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Published: October 1, 2014

International risk and security specialist, Pilgrims Group Limited, has sent members of its training team overseas to run a series of bespoke courses for the families of British government workers.

The company has trained the families of British staff in various countries overseas to protect themselves from a number of potential threats, ranging from kidnapping to terrorist attack. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials were concerned about the potential for lawlessness as an estimated 3.7 million fans descended for a major international sporting event, while the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi last year sharply highlighted the importance of security training for staff and families in Kenya. The other territories also have issues with crime and terrorism potentially affecting British nationals.

Pilgrims sent members of its highly specialist instructor team overseas for each of the two day ‘Spouses, Partners and Dependents’ courses. Trainees learnt a range of survival and self defence skills, delivered by instructors with UK Special Forces, military or police background.

The very real value of the courses was demonstrated in 2013 by the testimony of two British Government employees who were fortunate enough to receive training shortly before finding themselves caught up in the Westgate attack. Both employees described how Pilgrims training, this time the company’s SAFE course, helped them think calmly in a dangerous situation and plan the safest escape route:

“I was involved in the incident at Westgate Mall in Nairobi,” one explained. “After the initial explosion and gunfire with the resultant panic and confusion, I found myself thinking it must be an exercise as it sounded so similar to the training exercises I’d experienced on the Pilgrims SAFE course. This enabled me to think logically so I proceeded to find shelter and then make provision for contacting the High Commission and the local security manager.”

Another of the participants continues: “During the course I was involved in realistic role play scenarios, making decisions in fast-moving situations and under gunfire. This is exactly what happened at Westgate. I believe that being put in a situation of extreme stress on the course helped significantly when facing it in real life.”

Pilgrims Group Chief Operating Officer, David Freear, explains: “Our courses are designed to train participants to react calmly and effectively to the different threats they may face. We are delighted that in the case of these delegates our training prepared them for the terrifying situation they faced, enabling them to think clearly and plan the safest escape.”

As part of the new overseas courses, families and locally engaged staff were trained in-country, with scenarios played out in controlled environments both indoors and out.

“Trainees gain confidence when they recognise particular threats,” continues Freear. “By having a better understanding of their surroundings, these delegates are able to deal with an incident in a calm, safe and logical manner. It allows employees and their families the chance to lead normal lives in countries with challenging social conditions. The Pilgrims team allays the concerns of the trainees, allowing family members to enjoy their new environment rather than be prisoners of it.”

Under the new international programme, Pilgrims has already trained more than 80 people overseas during the last few months.

“This international work provides training to local staff and UK nationals who are unable to travel home,” explains Freear. “The course aims to give confidence to spouses, partners and dependants on how to live and work in the countries that their families have been posted to. Pilgrims believes this training is vital. Both natural and man-made threats are increasing and international businesses need their people to be ready to react positively to the variety of events they may face. Companies who look after their workforce will have happy and confident employees, leading to better productivity and a healthier corporate image.”

• Content of the courses included elements such as:
Situational Awareness, Trauma Medical First Aid, Conflict Management, Home Invasion and Carjacking Awareness.

• The course has already proved invaluable for one woman trainee who was approached by two suspicious characters on her way to the airport. Overcoming her natural reticence, she screamed loudly, as taught on the course, and frightened the potential assailants away, while members of the public rapidly came to her aid.

• Delegates’ testimonials include:

“Delivered with a powerfully direct and plain attitude. Simply the best training I’ve been on in years.”

“The trainers were fantastic and covered a lot in two days – they have given me food for thought which I will share with my family. I am considering some tangible changes to my home security as a result of this course.”

“Thank you for coming passing some of your knowledge on to us. I feel lucky to have been able to be part of the course. It was very eye opening and helpful. I really enjoyed the role plays. It's as close as we can get to [real life] situations. We can practice and see how we might react.”