“As international aid organization, ZOA has many employees working abroad for shorter or longer periods of time. Investing in their safety is part and parcel of the human resources policy,” tells Zoa safety advisor Henrieke Hommes.
Good security policy contributes to lifesaving emergency aid
You work in disaster and conflict areas, such as South Sudan, Yemen and DR Congo. How responsible are you as an employer when you send your staff to such high-risk areas?
It is our mission to help people, especially those living in the most difficult areas of the world. Of course, being an employer, you have a responsibility. That is why within ZOA, we have extensive and up-to-date security procedures. I.e. staff travelling abroad need to follow a 3-day basic training on safety & security, they are obliged to follow the rules of the country policy and security policy, and we only approve travel when employees have been through all the procedures.
That sounds like a heavy procedure. Is security policy not a hindrance to carrying out your work?
On the contrary. Thanks to our policy, employees know how to prepare for a journey and how to behave when they end up in an emergency situation. It works in a preventive way. Because we sharply monitor security, we are able to respond fast. If necessary, we need to evacuate people, like recently when violence erupted in South Sudan. But the best part of my work is that I am able to contribute to our people continuing their work in hard circumstances. Or can return home quickly.
Could you tell us a little more? What do you like so much about your work?
My work allows me to contribute to aid for people in extremely difficult areas. People for whom we can make the difference between life and death. That is what motivates me.
Is security policy a book of law?
Yes and no. It is very important that people follow the policy. That they dress appropriately, for example. That they always wear a seatbelt. And that they tell us where they are on a regular basis. But when push comes to shove, you have to decide in a split second. Suppose you are being shot at, you have to choose immediately: to stop or to continue driving? What matters is that people are aware of the consequences of their choices. That is the most important aspect.