Risk is the probability that a hazard will turn into a disaster and risk management
is the comprehensive analysis of hazards identifiable in a particular course of action
and the measures put in place to mitigate or remove them.
Tedious perhaps, but an effective risk management plan shouldn’t pour water over
the fire of your adventure. It should demand that the expedition be looked at in
minutiae, possibly for the first time. It will allow you to bring the endeavour into
tangible focus and build upon what has been planned already.
It is not just a one-time exercise, rather a vital document which will require reviewing
at each phase or development and be disseminated to the entire team and possibly
I have templates available, both generic and for specific environs (useful as an
aide memoir), with example assessments.
CASEVAC & Comms
Another vital document is the CASEVAC & Comms plan. This document will outline feasible
methods of casualty evacuation from the site(s) to handover to medical professionals
or a hospital, give an overview of the operation of available comms equipment and
a list of all contacts for use in emergencies and project progression.
Along with your risk assessment and any emergency and medical training it forms part
of your expedition safety net.
A comms plan shouldn’t just be reliant on high-tech kit like signal beacons and sat
phones. Technology can fail, so allowances must be made for using runners or even
the local postal service.
Likewise with evacuation, a smart plan will have at the very least one contingency
mode of casualty transportation and factor in some kind of training or scenarios.
“Farting anywhere in public is usually embarrassing for the perpetrator, but there
are countries where it is treated as a disastrous breach of manners. There is a man
in Lamu, Kenya, who is known as ‘The man who’s grandfather farted’”
John Hatt, traveller and publisher
Here we acknowledge the art of diplomacy and the inevitable torment of bureaucracy.
One of the reasons people travel, I’d hope, is to interact with different cultures.
I strongly believe that anyone travelling to another country or region assumes the
unofficial role of an ambassador, especially in more remote, less connected regions
- precisely because that is what they become. Opinions of the traveller, their country
or their society will be formed through their interaction and conduct.
Combining sensitivity and cultural awareness with a bit of street-smart and old-fashioned
charm can ease networking, meetings, permits and border crossings. Depending on where
you are, vodka and cigarettes can help too.
There are many aspects to expedition planning. The sections below are by no means
comprehensive - I’ve left out research which is essential. But they touch on some
of the cornerstones instrumental to a successful project. For each of these factors
and more, I can supply advice, training or even do much of the hard work for you.
You need the right team for the job. It is imperative to identify shortfalls of expertise
in a team and either hire accordingly or use training to fill the skills gap. It
is particularly important to have a doctor or medic or at least have someone trained
like myself in wilderness medicine.
I offer expedition survival and camp-craft training and a tropical environment induction,
each of which can be specifically tailored to your needs.
An exhaustive list of expedition outfit in ‘The Art of Travel’ by Francis Galton
recommends 21 lbs of ironworks including a nipple wrench, spare nipples (obviously)
and a spare screw for cock. He goes on to recommend “for want of proper physic, drink
a charge of gunpowder in a tumblerful of warm water or soapsuds, and tickle the throat”.
But he was Victorian.
Kit is hugely important. To ignore it’s significance is to endanger yourself, the
team and the undertaking. But it is also equally common to become engulfed in tech
specs, coaxed by brands, nifty gadgets and extortionate wonder-gear. Unless you are
anticipating extreme (i.e. polar) conditions, training and experience count for much
more than top of the range purchases. An analogy to golf springs to mind.
Of course, there are no-no’s and lists of essentials for each environment. There
are some items it is worth paying a lot of money for, but many more that will do
the job at a fraction the price of the big names. Sourcing everything you require
without needlessly breaking the bank or being woefully unprepared can be a fine line
I have certain kit essentials for hire, like Iridium satellite phone, GPS and VHF
radios at excellent rates.
I keep a list of potential expeditions to which I am constantly adding and all too
rarely crossing off. If you would like to embark on a unique investigatory undertaking
to a remote region of the World, arranged and led by myself, then please contact
Serious consideration should be given to appointing a treasurer, ideally not the
expedition leader. The only way to manage an expedition’s finances is to have someone
overseeing spending and managing the bottom line, while ensuring that all transactions
are transparent to team members. A balance sheet is the bare minimum, but it may
be an idea to open a specific account for the project.
One thing that is universal with expeditions is the amount of thought and conversation
dedicated to food - this can reach obsessive proportions. .
On expedition, what’s consumed not only has a direct influence on the output of every
team member and therefore on the success of the mission goals, it is also a vital
factor in the morale of the team. It therefore needs very careful consideration,
from nutrition, taste and supply to practicality.
To my shame I somehow once omitted the entire meal known as ‘lunch’ from a rations
plan for a week.
Trust me, you do not want to balls this up. You’ll either be miserable, waste away
or get yourself lynched.
Environment notwithstanding, don’t just rely on the mini-mart at the nearest town
to your start point, investigate the local supply-chain or the possibility of food
drops. A bit of creativity can pay dividends.
How do you get to where you want to go? This can be far more tricky than it sounds,
especially in the developing world and will often warrant in-country research, or
even just tracking down ‘some bloke with a boat’. By all means work out what you
can beforehand (make use of your growing contacts list), but make allowances in time
and budget for a different situation on the ground. You may need to kick-start plan
B or C.
Recce’s can be indispensable to get current, accurate data. If the endeavour can
budget a preliminary fact-finding trip, all the better. If not, unless you have a
reliable fixer, it is imperative to arrive in the host country before the start date
of the expedition to check everything is as expected.
Bureaucracy by its very nature is slow, slow, slow. The only way to counteract this
before you arrive in the host country, is by making contact with the correct officials
or departments as soon as possible, and through them identifying requirements, costs
and time-frames. This way, if you hit a wall, it may give you time to circumvent
certain officious quagmires with new contacts.