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Companies Play It Safe With Risk Assessment

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2000
Gaynell Terrell

WASHINGTON -- Photonics companies venturing into the global marketplace may find the local gumbo a bit spicy. But specialists who provide risk assessment -- everything from political intelligence to personal security for company executives -- are available to turn down the heat in these new business climes.

Risk assessment helps to protect personnel and equipment, prevent fraud or counterfeiting, and handle customs matters. One company last year followed an evacuation plan for its executives in Jakarta, Indonesia, where political unrest prompted rioting in the streets. Another evoked its earthquake-preparedness plan in Taiwan after tremors confounded some semiconductor chip plants.

Elsewhere, security experts say they have prepared risk mitigation plans for medical emergencies, lawsuits, coups and kidnapping threats in remote areas. Among some of the riskiest locations cited by industry are Chechnya, Algeria and Sierra Leone.

But whether the danger is petty crime in São Paulo, Brazil, or the mafia in Russia, it's vital that risk assessment and planning include managers at all levels, said Andreas Carleton-Smith, operations director in the Washington office of London-based Control Risks Group.

"It's the local operations manager in Cali, Colombia, who is going to get the problem, not the home office in Massachusetts," he said.

Carleton-Smith declined to discuss fees of the publicly owned consultancy company but said its client list is growing. "We are often seen as the outsource business risk provider to a number of international companies who either don't have inside security forces or are so stretched they use us anyway."

Armor Holdings of Jacksonville, Fla., which does some of the same risk consulting, said it has quadrupled its revenue from security since 1996.

Risk is unacceptable, said Scott Horne, an international spokesman for Lucent Technologies of Murray Hill, N.J., which is why that multinational corporation has an in-house security department to assess threats and ferret out vulnerable areas. Lucent has more than 153,000 employees -- about 30,600 outside the US -- and offices or distributors in more than 90 countries and territories.

Response to risk could range from calculated -- such as restricting the number of employees in a politically sensitive area -- to using common sense -- such as instructing workers on personal safety in areas notorious for frequent street crime, Horne said.


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