Emergency Response: Travel Advisories, A Wedding in Mexico, and an Earthquake

Just a month before Blake was due to travel to her close friend’s wedding in the state of Morelos, Mexico, about an hour south of Mexico City, the US Department of State raised the region’s travel advisory to Level 3: “Reconsider Travel.”

“It made me really nervous, really anxious,” explained Blake, a lawyer from North Carolina. “It was just going to be my sister and I traveling through an unfamiliar part of Mexico. Obviously we were so excited for the wedding, and we had heard that the location was beautiful — in the mountains just outside the capital. But I have to admit, I was having second thoughts when the State Department raised the threat level.”

“Having the GuardianAngel App really brought a sense of ease”

The prospect of missing her friend’s wedding was not an option, but Blake couldn’t help thinking about all of the ‘what if’ scenarios that could take place on her weekend in the mountains of Mexico. What if their car broke down and they couldn’t get help? What if her taxi took them hostage and drove them far away from their destination? “As a lawyer, I am trained to think about worst-case scenarios and how to minimize risk,” says Blake. “I couldn’t stop my mind from going there.”

In order to plan for unexpected events and to give Blake some comfort during her travels, she downloaded the GuardianAngel App on her smartphone. About a week before Blake’s trip, she sent her travel itinerary, including flight information, in-country travel arrangements, and lodging details to TigerSwan’s Global Security Operations Center (GSOC) for a pre-travel assessment and ongoing monitoring throughout her trip. The GuardianAngel App on her smartphone enabled the GSOC to persistently monitor Blake’s movement at every step of her journey and ensure that she was meeting the checkpoints defined by her itinerary — from the airport in North Carolina to the resort in Morelos.

Blake shared that “having the GuardianAngel App really brought me a sense of peace.” For example, prior to leaving our hotel in Morelos to travel to the airport, she received an alert from GuardianAngel on her smartphone saying that there were some anti-poverty demonstrations taking place in Mexico City. Blake appreciated being armed with knowledge so that she could plan accordingly and avoid unnecessary anxiety regarding the cause of the demonstrations when she arrived in Mexico City. An unexpected and large crowd gathered for unknown reasons in a foreign country would have been unnerving to an anxious traveler, such as Blake, but the knowledge took away any associated fear.

GuardianAngel: Built-in emergency preparedness, experienced Analysts

A Security Analyst in the GSOC responsible for monitoring Blake’s Mexico travel. As a former Navy sailor who worked at the Office of Naval Intelligence, the watch officer’s experience with emergency response and assistance in the military made for an easy transition to supporting the mission of GuardianAngel: “Ensuring that people are safe is the same whether you are monitoring an ongoing Naval mission or someone’s weekend trip to Mexico: you want to ensure that those involved get home safe and sound, every time. Period.”

When the GSOC gathers an itinerary and loads it into the GuardianAngel Platform, the system automatically aggregates the threat levels for the region of travel. The watch officer explains that “everything from local infrastructure and political climate to the security environment and meteorological forecast is captured and reported on by the GSOC. We aggregate all information pertinent to one’s itinerary to create the most complete picture of risk possible.”

Rather than simply providing a pre-travel assessment, analysts in the GSOC are on-call 24/7 to communicate with travelers and assist them anywhere the world. “Being able to communicate with the professionals in the GSOC also made me feel very secure,” remembers Blake. “At one point, during our drive from the airport in Mexico City to the resort up in the mountains of Morelos, we made a turn onto a more rural looking road and it just didn’t feel right. I pulled out my phone and sent a message to GuardianAngel asking if I was still going the right way. I got a near-instant response saying that we were still on the right track as pre-determined by the GSOC when I provided them my itinerary.”

A screenshot of the GuardianAngel Platform showing Blake's journey through Mexico

“That’s when I really started to feel a great sense of security…that I would have someone looking out for me at every step of my journey, and that I could reach out to them and ask for reassurance or assistance whenever I need it. Or, even in an emergency, it gave me great peace of mind knowing that I could hit the SOS button and someone would be able to respond to me or even come and get me if I was trapped somewhere.”


 

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A real emergency puts the GSOC’s emergency preparedness mantra to the test

TigerSwan’s GSOC is well-equipped to anticipate, mitigate, and manage risks associated with travel wherever they appear. With social media aggregation tools and access to information feeds and alerts before they hit the national airwaves, the GuardianAngel Platform continuously collects the information that provides the contextual awareness and visibility required to maintain operational safety and stability. In the case of Blake’s trip to Mexico, the GSOC’s the Watch provide the right information to Blake as Mexico suffered yet another earthquake.

“We were in the hotel room getting ready for the rehearsal dinner,” recalls Blake. “All of the sudden the room was trembling in the hotel. We didn’t know what was happening at all.” A 7.2 magnitude earthquake had struck in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

“Ma’am, are you okay?”

Immediately after the ground stopped moving, Blake received a message from her GuardianAngel App: “There has been an earthquake in central Mexico. Are you ok?” Blake was startled from the trembling but relieved to be in contact with someone who could provide her some clarifying answers about what just happened. First, the Watch Officer messaged Blake from the GSOC with instructions: don’t move around, stay away from windows, and be prepared for aftershocks. Blake asked if she knew the magnitude of the earthquake or where the epicenter was. The Watch Officer replied with a screenshot of initial reports about the earthquake — luckily, it appeared as though the epicenter was far away from Blake and that she was not in immediate danger of falling buildings or any other potential effects of an earthquake.

The GuardianAngel Watch Officer explained how she was prepared to respond to Blake’s situation in Morelos: “Back here in the GSOC we have various checklists for responding to specific situations — bombings, active shooters, natural disasters — because we need to be able to comfort the client and provide them practical safety advice no matter what situation they are experiencing. The GSOC is almost like a first responder — we must remain calm and let them know that everything is going to be okay.”

Peace of Mind for pursuing life, wherever it takes you

Today, Blake is grateful for the information that the Watch Officer was able to provide from TigerSwan’s GSOC. Despite the uncontrollable events that transpired before and during Blake’s trip, she says that her communication with the GSOC on the GuardianAngel App was “so reassuring.”

GuardianAngel monitors Blake as she travels through Mexico

“I’m a control freak in the travel context,” says Blake, “but I am so so glad that my initial fears didn’t keep me from such a beautiful experience. When you’re in a foreign place — you don’t know your surroundings, you often don’t know the language or the culture — being armed with knowledge is a huge advantage. Having the GuardianAngel App helped me feel secure, which was so important in a situation when I was not in control.”

For the GuardianAngel Watch Officer, it was just another day in the office: “Working the GSOC is an awesome experience for individuals that just want to help. That’s what we have here … individuals that just want to make sure that people are safe, travel the world, and have the amazing experiences that they desire. We don’t want uncertainty to hinder the ability of someone going to their friend’s wedding. If we can help mitigate uncertainty, help individuals stay safe, then that’s what we’re going to do. We want to make sure that the good times in life are enjoyable — that the individual is not worried about the ‘what if’ — and that our clients are certain that they will be ok in our care.”


*Note: Not only is Blake the spouse of a TigerSwan employee, but she is also a client.