B. What should you do before departure?
Now that you have fuelled yourself with essential knowledge about the country of deployment as well as your mission’s purpose and mandate, it is time to act and take care of the final domestic, medical and professional arrangements before packing and leaving. This section will guide you through the most important steps.
1. Domestic arrangements
Preparing the family
It can be daunting for family members to learn of your upcoming departure. Even though they might not have to face the same challenges that you will be tackling while on mission, your family will nonetheless have to cope with various emotional – and sometimes material – hardships while you are away. For instance, spouses often undergo the frustration of being physically separated from their partners, worrying about them constantly, while struggling to single-handedly manage most of the household responsibilities.
Good communication can be a crucial factor when preparing your loved ones for the news of your departure. Take the time needed to explain clearly where you will be going and why it is important for you to go there. For example, it could be a good opportunity to engage with them while researching and reading about the history and culture of the country of deployment as well as your mission mandate.
Although 24-hour news reports can keep your loved ones up-to-date, be considerate of how such news reports might be perceived by family members and make sure they remain aware of the risks and drawbacks that accompany around-the-clock media coverage. In order to avoid certain misunderstandings and misplaced concerns, you should try to maintain regular contact with family members by using available means of communication.
During deployment, your family members and spouse will most likely create new routines to manage household chores and responsibilities. Make necessary domestic arrangements before you leave.
These arrangements can range from paying bills in advance for rent or utilities to finding someone to water plants or look after pets. If deployment is for a long period of time you might need to arrange mail to be redelivered or for someone to pick it up.
Your will and other legal documents
Before deployment, you might want to prepare a power of attorney document, living will, and last will and testament. Writing a will might feel strange, but crisis management holds its own set of risks, so it is sensible to plan for every scenario, including the worst case.
Power of attorney: this is a written document that allows you to give a person of your choice the authority and right to act on your behalf if any legal or economic issues arise while you are on mission. Power of attorney can be general, limited or enduring. A general one allows the designated person to act on your behalf in almost all legal acts. If you only wish to have them represent you on certain issues, then you can resort to a limited power of attorney contract whereby you specify the powers and issues to be tackled by the chosen person. Finally, an enduring power of attorney becomes valid if you lose your ability to handle your own affairs (e.g. if you are injured or incapacitated). As long as you are mentally competent, and if any problems arise, you have the right to consult an attorney and revoke that power from the person you entrusted it with.
Living will: a living will is a written document in which you describe the medical treatment you do or do not wish to receive in case you are seriously injured or terminally ill; it also designates a person to act and make medical decisions on your behalf. This becomes valid and takes effect only if you are not able to express your wish in any other way.
Last will and testament: this written declaration states how you wish your property to be handled after you die. Without one, the fate of your possessions, savings and custody of children could lie in the hands of the court.
In any case, check the national legal requirements for any of these documents in your respective country.
2. Medical arrangements
Immunisation and vaccination
You may have to work in areas where poor public health conditions prevail. Therefore, you should get all vaccinations required for predominant diseases in your area of deployment. Ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date and registered in an international certificate of vaccination (WHO standard recommended). Take time to arrange for vaccinations before departure and bear in mind that some may require a few weeks before they become effective.
You may not always have time to get immunised once the phone rings telling you to be at destination X in 48 hours. If you are on an emergency roster or there is a good chance you will be deployed, make sure you are up-to-date before that phone call. You must always be covered for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus and poliomyelitis. Depending on your area of deployment, you should also be covered for rabies.
Yellow fever is now known to be prevented throughout life by a single yellow fever vaccination (standard WHO evidence-based advice). At the time of writing, some countries still require a certificate showing that you have been vaccinated every 10 years. Prior to your departure, check whether the countries you are travelling to require such documentation and make sure that any yellow fever vaccination is recorded with date and signature in your WHO International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. Other vaccines do not normally have to be certificated except under special circumstances.
If you are being deployed to or may visit an area where malaria is known to occur, you will need specialist advice before going, including taking antimalarial tablets. See Chapter 5 for more information on malaria.
Diseases you are well advised to think about ahead of time include:
- meningitis; the ‘meningitis belt’ spans much of Central, East and West Africa, and some other regions;
- yellow fever, present in much of sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South America;
- Japanese encephalitis, a risk in South and South East Asia;
- cholera (a good oral cholera vaccine exists and is perhaps a wise precaution for natural disasters or chronic complex emergencies);
- meningococcal meningitis.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Get expert advice as early as possible on places where you could be posted.
Ensure that you have regular health screenings or checkups to remain in the best of health and to manage any medical problems on time.
Health screenings should include:
- general medical examination, including blood and urine tests (make sure your blood group is documented in a recorded blood test);
- although some agencies require chest X-rays and ECGs (EKGs), these are not generally advised except under severe field conditions or when clinically necessary;
- breast examination and PAP (cervical smear) for women;
- dental checkup;
- visual acuity.
In addition, make sure you know what diseases may exist in the region you will be deployed to, such as dengue fever or schistosomiasis (bilharzia) (see Chapter 5).
It is advisable to visit a physician experienced in travel medicine as early before deployment as possible and to take a first aid course to gain knowledge and confidence in case of emergencies.
Make sure you have an insurance policy that covers incidents ranging from minor accidents and illnesses to life-threatening ones. Such insurance may be included in your work contract. However, make sure you always check the scope and details of coverage and ensure that all items you deem necessary are included in that policy. If not, you might want to take out private insurance in addition to what your employer offers you.
3. Professional arrangements
Before embarking on a crisis management mission, make sure you identify what your key areas of responsibility will be and how you can go about accomplishing your tasks. Handover is an essential step within that process. It can be advisable to get in touch with your predecessor(s) and/or independently try to find information on:
- the basic planning documents of the mission/operation, such as the CONOPS, the OPLAN, the Mission Implementation Plan (MIP) and any strategic mission reviews;
- the history of the project and its goals;
- challenges, lessons learned and good practices;
- the location of resources and support structures;
- key information on personnel, partners and stakeholders;
- current needs, priorities and issues;
- manuals and guidelines or other literature dealing with your job.
Make sure you understand and accept your job description, come to terms with your responsibilities and manage your expectations. Due to the complexities of recruitment, you might be given tasks that do not reflect your responsibilities in previous positions. To avoid bad feelings or frustration that may arise from this, make sure you manage your own expectations before accepting a job offer.
Each organisation has its specific rules as to what equipment you may or may not use during deployment. For instance, if you are a police officer deployed to a civilian mission, you need to check what the policy is on carrying firearms. Depending on the kind of mission you are embarking on and the organisation you will be working for, the equipment that you need to prepare and take with you might differ from what you are used to. Do check any equipment before departure and ensure that you acquire what you need.
Preparatory training/capacity building
As a crisis manager, you may already have relevant work experience. Still, your upcoming tasks may be different and new to you, depending on the nature and stage of the crisis, country of deployment, organisation and changing external factors.
Therefore, even if you have previous experience with, for instance, the UN in Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you will find that your deployment to Kosovo with the EU will require a new kind of training and preparation.
Training could be offered by your nominating agent or employer. It could be offered as e-learning or as part of a course that can be physically attended. Very important in this respect is the participation in a mission-specific pre-deployment training course if any such course is offered by your receiving organisation.
For many missions, Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) or an electronic High Risk Environment Security Training (HEST) is a precondition for deployment. Since IT support and internet connectivity might be unreliable in the area of deployment, you are advised to complete compulsory electronic courses before your departure.
However, if and when time allows, you could also personally enrol in externally offered courses, such as those offered by the ENTRi consortium:
- Europe’s New Training Initiative for Civilian Crisis Management (ENTRi) aims at building capacity and preparing and training civilians who are either going to, or already working in, crisis management missions worldwide (www.entriforccm.eu).
- Such missions include those of the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the African Union (AU).
- Further capacity building events are published on the EU’s Schoolmaster database (https://goalkeeper.eeas.europa.eu).