What characterises a professional HEAT security training for high-risk destinations?
Read why the qualification and experience of HEAT instructors is crucial for your assignment abroad and what makes a good hostile environment awareness training.
What is a HEAT course?
The abbreviation HEAT stands for Hostile Environment Awareness Training. This term is now internationally established and stands for a security training course lasting several days for trips and assignments in countries with a high level of security risks. These can be massive political unrest, terrorist attacks, kidnappings or armed conflicts.
What experience do the instructors of SmartRiskSolutions have operating in hostile environments and delivering HEAT courses?
All trainers have been working in conflict zones for many years. Already during their employment with governmental security agencies, they have learned to operate in high-risk areas in a way suitable to the situation. One of our trainers set up and led the HEAT training unit of a German government security agency before moving to the private sector as a crisis response advisor a few years ago. Some trainers have lived for years in challenging regions in South America, Africa, the Arab world and Central Asia. This experience is complemented by regular travel to high-risk countries. You can find out more about the core team of trainers at this link.
What sets the HEAT course of SmartRiskSolutions apart?
The high level of practical training characterises this course - as well as the trainers' experience in hostile environments and in dealing with critical situations. Many of the scenarios, including the behaviour during a complex attack and shooting incidents, have been experienced by the trainers themselves in the real world. They share their experience in an honest way - also what did not go well in critical situations. This makes them credible as instructors.
We want to make the participants aware of the risks without frightening them. Especially when conducting exercises regarding kidnaps or hostage-taking, a very careful approach must be taken - physically and psychologically. Our trainers for these activities have acquired the relevant formal qualification on the military's "Conduct after Capture Instructor" course, which lasts several weeks. Furthermore, several of our trainers are regularly active in crisis response on behalf of insurance companies during real kidnaps cases and always conduct a debriefing with the victims after their release. Through this, our trainers are constantly expanding their expertise in surviving kidnappings and better understand how these incidents occur.
Which topics are covered during the 5-day HEAT security training?
The training topics range from context analysis to better understand the situation in the area of operation, to training on situational awareness, to behaviour under attack and during kidnappings. Depending on the destination, dangers from landmines and air strikes may also play a role. An important topic is, of course, first aid for injuries caused by traffic accidents, shootings and explosions. In audience-specific courses, for example for journalists, we also include their everyday work in exercises, such as simulated incidents during film shoots.
What is the difference between the HEAT training and the classic one-day travel safety training?
As the HEAT course runs over several days, it can cover more topics with more depth than the one-day traveler security training - even though practical exercises and role-plays take an important part in one-day travel safety training. The one-day business traveller safety training usually takes place at the client's premises - the HEAT usually takes place at our training site (although our mobile instructor teams conduct these trainings worldwide). At our fenced HEAT premises, we can use pyrotechnics for scenario-based training exercises, in compliance with the legal regulations. Even replicas of real weapons, such as those we use for checkpoint scenarios, may be used only on a fully fenced property.
Is any previous experience or knowledge required to attend the course?
No particular previous qualifications are required to participate - apart from being generally in good health. Of course, the question arises whether it makes sense as an employer to send an employee who has never travelled outside Europe on business to a conflict zone straight away. So it helps if the participant has been abroad before - even if this is not a pre-requirement.
Who has attended HEAT trainings of SmartRiskSolutions in the past?
The participants are from different professional backgrounds. Most are aid workers or from NGOs and journalists, camera crews and other media professionals. But company employees also take part in our HEAT courses, which last several days. Corporate employees, on the other hand, make up the larger group of participants at our one-day travel safety training.
Why is emergency medical care taught during the course?
Hostile environments are usually located in regions where the medical infrastructure and emergency care are underdeveloped. Classic first aid in industrialised countries is designed for the rapid intervention of qualified emergency services. In conflict areas, however, it can take several hours for an ambulance to arrive, depending on the location. Many deaths can be avoided by measures such as tourniquets for massive bleedings and treatment of thorax injuries. However, some equipment is needed for this, and the application must be practiced realistically in scenarios later on.
Soldiers operate differently than civilians in hostile environments like Afghanistan and Mali. What implications does this have for the selection of instructors and the design of HEAT trainings?
Soldiers certainly have sound training and experience. However, their deployment takes place in a different context and with different equipment than that of aid organisations, journalists or covertly operating governmental security agencies. Employees of a governmental security agency are often operating in conflict zones in a similar way to NGOs - without a military apparatus for their own protection, often alone or in pairs and low profile. That is why we have some instructors who have served in those covertly operating agencies. This experience is an essential difference to HEAT trainers who have been deployed as soldiers in hostile environments. But a governmental context is also different from that of an aid organisation, a journalist and a corporate employee. Therefore, the trainers we use have been deployed for years in the context of NGOs, media organisations and companies in conflict zones. This is the unique added value we offer participants. In this way, we ensure that the training is oriented towards the real working and living conditions of those who attend the course.
SmartRiskSolutions advises media organisations, NGOs and corporations on how to prepare for trips to challenging countries and also supports them operationally on the ground in hostile environments. We regularly conduct training in the field of travel security and HEAT courses lasting several days.[
Further information about our HEAT course and training dates can be found here.