in place beforehand was accessed and the best available medical assistance was made available. The journalist said that they had not considered these actions prior to attending the training and that having a plan allowed everyone concerned to act confidently when the incident occurred.

Over the years, many similar cases have been reported. Some may not have appeared so dramatic, but all required cool-headed thinking in potentially difficult situations – and always in hostile environments. Sovereign Insurance Services and HET are prepared to discuss new situations with potential clients drawing on their significant past experiences.

Naturally, client confidentiality in all matters related to such training and the underlying insurance in a hostile environment is paramount. It is important to realise that, depending on the risks covered, the fact that insurance is even in place is not something that may be discussed openly, including internally. This is particularly true, for example, in the most sensitive type of covers such as Kidnap and Ransom.

HET is based in Hampshire, England. The British have established an enviable reputation worldwide for leadership in this type of training – and HET is one the longest established and the best in its field.

Contact Geoff Trew at Sovereign Insurance Services at any time to discuss your insurance needs in hostile environments and to arrange a personal high-level introduction to HET if required. Initial conversations are without any fee or take up obligation and all discussions will be conducted in the strictest confidence.

Contact Geoff Trew
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