Jordan Wiley spent the past year working as an emergency team field coordinator in Syria and CAR.
The best thing we can do is maintain really solid communication with the community around us. In the places we work, security always involves a huge amount of coordination to maintain the closest possible contact with all actors on the ground. That means local government, rebel groups, local religious groups, anybody who’s anybody, really.
You make the rounds and speak with as many people as possible; every single day you’re collecting information and trying to verify, reverify, and cross-check. For me, having those local contacts is the most important thing. It’s important to remember that contexts change all the time, but incidents usually don’t happen randomly. Usually there’s some type of precursor or warning to potential threats or incidents. If we can catch wind of something ahead of time, we can keep our teams more secure.
There are also behavioral things we can do to reduce risk—implementing curfews for staff, for example, or avoiding certain neighborhoods. There are also lots of things we do to improve our physical security: building fences, hiring guards, and so forth. In particularly dangerous contexts, like CAR, we also construct heavy-duty safe rooms with reinforced walls and ceilings to protect from stray bullets, grenades, and other explosives.
At the end of the day, our most important tool is communication.