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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder23. Staff Safety
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe UN Security System
View the documentEssential Plans
View the documentSecurity
View the documentSecurity Management
View the documentKey References


23. Keys to effective security are:

i. First and foremost, personal awareness on the individual level;

ii. Appropriate behaviour to diminish the risk of security incidents;

iii. Appropriate response by the individual to security incidents.

Personal Security

24. For personal security, bear in mind the following:

Be aware of and alert to your surroundings;

Observe the behaviour of other people living in the area. Local people will probably know more about general security threats than you do;

Don't travel alone;

Don't carry large amounts of money;

Don't travel after dark if it can be avoided. Most security incidents occur after dark;

When leaving base, make sure someone knows where you are going and when you are expected back;

Lock vehicle doors and keep the windows rolled up when travelling;

Park vehicles to allow for fast exit;

Don't take photographs around military personnel or military installations;

Have cash, documents, and an emergency bag packed and ready to go at all times;

Always be polite: be aware that your behaviour to local officials, police or military can rebound negatively on other staff.

Residential Security

25. Several steps can be taken to improve residential security:

Make sure there are good solid doors. Never have glass doors on the exterior;

Install a peep hole, a safety chain and a security bar;

Keep the entrance door locked at all times, even when at home;

Install bars and grills, at least on the ground floor;

All windows should have locks;

Draw curtains at night;

Install outside lighting;

Have emergency power sources, candles and torches;

Keep a watchdog or other animals like goats, geese or peacocks;

Install a telephone or walkie-talkie.

Depending on the circumstances and if authorized by UNSECOORD from the UN system, UNHCR can cover the costs of some of the improvements listed.

Base Security

26. Base security should be improved by:

Hiring guards:

The host country authorities sometimes provide guards. Guards hired by UNHCR are not permitted to carry lethal weapons while on duty. Guards should be trained and briefed, and should wear a uniform or some identifying garment;

Ensuring there are lights:

Lights should be powerful and should light up an area outside the perimeter fence, providing a barrier of illumination in which intruders can be detected.

Installing fences and controlling access:

Double fences with razor wires form an effective barrier. There should be more than one entrance/exit. Sensitive locations (for example, the accommodation area, communications room, generators and fuel store) may need to be surrounded by a barrier of sandbags. Procedures to control access to the compound need to be established. The fenced compound should be self-contained and equipment (e.g. spare tires, jacks, fire extinguisher, first aid kits, generators, water pumps), should be checked and maintained on a routine basis.

Field Security

27. Several steps should be taken by relevant staff and heads of office to improve field security:

Develop a movement control plan (see above);

When planning to travel, check the latest security situation with the DO, others who have been there, host country officials other UN agencies, NGOs, traders;

Get all required authorizations, from the DO and host country authorities;

Ensure that all staff know what to do in case of accident or breakdown - simple procedures should be established;

Ensure that vehicles are properly equipped with extra food and water, sleeping bags, mosquito nets, tents, water filters, fuel, tow rope, jumper cables, spare tire, tire jack, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, travel documents, radio, vehicle insurance papers, shovel and maps;

Ensure that vehicles are in good mechanical condition and are checked regularly. Certain items, such as brakes, tire wear, fluid levels, lights, installed radios, should always be checked prior to every field trip;

Ensure that all staff know what to do at checkpoints - establish procedures for staff to follow. It is against UN policy to allow anyone carrying arms in UN vehicles.

Cash Security

28. Ideally staff members should not carry large sums of money in cash. If there is a functioning banking system in the area, then this should be used to the maximum extent possible.

29. If it is necessary to transport cash then arrangements should be made with the host country authorities for protection of the funds. Cash in large amounts should be kept on hand for the shortest possible time, and should either be deposited in a bank or be disbursed quickly to pay salaries or meet other legitimate expenditure. Advance payments could be considered to reduce amounts of cash being stored (provided financial rules are adhered to).

30. Measures which can contribute to security while transporting cash include making use of:

i. Professional couriers;

ii. Armoured vehicles;

iii. Armed guards;

iv. Deception. There should be no regularity in the arrangements: The timing, route, and other details should change every time;

v. Discretion.

The number of people knowing about the movement of cash, the identity of persons carrying cash, their routes and timetables, should be kept to the barest minimum necessary.

Crowd Control and Security

31. If crowds cannot be avoided:

Ensure that clear information is provided to the crowd, so that they know what is going on and what to expect;

Work with representatives of the people to organize the crowd into small groups and get them to sit down;

Do not engage in unruly group discussions;

When discussing grievances, meet with a small number of representatives of the crowd, never with the mass meeting;

Provide sanitary facilities, water, shade and shelter;

For crowd control, use monitors from among the people themselves;

If confronted by a crowd when in a vehicle, do not get out. Check that the doors are locked and drive away carefully;

Maintain poise and dignity if confronted by a hostile crowd, do not show anger.

Mine Awareness

32. In countries with high risk of mines, all offices should ensure there is appropriate training and reference materials (see references) -the information contained here is not sufficient, but provides only broad guidance.

33. It is extremely difficult to spot a mined area, so the first priority is to ensure you have up to date information about possible mined areas from local residents and de-mining organizations. Travel with a map marked with this information and update it by checking with local residents.

34. Be aware of the following:

Signs: learn which signs indicate known mined areas (whether local signs, UN or other signs);

No-go areas: avoid areas which are avoided by the local population;

Visible mines or indicators: some mines are visible. There may also be evidence of mine packaging;

Disruption in the local environment: for example disturbed soil if recently laid, and depressions in the ground in an old mine field;

Trip wires;

Mine damage (e.g. dead animals) which could indicate the presence of other mines.

35. When driving, the following precautions should betaken:

Wherever possible stay on hard surfaced roads.

Always follow in the fresh tracks of another vehicle, at least 50 m behind the vehicle in front.

Flak jackets can be used as a seat cushion and as a foot protection.

Wear the seat-belts, and keep windows rolled down and doors unlocked.

36. If you encounter a mine:

Keep away, do not touch it;

Do not try to detonate it by throwing stones at it;

Stop the vehicle immediately;

Stay in the vehicle, even if it is damaged and call for assistance.

37. If you have to leave the vehicle:

Notify your location by radio;

Do not move the steering wheel;

Put on any protective gear available;

Climb over the seats and leave the vehicle by the rear, walk back along the vehicle tracks. Never walk around the vehicle;

Leave at least a 20 m gap between people;

Close the road to other traffic.

38. When travelling on foot:

Never walk through overgrown areas: stick to well used paths.

39. If there is a mine incident:

Do not immediately run to the casualty. Stop and assess the situation first. There may be other antipersonnel mines in the vicinity, and administering first aid to one victim could result in another victim;

Only one person should go to the casualty, walking in his exact footprints, to apply first aid;

Do not attempt to move the casualty unless absolutely necessary, call for mine-clearing and medical assistance.

40. Within the UN system, mine clearance and related issues are primarily the responsibility of DPKO. Chapter 19 on voluntary repatriation contains some information about programme aspects of mines.

Protection Equipment:

41. Typical equipment that has been used by UNHCR includes:

i. Bullet proof vests for protection against most bullets;

ii. Flak jackets for protection against shrapnel;

iii. Helmets for protection against shrapnel;

iv. Ballistic blankets fitted in vehicles, for protection against hand grenades and antipersonnel mines;

v. Armoured cars;

vi. Shatter resistant windows;

vii. Military combat rations for concentration points;

viii. Metal detectors for body searches.

42. These items can be ordered through the Supply and Transport Section in co-ordination with the relevant Bureau and Field Safety Section.