by Selma Canas | November 21, 2023
Traveling abroad can be a great and enriching experience and necessary if conducting business internationally. However, we must consider the security issues that we may face while traveling. Ensuring one’s safety goes beyond mere caution as the potential risks range from petty crimes to serious threats. Travelers need to prepare in advance, become well-informed, and stay vigilant in order to safeguard their well-being.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) is a public-private partnership between the United States Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and security professionals from U.S. organizations operating abroad. Their mission “is to promote security cooperation between the U.S. private sector and the U.S. Department of State by fostering a global network of security professionals who exchange timely information and security best practices to mitigate risks to U.S. interests worldwide”.
Oversees Security Advisory Council Membership
There are more than 150 country chapters with representatives providing information on potential threats around the world through OSAC. They provide free reports, news, resources, newsletters, and hold events. Although free, some information requires membership, which is also free. Memberships are encouraged for all US incorporated organizations with operations in other countries. Large and small corporations, non-profits, academic and faith-based can register for membership. OSAC currently has over 6,000 organizations and 23,000 individual members.
OSAC provides a comprehensive country security report with valuable information, resources, contact information, and links to other helpful information, by country. Panama’s country report, for example, starts off with the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory that “travelers should exercise increased caution in Panama due to crime” and that “Panama City is a high-threat location”. The report goes on to list specific areas that are more dangerous than others and types of crimes in those areas. The terrorism environment and political violence are both low-threat in Panama. The report provides information on protest activity and law enforcement concerns.
Transportation security is covered as well, which is critical information to be aware of. In Panama, driving can be hazardous due to heavy traffic and poorly maintained streets. Tips and recommendations are provided when using public transportation, such as, use only licensed registered taxis, never get in a taxi that already has a passenger, and always negotiate the fare before getting in, just to name a few.
There is a comprehensive section on safety concerns for women travelers, LGBTI+ travelers, and travelers with disabilities with several links to other resources for further information. Health concerns, prevalent diseases, and vaccinations to consider are listed as is the website for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) traveler’s health website. The report provides contact information for the United States Embassy, the OSAC Panama Chapter, and links to trustworthy news sources and other State Department country information.
Lonely Planet and Global Road Warrior are two great resources to learn about countries, as is the country commercial guide from the United States Commercial Service.
Overall, it is recommended to always review the OSAC country report with its wealth of information and abundance of links to additional resources and information, register with the United States Embassy in the destination country through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, and conduct thorough research. Before you travel to any country, learn some basic cultural dos and don’ts, and educate yourself. The goal is to become a hard target for potential security threats. Research, plan, prepare, and blend in as best as possible.