Involve family members as much as possible in managing crises, when an employee abroad is implicated in an accident. Increasingly, companies and organizations are aware of the importance of ‘family handling’. A good development, says safety advisor Tom Brabers of Expat Preventive.

Safety advisor Tom Brabers knows the examples where a husband himself enters into contact with the kidnappers of his wife, and thereby undermines negotiations with the crisis team. And of families who bring out details into the media about an ongoing incident, by which they endanger the outcome, rather than accelerate the conclusion. According to Brabers, this can be prevented by good family handling.

“Crisis management teams are often too focused on solving an incident with a co-worker, and have not enough empathy for the situation of the family members”, according to the safety advisor. “Placate and appease; that unfortunately sometimes is the first reflex of a crisis management team. At times, they even see family as a ‘meddler’, as people only trying to thwart the course of action laid out by the team.”

Valuable contributions
It is certainly understandable that family members want to do something for their child, spouse or parent. But giving family members a role is not just important from a human perspective, Brabers says. Their contribution can actually be essential.

“When your spouse or child is involved in an incident, you come under pressure. You search the internet for solutions and you get all kinds of tips and advice from friends and concerned people. Those can surely be worthwhile. It is important to discuss this input in the crisis management team and give feedback to the family. They will have to be able to rely on the team to test their information.”

Give family a task
Give family members a role, is what Brabers recommends. “Get them to gather items for a proof of life, such as photos or DNA. Have them look up medical information at the doctor’s or dentist’s. Do not forbid them to monitor social media, but give them good media instructions and test the information they provide to the crisis team. And let them help in preparing their loved one’s comeback: to have clean clothes ready at the location of the incident, that at the spot there will be someone to receive them.”

Do you want to know more about family handling? Follow an Expat Preventive training.