Tools of the Trade

Resources, references and tools for humanitarian security practitioners 

9/7/2011 - A number of humanitarian organizations are mentioned in formerly classified U.S. diplomatic cables that were recently released by WikiLeaks. If you work for an international NGO, I encourage you to search the cables to see if there are any references to your organization. See this blog post for why this is a good idea.


If you're an NGO security practitioner or have an interest in humanitarian safety and security, be sure to check out the International NGO Safety & Security Organization (INSSA).


This is a collection of PowerPoint presentations I've used in the past for safety and security management training. It covers both basic and advanced NGO security topics. Feel free to use and modify as you see fit. This is a great starting point for smaller organizations that want to provide training to their staff but don't know where to start - just swap out the XXXXXXs in the text with your organization's name. Simple formatting with text and bulleted lists (no graphics), so you can customize and make it pretty with your own logos, photos and clip art.

One caveat though. The presentation content follows a conventional way of teaching humanitarian security. I've since come to believe it's more important to teach people how to make good general decisions under stressful situations and get them to perform a small set of core skills very, very well, instead of bombarding them with tons of information and then expect them to remember everything in the heat of a security incident. The content in these PowerPoint presentations is still quite useful, but I personally have a different way of approaching training now that I feel better reflects the realities of the field.

Right mouse click on a topic to save the file to your hard drive:  

Foundations, Fundamental Concepts, Assessments, Buildings, Transportation, Communication, Personnel, Information, Strategies & Planning, Using Radios.


Safety & Security Plan - This is a comprehensive safety and security plan template I created awhile ago and updated in November 2006. It's a starting point for organizations and offices that don't have a safety and security plan/standard operating procedures. Headings, numbered sections and pages are all ready for you to fill in the blanks. Lots of checklists (based on the CARE Safety & Security Handbook) and other things in the appendices. 56 pages in Microsoft Word format that you can modify based on your own needs, policies, and procedures. (I've gone away from monolithic plans like this one in favor of more modular and easier to use documents, but this format is still widely used within the community.)


Sleeping in Airports - The best places to sleep between flights when you can't get a hotel. Especially useful during those ugly 24+ hours in transit trips.

Aviation Security International - Subscription trade magazine about, you guessed it, aviation security. You can read the table of contents, editorial, and Air Watch for free online. Air Watch is interesting since it lists international aviation security incidents - many that never reach mainstream Western news sources.

Computer Security

As a self-admitted geek with a background in computer security I strongly recommend anyone packing a laptop should have these three basic tools loaded (sorry Mac lovers, these are Windows apps - I'll list Apple equivalents when I get a chance).

Password Safe - Small, easy to use, secure application for keeping track of and using your numerous, easily forgotten passwords.

TrueCrypt - "On the fly" file encryption for keeping sensitive data safe. If you have a laptop and travel, you should be using this. Linux and OS X versions are also available.

Eraser - Permanently deletes files (emptying the trash doesn't). A must for removing sensitive data from hard drives and other storage media.

Travel Health

CDC Travel Health - Indispensable resource for health threats around the world and what precautions you should take ahead of time. Don't rely on second-hand information. Check this site before your trip.

Country Information

Government travel advisories and country information. Always good (and fun) to see what the US is saying compared to the rest of the world.


Need to stay current with what's happening in a country or are trying to get a handle on context before a visit? Try some of these out of the ordinary news sources.

SurfWax - A slick news accumulator. Type in a country, or anything else you're interested in, and presto, the latest news.

Online Newspapers - Listing of online newspapers by country and region.

ABYZ News Links - Another source of links to online world newspapers.

Google News is great for keeping up on the latest news, but many people don't know Google recently added a news archive search feature that lets you go way back in history.

I can't emphasize enough using local blogs as part of your research. Either written by ex-pats, travelers, or local residents, blogs offer unique and timely perspectives that usually aren't found in commercial media sources. Either do a Google search for a country, city or area and "blog," or try the two resources listed below:

Natural Disasters

EM-DAT Emergency Disaster Data Base - OFDA/CRED project that tracks worldwide disasters of all types. Trying to understand natural disaster historical context for a country or region as part of an assessment? This is the place to visit.


MIPT Terrorism Incident Database - Excellent source of information on terrorist incidents, sortable by country, group, incident types and more.

Broken links or additions, please email: ngosecurity_at_gmail_dot_com

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