Soft Skills Helpful to Helpers

Steinbeis experts assist in disaster zones

Global partnerships and tapping into markets on every continent are becoming a standard part of profitable business practice. To forge and maintain partnerships in this international context, an understanding of regional cultures, ways and customs is just as important as innovative products, services and professional skills. This not only applies to the business world, but also to the field of humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Safety & Security Training (S&S T), a Steinbeis Consulting Center, offers assistance with preparation and training as well as consulting services during deployments, missions and projects.

Current events clearly show how dynamic and unstable security is – and thus how high risk potential is – in numerous parts of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Acute danger to human life comes not only in the form of man-made crises, but natural disasters and epidemics as well. And due to climate change, we can expect an increase in the frequency of natural disasters and catastrophic events in the future. As a member of the medical emergency response team at Johanniter- Unfall-Hilfe, a German emergency rescue organization, Maik Schiefer, deputy director of the Steinbeis Consulting Center, was sent to the Philippines immediately following the devastating Typhoon Haiyan. One of the mission’s objectives was to provide basic health services.

“In emergency relief situations following a natural disaster or a similar crisis, there aren’t typically any problems with visas or customs duties when you go in – in times like that, it’s usually easy for an aid organization to enter the country. It’s more problematic when it’s time to leave,” explains Maik Schiefer, who was on the ground in the Philippines during the project. Especially when no customs officers were present when you entered the country – to certify the items you brought in – it is often difficult to take them out again. It’s one of the reasons why machines and generators often remain in the crisis region when the helpers leave.

Once in the country, it is essential to know and respect rules and customs – not just as a way to facilitate contact to locals, but as a first step toward significantly boosting your personal safety. This is part of the security plan, which also includes planning for accommodations, how to handle money and your personal appearance. It is very important to maintain contact with the organization in your country of origin and report any incidents which occur so that your evacuation or escape can be planned in an emergency. “Anyone who fails to take these points into account is being negligent,” emphasizes Maik Schiefer.

The Steinbeis Consulting Center’s project in the Philippines was highly successful and demonstrated that thorough planning and good training are very effective in preventing mistakes in situations where there are often no second chances. “Rapid change and escalations often mean that in certain situations, you can only fall back on procedures you have practiced and planned in advance. Part of this is your increased level of adrenaline, which can make it hard to think clearly,” adds Mirko Sicksch, director of the Consulting Center. The factors that make an operation in a crisis region a success are soft skills such as coping with local rules and customs, planning your personal safety and the right professional skills.

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